MILAN – Caught between the pandemic and war in Europe, Milan luxury fashion designers on Friday open four days of mostly menswear previews for next spring and summer in a challenging economic climate.
Runway shows have mostly returned to live format with pre-pandemic tight seating, but a longed-for return to normal has once again been delayed.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed up energy and raw materials prices, threatening a growth trajectory that saw revenues top pre-COVID levels in the first half of this year. Despite the uncertain outlook, the industry is forecasting sales of 92 billion euros, a 2% increase over pre-pandemic levels posted in 2019 and 10% higher than 2021.
"We are positive but realistic, and a lot will depend on what happens in the world,'' said Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian National Fashion Chamber.
Here are some highlights from Friday’s launching of a slightly curtailed fashion week of some 25 runway shows:
DSQUARED2 RIDING THE WAVES
“Waves come in seven, and we’re on No. 3,’’ said Dean Caten backstage after he and twin brother Dan presented their latest collection for their Milan label, Dsquared2. “We have all kinds of waves. We can have some happy waves, I hope.”
The Canadians presented an upbeat vision in their Spring-Summer 2023 collection, which took inspiration from a Bob Marley mish-mash of 1970s hippies and surfers.
The menswear collection gave lots of room for personal expression, from floral sarongs to linen trousers, studded leather jackets to neoprene tops, loose light beach trunks to flowing anoraks. Suit jackets found a place layering over loose parachute pants. Patterns and colors clashed happily, as soothing aqua azzurra was set off by neon salmon, fading to pastels.
“It’s very powerful, very peaceful. I think in these times we need to just share the love There are too many negative things around us. And the 1970s was peace and love,” Dean said.
Looks were layered with beads, topped with knit caps or wide-brimmed beach hats, while footwear ranged from thick sandals with slouchy socks to colorful docksiders and hiking boots.
In the Dsquared2 beach world, shirts are optional, as Italian Olympic sprinter Marcel Jacobs demonstrated in the front row with his tattoos peeking out from beneath a leather jacket. Backstage, he took it off briefly to show off some of his latest tattoos: Mount Fuji and Japanese temple on his left arm in honor of the Tokyo Games where he won gold.
“Tomorrow I am back at training. Now, I am taking time to enjoy myself,’’ said Jacobs, who plans to leave next week for the United States, where he is scheduled to compete in the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore., from July 15-24.
The Texas-born Jacobs said he always had a love of fashion growing up in Italy, and is well known for sporting necklaces and bracelets when he races.
"I have always paid attention to every detail, and to special pieces. I try to put my style on everything, even when I race,'' he said.
BILLIONAIRE OFFERS FLASHY, UNAPOLOGETIC FASHION
Philipp Plein returned to Milan with his Billionaire brand aimed at men who don’t look at price tags, but at quality.
‘’Billionaire is a strong name, which wasn't started by me, but we took it over completely,’’ Plein said at the Spring-Summer preview for the brand at the Four Seasons Hotel. “We see big demand in this segment of luxury menswear.”
Plein took the bold move of buying out his partners, including the brand founder and former Formula One manager Fabio Briatore, to take full control during a strategic and creative relaunch from the pandemic blow.
The new collection is for colorful dandies, the sort who would swarm to the Great Gastby's Long Island mansion, or to a yacht party in Portofino, on the Ligurian Riviera.
The Billionaire models in the courtyard below were mostly older men, with salt-and-pepper hair, the brand’s target audience, with unapologetic looks for the leisure class. They embrace bright colors, including suits in bright green, pink or loud navy-and-white stripes, tempered by ivory and white linen Bermuda sets or three-pece suits.
“We don’t want to focus on the young crowd,″ Plein said. ”I think we have to be proud about our age.”
As guests arrived for the evening presentation, jazz group circulated wearing the latest Billionaire lemon prints, on green, red and blue backgrounds. Multi-colored straw hats finished the looks.
‘’We don’t usually dress this way,’’ the guitarist confessed has he strummed by.
MILAN FASHION CHALLENGED TO OPEN FORMAT
The contrast between the quiet, exclusive nature of Milan Fashion Week and the exuberance of the city's premier design week has never been more stark than this year.
The Milan Furniture Fair and the collateral events at Fuori Salone that make up design week closed just days before fashion week opened, boasting 400,000 visitors over six days.
Casting a jealous eye on design week, small Italian fashion brands that don’t typically show during fashion week are now pushing to open it up to the wider public, beyond the exclusive, invitation-only fashionista crowd.
“Let’s not lose this energy. Let’s bring it into fashion. I truly believe that there could be a kind of Fuori Salone, call it what you will,’’ said Gigliola Maule, president of the Milan Showroom Chamber of Commerce, which represents showrooms for small- and medium-brands.
The proposal got the backing of the city’s economic development official, Alessia Cappello, who has called for talks with the Milan fashion council.