Thursday, January 19, 2006
FASHION: Milan menswear looks for an edge
Watch out, Milan! Careful, Roberto Cavalli! Victoria Beckham is putting the menswear industry on red alert.
Before she stepped out on Cavalli's runway on Monday, the former Posh Spice revealed even more than a well-oiled leg and a chest heaving above a white dress as she led the male models at the finale. Next year she will launch her own menswear line, offering dishy denim made in L.A., for the likes of - well, her soccer star husband, David Beckham.
Thank heavens for a little diversion, for Milan menswear is in steady-as-it-goes mode. Cavalli may have channeled "Memoirs of a Geisha," with that film's Asian fusion of China and Japan. Versace had immersed itself in the company's DNA and come up with blue as the new black. And from Gianfranco Ferré to Antonio Marras, the ruffled shirt is having its fashion moment. But none of these brands had the forward thrust that changes fashion.
It would certainly be a big change if all those Asian men who turn to Italy for the perfect suit handed over their Mao jackets and kimonos to the Western world. Judging by Cavalli's show, that isn't going to happen. Because for all the glamour and luxury of Chinese dragon embroideries on strokable velvet jackets and Shogun shirts with bamboo prints, these clothes looked like costumes compared with the rest of the designer's slim tailoring and luscious leathers.
"I want men to be more chic - and Japanese style has that kind of sophisticated elegance," said Cavalli, who had the Asian actress Michelle Yeo front row and whose female models looked like 2006 geishas in mini wrap dresses with Obi sashes.
But for all the glamorous Shanghai-meets-Kyoto lounge created by Cavalli, sleek short coats, slim suits and a cut leather blouson jacket seemed easier to absorb into the male wardrobe than a sweater with a serpent motif. The show was well thought out and beautifully executed - but just a theme.
Donatella Versace wanted to put the "V" back into Versace, although she translated those heroic Gianni Versace days of broad-shouldered males into a "Y" line: think tailored coats with piping details, blazers and crushed Prince of Wales wool jackets rooted in narrow pants. It all looked quite good and very blue, with combinations of shades from what the designer called "carbon paper" blue (if anyone uses that inky paper any more) but not quite taking in the clear sky blue of cyberspace. Eggplant, wine and purple were the alternatives.
The Versace group has done a great deal to focus the fashion on what the company stands for, and this show was a clear, clean statement of menswear with a sexy thrust but not much edge. Biker blousons seemed familiar fashion fodder, and although the knitwear was strong, it was nothing new. Now that the designer has sorted out the house codes, her menswear team needs to grow something new from the DNA.
Gianfranco Ferré is another company that has been looking to its roots. "Men's couture" was spelled out on T- shirts at the start of the show, as the designer stepped out with a female model and men in suits in tow. Ferré is a tailor of fine flourishes, and he cannot be criticized for giving his customers what they apparently want: flamboyant touches, from fur peeping out at the cuffs of a sporty nylon parka to the full shebang - a crocodile coat with a giant fox collar.
In between the extremes (giant leather bags, beaded black shoes gleaming like caviar and intricate patchworks of leather) Ferré sent out quietly elegant double-breasted suits and a pale camel short coat. The master of the white shirt also showed that he has not lost his touch. His whipped cream and icing-sugar ruffles were a classy rendition of the ubiquitous evening shirt.
Even Antonio Marras had ruffles, but they were developed within his earnest student look that this season channeled Dada. That intellectual movement was reflected more in the molehills of books piled up on the runway than in the clothes, which were romantic in Marras's sweet way. Clean-cut narrow pants fitted from the hips with cropped vests is a Milan look. Marras showed them with a frill of a tie or a ruffle poking out from a sweater. The designer's favorite late-19th/earlier-20th-century silhouette is now a general menswear trend. And within the limitations of a theme, the constructivist patterned shirts and Art Deco sweaters looked as good for now as on penniless Dada poets.
Ozwald Boateng's show was about nothing very much except nice clothes done with dash and a sense of color from the sea greens for a double-breasted coat or a flash of pink inside a hood. The perils of menswear on the runway mean that although Boateng's sharp tailoring and jaunty attitude were shown to advantage, he felt compelled to include thick woollen tasseled socks and an all-in-one overalls outfit that just looked like runway fodder.
The luxury beauty group L'Oréal announced Monday that it had formed a partnership with Diesel for a world-wide fragrance deal.