Milan Menswear Spring 2014 – Unremittingly unremarkable
The one thing high fashion can offer above and beyond the mass-market is the sense of the hand. Its something that can never be genuinely replicated – the man-hours in man-handling garments, and the unique results that allows. It’s the foundation of not only haute couture, the French art of hand-crafting heartstoppingly gorgeous and gobsmackingly expensive garments, but of bespoke tailoring.
While we may be seeing ready-to-wear here in Milan, there seems a tacit recognition that a luxury goods consumer today expects not just a flashy surface, but something less easily attainable. A factory can sew on a sequin or glue on a rhinestone perfectly, but it’s the imperfection of Tomas Maier’s hand-drawn trompe l’oeil suits at Bottega Veneta, the fact that no two in the world will be exactly alike, that gives them their luxury cachet.
Maybe that’s why Massimiliano Giornetti’s show for Salvatore Ferragamo rang hollow. The pristine cuts, all space-age and super sharp, block coloured and plasti-coated, felt machine-made, cookie-cutter perfect. Numbers, “barely legible or expanded to the point of abstraction”, were plastered all over the models garments, like competitors’ tabards in a marathon. And like a runner post-race, the entire thing felt thoroughly exhausted. We’ve seen clothes like this many, many times, and it’s difficult to imagine who they could appeal to. Certainly not the Ferragamo customer, who comes to the house, primarily, for their trademark beautifully-crafted leather accessories. Maybe if Giornetti focussed his talents on that, he’d be on to a winner.
The idea of the perfection in imperfection is ideally suited to Vivienne Westwood. Her menswear, as ever, was an odd bag – unfocussed, but with some worthy pieces, like the pretty, ombre shirts, a belted one in teal running through to bronze, another in blue fading through to pink like an Indian sunset. The Raj was something of a theme, approached with a lighter hand than we’d expect (no turbans, only a smattering of gobstopper Maharajah jewels). Then again, you expected a bit more humour and pizazz from Westwood. A sweater sporting an intarsia tiger with a bedazzled snout was laughable. But not in the good way.
The saddest thing about the Westwood show was how commonplace it seemed – an inoffensive array of easily-forgotten clothing. It isn’t alone: Trussardi, now under the directorship of the founder Dante Trussardi’s great-granddaughter Gaia, was anodyne, predominantly sand-coloured, and unremittingly unremarkable. Missoni didn’t break any new ground, ploughing the hippy trail that they’ve decided somehow is their core market. They had some nice degrade knit effects (fading between colours is sizing up as a Milan trend, if you pay attention to those sorts of things) and suits in hardy, vulcanised wool created with Hancock of Scotland. Doesn’t sound very summery though.
Maybe it doesn’t have to – maybe that’s modernity. Tomas Maier reasoned that “There are so many markets, summer and winter doesn’t mean anything anymore… I live in different climates myself, between 10 degrees and 30.” Moving between London and Milan, before Paris (which promises to be wet), the fashion pack can understand that. And maybe I’ll take some of that vulcanised wool after all.
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