As Milan Digital Men's Fashion Week concludes, two major fashion houses have already broken ranks and returned – albeit in a highly controlled way – to physical runway shows, in front of an actual audience.
Most brands, however, have opted for distanced, digital presentations of their spring / summer 2021 collections, albeit with very different interpretations of what that should be. Here are the highlights so far.
On Wednesday, July 15, Etro became something of a groundbreaker when it staged the first fashion show to be held in front of a live audience since Louis Vuitton in March.
It returned to the traditional format (but with the audience spaced out and wearing face masks), with a show set to a soundtrack by the late Italian composer, Ennio Morricone. Presumably in reference to the musician's work on westerns, Etro's trademark prints arrived with an air of the Wild West, seen as an embroidered cowboy shirt worn under a softly checked suit, or as beautifully faded Navajo designs across utilitarian jackets and pinstriped shirts.
Consisting of only daywear looks, the collection came with plenty of heavy belt buckles and faded denim, and even slouchy knitted cardigans worn over rolled hem jeans.
Dolce & Gabbana
The second house to present its collection to a live audience was Dolce & Gabbana, which took over the garden of the Humanitas University, where the duo have been funding medical scholarships since 2019.
In a show inspired by Italian architect Gio Ponti’s astonishing Parco dei Principi hotel in Sorrento, the designers liberally helped themselves to Ponti’s blue geometric tile designs, which were then splashed across the collection.
Staying with blue, they appeared in reconstructed suits, pieced from different shades, as torn denim and even as wetsuits, with painted body boards. With the show back up to its normal 100 looks, it seems, at Dolce & Gabbana at least, it's pretty much business as usual.
At Spanish house Loewe, designer Jonathan Anderson sent out his collections as a "show in a box", with photos of looks on a mannequin. As if using this opportunity to savour the art of creation, he produced astonishing pieces all based around a circle.
A trench coat came with a billowing cape, as rounded trousers – cut from fluid orange silk – stopped mid-calf, and were teamed with a bulbous khaki top caught at the elbows. A fragile long-knitted jumper had a circular patch of tie-dye that looked like an eclipse of the sun, while a straight-cut overcoat came with lapels turned into a disc.
It was challenging and brimming with ideas, and one might question how much of the collection is actually wearable by any but the most die-hard fashionista. But as a spectacle, it was filled with joy.
At Berluti, Kris Van Assche also embraced creativity, by teaming up with ceramic artist Brian Rochefort to translate the latter’s work into menswear, to stunning effect.
The chaotic, lumpy protrusions of Rochefort’s work were reworked into intriguing, elegant prints at the hands of Van Assche, and then digitally printed across shirts and hand knitted into jumpers.
Paired with the designer's signature sleek lines, the vivid patterning was given space to breathe, which in turn showed off the precise cut of the clothes. The designer admits it has taken him two years to get up to speed at Berluti and learn the codes unique to the house. If this collection is an indication of things to come, then it marks a spectacular return to form.
Dior has yielded another fashion and art collaboration, this time between designer Kim Jones and 36-year-old Ghanaian artist, Amoako Boafo.
If the recent Dior haute couture show drew criticism for an all-white casting, then this collection, delivered as images and a film shot in the studios of both men, may silence detractors, given its all black casting.
Boafo's vast portraits were beautifully reinterpreted across intarsia knitwear, and as delicately stitched outlines on leather jackets. Trousers even came splashed with paint in a nod to the artist, as technical sportswear and blouson jackets were paired with tri-coloured evening cummerbunds and neat day shorts. More evening flourishes appeared as the pussy bow fastenings that Jones first lifted from couture a couple of seasons ago.
Prada, meanwhile, delivered a show in the form of five films, collectively called The Show That Never Happened. Made by Willy Vanderperre, Juergen Teller, Joanna Piotrowska, Martine Syms and Terence Nance, each put his or her own spin on a collection that, in true Prada style, pared things back to the bare essence.
A sparse, simple collection that moved through skinny-fit suits to relaxed tracksuits and technical sportswear, the beauty was not so much about what was on show, but what was left out.
In her post show communication, Miuccia Prada said: "I think that our job as fashion designers is to create clothes for people, that is the honesty of it. This season, we focused on that idea: It is about clothes, about giving value to pieces.
"The clothes are simple, but with the concept of simplicity as an antidote to useless complication. This is a moment that requires some seriousness, a moment to think and to reflect on things.