MILAN — Italy’s fashion capital is getting a little more traffic than usual as Milan Fashion Week kicks off, thanks to the Expo 2015 world’s fair at the city’s gates, now in its second month.
Four days of menswear previews for next spring and summer began Saturday with Emporio Armani, Dolce&Gabbana, Jil Sander, Versace and Philipp Plein. And Marni is showing menswear on the runway for the first time.
Perhaps the fashionistas will find time for Expo before moving on to Paris next week.
Here are some highlights:
EMPORIO ARMANI FUSION
It wasn’t Gregory Peck’s Vespa from the film “Roman Holiday” but the girl on the runway could be an updated Audrey Hepburn.
Emporio Armani has teamed up with Vespa to create a sleek new 946 scooter with matte black paint, suggesting a time somewhere between nostalgia and now. A series of the scooters greeted guests at the menswear spring summer preview in Giorgio Armani’s more intimately renovated theatre.
The collection was light and layered, featuring classic Armani shapes in neutral tones. The looks were loose with textured and sometimes crinkled fabric, easy to imagine zipping along urban streets. There was a focus on pants, with roomy pleated trousers that seemed to drape the leg. More athletic knit trousers were cinched at the ankle. Whether the look was formal or casual ultimately was defined by the jacket, ranging from double-breasted to more Asian-inspired looks with pagoda shoulders. And there were wonderful papery anoraks for that unexpected shower.
Shoes included surprising sling-back Oxfords as well as sneakers, while ample backpacks fastened snugly to the body. The looks were topped with berets and dark aviator glasses.
Though it was menswear, Armani sent a dozen women’s looks down the runway, displaying the adaptability of men’s tailoring for women — something in which Hepburn pioneered. A series of men’s cut shirts over baggy trousers would have suited her well.
MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S ROBBINS
Actor Tim Robbins, hair slicked back and mixing blue-and-black in Armani fashion, was in the front row for the Emporio Armani show.
“I don’t know fashion,” said Robbins, who is in town to perform a “Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Triennale. “But I liked the clothes.”
Robbins says he’s been exploring Milan by bicycle, which is not for the faint of heart given the traffic and tram tracks.
“The Duomo is beautiful,” he said referring to Milan’s cathedral. “But I’ve been going with my bicycle everywhere, so I’ve … seen so many things, not going inside, but just trying to figure out how to get around in the city.”
He’ll be performing Monday through Wednesday evening with the Actor’s Gang.
“I’m just happy to be in Italy. I just love Italy,” he said.
EAST MEETS WEST
Dolce&Gabbana remain rooted in their beloved Sicily but continue to find foreign influence in its rich cultural heritage.
This season, the Chinese Palace of Palermo offered inspiration for the menswear collection, designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana explained in nine languages in a colorful booklet with the show invitation.
There was a flow to the collection: Silk suits segued into Oriental-style tops with matching trousers and then into silken pajama style shirts underneath double-breasted suits — East and West mixing seamlessly. The looks were printed with ornate patterns inspired by the palace, including teeming scenes of flora and birds and rich reproductions of dragons and peacocks.
On the more casual-luxury side, tops with Oriental prints or embroidered details were paired with ripped jeans or Bermuda shorts.
Espadrille-style shoes were worn with even the most formal looks, often out of luxurious leathers and animal prints.
Dolce&Gabbana complemented their iconic ornate looks with bold black and white graphic patterns this season — giving the collection an edgier touch.
The traditional finale featured a runway full of polo shirts in florals, Oriental patterns, graphic prints and introducing the brand’s new crown symbol.
Versace’s runway billowed with colorful silk scarves sewn together like desert sails, evoking an exotic market.
The collection for next spring and summer is part Bedouin and part rugged traveller. Designer Donatella Versace layers long silken tunics under suit jackets for an exotic mix of urban and desert cultures. More casually, her desert traveller wore thin knits in tie-dye, suggestive of a mirage.
The colour palette ranged from dark shades of brown to bright reds, deep purples and royal blue.
Depending on the mood or situation, this traveller wraps a silk scarf around his head or dons a leather cap.
Logos are reserved for the sturdy leather travel bags and caps which bear the hefty golden Medusa symbols.
What was left unclear was the purpose of the Versace whistles included in the invitations: a traveller’s safety device?
JIL SANDER LOOKS TO THE FUTURE
Fashion and Expo collided at Jil Sander, where the reason for the white metal and glass structure that has been crowding the brand’s showroom entrance for the last few seasons became clear.
Otherwise known as Expo Gate, the structure is a meeting place for world’s fair goers to get information, tickets and souvenirs.
And during Milan Fashion Week, it was a place to catch a glimpse of the fashion crowd rushing to see the latest creations by Jil Sander’s creative director Rodolfo Paglialunga.
In keeping with Expo Gate, the looks were futuristic, expressed in both the shape as well as the technical and treated materials.
The designer, finishing his first full cycle at the label, paired oversized boxy tops with slim-fitting trousers that finished snugly mid-calf. There were also crinkled suits of what could have been a dyed parachute, with sleeves that can be rolled up and secured with a strap and clasp. The star pieces of the show were the anoraks, both out of a technical fabric but also regally out of a stiff, shiny leather that gives the wearer an imposing silhouette.
The colour palette was sombregreys, olive green and blue with some flashes of yellow and red in straps.
MARNI BREAKS OUT
Consuelo Castiglioni’s first runway collection for her Marni label’s menswear line was fresh and boyish, easy to style and wear.
The looks had almost the feel of a school uniform to them: Ankle-length trousers, cuffed or not, were paired with neat shirts with pointy collars and concealed buttons, which could be worn with big fuzzy vests and sweaters.
The textured fabric of the suits and separates gave a rich feel to the collection, and were set off by Marni’s typical floral and graphic prints. More formal looks featured baggier trousers cinched at the waist with a flourish of fabric flowing over the belt — mating nicely with a blousy white shirt.
The looks were finished with variegated knit socks and either leather sandals or neoprene-like sneakers. And for the fashion crowd, a bubbly “aperitivo” to toast the runway debut.
HOT ROD GLAMOR
Has Phillip Plein jumped the shark?
He’s regaled the Milan fashion crowd with a bucking bronco and jet ski stunts. Now, the German designer’s latest extravaganza was the Transformers meets Power Rangers, set in a glammed-up junkyard filled with silver- and gold-lame covered wrecks.
Motorcyclists circled in twos and threes inside a metal mesh globe in a spark defying feat, while stunt cars raced around on two side wheels or spewed fire while spinning wheelies. For the grand finale, a monster truck crushed a line of cars as pyrotechnics rained down.
Star model Lucky Blue Smith was the first down the race track runway, standing on the back of a motorcycle and wearing a white jacket with tuxedo lapels and elaborately studded arms. The collection was, unsurprisingly, heavy on biker jackets and quilted accents on sweaters, jackets and even shorts.
The collection was called #PleinPunk and there were ripped jeans and sweat pants emblazoned ironically with the words “punk” and “rich ass,” the two s’s made with dollar signs.
Shoes were black or white studded moonboot sneakers, some with light-up soles — a feature not just for the toddler set, it seems.
Paola Masera contributed to this report.