Milan Plays It Safe

In contrast to the stratospheric rise of creative showcases like London Collections: Men and Pitti Uomo, complete with its satellite events – where up-and-coming talent and smaller, more agile design houses present their visions for the future of menswear – there has been a sharp decline in ‘public interest’ of the old guard fashion weeks like Milan over recent seasons.

While autumn/winter is of course the more conservative fashion season, from what we have seen in Italy for AW15 it would certainly seem the Milanese houses are frozen in the headlights of this new wave of creativity. And almost in retaliation, have reverted to creating variations on classic, tailored garments from luxury materials, bristling gently at the young upstarts.

Viewed through a screen, be it on Instagram or the numerous sites that show the more ‘creative’ fashion weeks and trade shows in all their fashion-forward glory, this means a somewhat flat looking Milan. But commercially, for stores (and crucially, the consumers), it means a honed product that is often truly worthy of the term ‘investment piece’.

Neil Barrett was a perfect case in point, toning down his past few seasons’ experimentation with bold graphics in favour of beautifully tailored coats and jackets in monochrome shades. Boxy tops and luxe fabrics were a ‘trend’ at the Milan collections, and few pulled it off better than Barrett.

Particularly interesting was his focus on the neck: jackets with everything from no collar at all to voluminous shearling triangles, mixed with high roll neck knitwear, kept the eye focused here:

Ferragamo did the same, but in a more dramatic way, with enormous knitted scarves and wide lapel jackets.

Playing with silhouette is a favourite of menswear from season to season, and oversized garments give journalists something to discuss while a brand’s simpler suiting is what ends up on international buyers’ wishlists:

Dolce & Gabbana continued their boxy tops and regal approach to luxury fabrics with a monochrome collection of embellished jacquards and gold embroidered velvet suits, while Calvin Klein Collection showed a wealth of grey pieces, with volume coming from ponchos and oversize coats, punctuated by PVC trousers and a very tonal approach to dressing:

Even the usually visually punchy Prada showed an almost all-black collection. Based on the concept of uniform, the range was all about subtle detail.

Occasional shots of camel lent interest, and I’m certain that the detailing was superlative and creative, but however you dress it up, this was a season of playing safe:

Previously having worked for Prada and Vionetta, this was also the Jil Sander debut for the brand’s new Creative Director, Rodolfo Paglialunga, who produced a considerably more exciting collection.

The designer’s emphasis was firmly on the waistline, with strict belting and loose overcoats. Chalky coloured tones were complemented with matte leathers and shearling-lined jackets (a big trend at LC:M) for a sharp and minimal aesthetic – as you’d expect from Sander:

The stand-out show – proving there is still life in Milan – was Moncler. Using the brand’s wealth of resources, Thom Browne continued his exploration of the limits of tailoring, showcasing the company’s expertise in quilted jackets alongside his sometimes zany ideas.

Jockey-inspired bold checks and zigzag motifs proved to be a real palate-cleanser. Combined with a Punk/DIY use of Vans-esque checkerboarding, he showed that there are still plenty of ways to make suiting experimental and, above all, fun.

Hopefully the rest of the Milanese houses will return to experimental (rather than commercial) form soon: