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Fashion week in Milan shows men how to dress

January 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Fashion is on the move. While 2008 has just begun, the menswear preview collections currently showing on the Milan runway are all about how a guy should dress for the fall-winter 2008-2009. To make matters worse, this round the Milan shows are crammed into four days to accommodate a busy Paris schedule which includes both menswear and couture the following week.

"Everybody is doing everything fast," Tomas Maier, creative director at Bottega Veneta, told The Associated Press after his much applauded show Sunday. "The consumer needs time to understand."

Maier's remarks did not refer specifically to the fashion calendar, but more broadly to a fashion philosophy that floods the market with notions and trends, at times sacrificing quality for quantity.

Maier's preview Bottega collection left much room for thought. Seemingly without effort he balances elegant with casual to create a contemporary country club look. Inspiration for the casual comes from the workman's wardrobe, from the chore coats to the driver's jackets and baggy painter pants. Fabrics range from canvas and denim to sturdy leather.

The more formal wear is as tailored as a made-to-order suit. Jackets are single or double-breasted and trousers are wide. Eveningwear is "elegantissimo," but free of the proverbial stiffness which can confine the wearer to an outgrown "Sunday best" look.

Accessories, a Bottega Veneta forte, include shoulder bags in signature basket-weave leather, woven belts and a rugged round-toed shoe.

Later Sunday, Giorgio Armani echoed Maier's laments, after his Emporio show dedicated to ski resort fashion.

"There is so much sloppiness out there," the designer said chatting with reporters backstage at his minimalist Milan headquarters.

The second-line collection opened with couples in ski outfits carrying skis, walking down a runway dotted with snowflakes.

For each male outfit, from the down coat to the velvet dinner jacket with incorporated silk shawl, Armani had a female counterpart in a look-a-like outfit. But while the men wore their trousers tucked into apres-ski lace-ups, the women except when on the slopes always wore a dress.

"It's time to put some order into fashion, starting with gender," Armani said.

Front row guest at his show was pop star Beyonce, Armani's ad gal for Diamonds, the designer's latest scent. Beyonce also showed up at Versace Saturday, causing quite a stir by keeping the fashion crowd waiting for almost an hour until she took her seat and the show could begin.

Dolce & Gabbana, one of the hottest labels in trendy menswear, also called for an end to fashion overdose at a pre-show chat with the media.

"What's happening in fashion is like inviting someone to dinner and stuffing them with double helpings. By the time desert comes around, they can't look at food anymore," Stefano Gabbana said.

As an antidote the duo's show on Saturday offered up rustic fashion for next winter. Going back to their roots, they outfitted a Sicilian shepherd from macho woolen cap to bulky knit sweater under a hefty sheepskin coat, to the all-purpose leather boots. When he goes to town on business, their shepherd wears a pinstriped suit complete with white shirt and tie and carries a crocodile briefcase.

Burberry designer Christopher Bailey, who also showed Saturday, was in the mood for romance. Silk shirts, vests, soft cardigan sweaters and legging-like trousers all combine to evoke a misty English countryside. A crocodile leather trench coat and pullovers fashioned with tufts of rooster feathers lent an extra dash of eccentricity to an already dandified collection.

Speaking of eccentrics, Russian designer Denis Simachev, stunned the Milan audience Saturday night with flamboyant styles that recalled Cossack fashion. To a rocked up version of "Kalinka," mustachioed models marched around the runway in embroidered shirts, and jackets with a businesslike pinstriped front and a colorful sweater back. Trousers were tucked into furry leather boots.

Earlier Saturday, Donatella Versace underlined the comeback of the top coat (seen in almost every show thus far) with an extra long double-breasted military version in deep purple. According to Donatella, the coat represents a male yearning for luxury.

"Luxury is a cure for the present market saturation, and a relatively unexplored route where men are concerned," the designer said after the show.


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