Hard times can lead to outbursts of stupidity or the ultimate affirmation of sanity. The latter ruled Milan Men’s Fashion Week, which closed on Monday: a very rational, very efficient, very product-focused, fall-winter 2023 season full of perfectly fine if mostly tasteless clothes. It was less a celebration of normality than an exaltation of austerity, simplicity and purity.
In the words of Miuccia Prada: “In serious moments, one should work seriously and responsibly. There should be no room for useless creativity. Creativity has meaning and is useful only when it discovers new things.”
Unfortunately, there were no new revelations this season, but a new formality reigned: symbolic rappel à l’ordre after years of dismantling rigid notions of masculinity, dress codes and wardrobes. And yet what emerged was not a hardening of the masculine image, but a sense of fragility, with tailored pieces falling to bare torsos rather than shirts and ties.
Nowhere was this more evident than at Prada (pictured above), which showed a collection that looked both Prada-issima in its modernist and minimalist intent and Raf-issima in its celebration of lean, hairless youth. There was nothing new going on here – and yet it looked somehow new attractive. What struck me was the relentless focus on wardrobe archetypes, the mathematical-architectural play of proportions (whether long and narrow or puffy and cropped), and the emphasis on purity with a retro-futuristic undertone. But it wasn’t all cold precision – this is Prada after all: a fashion land of contradictory thinking now led by not one, but two creatives (Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons) – which can be seen in the emphasis on the sternum as an erogenous zone. Elongated shirt collars that fluttered over coats and cardigans, as well as wide necklines, caught the eye on this most delicate part of the body.
The focus on slender youth seemed rather narrow at Gucci as well, where cuts and purity, with a kind of relaxed California spirit, replaced the high bohemian extravagance of the late Alessandro Michele. In other words, Michele’s take on fey masculinity remained, but the maximalism he brought to his work was removed. The result was tasteful and sensitive, if unoriginal: from Céline to Y/Project, echoes of other brands were palpable.
Models walk the runway during the Gucci show during Milan Men’s Fashion Week on January 13, 2023. Credit: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
This was, of course, the most desirable outing of the season. The stakes were high, but given Gucci’s current circumstances—lacking a creative director and being forced to show a collection designed by a committee—there was little to expect. Hitting the pause button for a season might have been a better approach, but to the extent that this release was an exercise in refining Gucci’s lexicon, the collection opened the door to the future.
Old school elegance and discretion are coming back. They were layers of deconstructed beige, velvet and double-breasted suits worn with Giorgio Armani ties. For his finale, Armani sent couples holding hands and it all looked like a celebration of a tradition that speaks volumes about the world we live in. On his second line, the Emporio Armani aviator was a joy to behold: wrapped in wrap-around raincoats, asymmetrically buttoned blazers, cropped trousers and chunky-soled boots, he didn’t fall into the “Top Gun” trap, maintaining a gentle demeanor. Or, to quote Armani, “he is a man, subtle.” This collection was a frankly unexpected surprise: a tour through the possibilities of tailoring and elegance for a generation that has probably rarely ventured into such waters before.
Impeccably tailored blazers, Dracula capes, waist cuts and sheer blouses came in a limited palette of black, white and very light gray at Dolce & Gabbana. He was tense and focused, although overly repetitive. Here, too, skin was present, but, peeking through shirts and peeking out from under coats and tops, the look was more sensual than fragile.
Elsewhere, the household was in the foreground. Household was everywhere: blankets, pillows, slippers and childhood memories. The emphasis on staying at home was somewhat strange: after the pandemic, a stronger urge for adventure, parties, other shores was expected. And yet, in the uncertain world we live in, people no doubt seek comfort.
Sometimes indoor and outdoor can create an interesting mix, merging into a kind of house party feeling. That was the case at Fendi, who combined the perfectly domestic with an array of vibrant and glittery gear at a show hosted by disco master Giorgio Moroder. Silvia Venturini once again played with duality and peaked with a mix of seduction, seventies slim fit and blanket-blending outerwear that was fantastic from start to finish. What’s amazing about her way with menswear is how thick and rich each piece is without looking overdone, flashy or vulgar. Such balance requires mastery, and Venturini possesses it.
Models present creations for Fendi during Milan Men’s Fashion Week on January 14, 2023. Credit: Jin Mamengni/Xinhua/Getty Images
In his first men’s outing at Etro, designer Marco De Vincenzo felt equal parts dashing and domestic, exploring both the idea of house as home and the concept of house as, well, fashion house. Etro started out as a fabric manufacturer, so the show took place in a warehouse, amid scraps and rolls of fabric. De Vincenzo’s own love of fabric began, when he was a child, with a velvet blanket whose pattern was reproduced on a coat. And if the collection looked very Etro and very De Vincenzo, the Etro man seemed connected to his inner child – rejuvenated, though still searching for a clear identity. All things considered, it was a good start.
Not everyone felt quiet and comfortable: the time calls for both subversion and rebellion. At MSGM, the rebellious take on school uniforms had a very early-era Raf Simons vibe, with a lively Italian flair, and felt fresh. The teenage angst that Dean and Dan Caten explored at Dsquared2 was all about low-cut pants, leather and hormones, in a collection that somehow turned the label’s clock back to where it all began, some twenty years ago.
Alyx was a thing of urban layers and plenty of prints, conceived with artist Mark Flood, while Simone Botte and Filippo Biraghi, alias Simon Cracker, expressed the necessary rejection of the present with authentic punk fervor. Their reworked bric-à-brac is as rough and clumsy as it is vital, because there’s a method to the madness in the good old Vivienne Westwood way.
Luchino Magliano is the undisputed leader of the new generation of authors. What sets him apart is his ability to incorporate his concepts into the clothes, not just the layers of storytelling that often surround them. Magliano is the harbinger of a broken, slow classicism that looks sad, unfinished and relaxed, but also beautiful and full of life, very much in the glorious spirit of Comme and Yohji, with a left-wing Italian twist. Federico Cina is also making great strides, moving from the intimacy of his early days to a delicate yet carnal sensuality with an expressive range.
Models walk during the Zegna fashion show on January 16, 2023 in Milan, Italy. Credit: Estrop/Getty Images
In the reductionist season, blank slates were too often blank slates; It takes mastery and focus to strip things down and make simple, desirable clothes. Among the classicists, the best was Brioni’s infinitely subtle, internally sumptuous excursion. Working with his own fabrics and finishes, Alessandro Sartori delivered a sure shot for Zegna: one where the purity of lines and lack of unnecessary detail maximized textures, surfaces and emotions.
A model walks the runway during the JW Anderson show during Milan Men’s Fashion Week on January 15, 2022. Credit: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
But it was Jonathan Anderson who stole the show with JW Anderson’s latest collection, presenting an act of reset so raw, so powerful, that things came back on a roll of fabric. In thinking about ownership, the ruffled shorts of a decade ago are back, in a quirkier incarnation, and it’s been full circle in the idea of a shared wardrobe. This was a simplification with meaning.