MILAN – Enchanting the pleasures of being “well, but simple, dressed” is how Brunello Cucinelli describes a design task that has transformed him, the son of an Umbrian farmer, into a self-made billionaire.
It goes without saying that simplicity at the Cucinelli level is not cheap. For an impeccably tailored Cucinelli blazer in cotton – e.g. one from a brand new, heavy collection in suits resembling a Brooks Brothers cotton seersucker bag, as rethought for Gianni Agnelli – you can expect to pay $ 4,000.
You might think that numbers like that would make even an HNWI (wealth manager-speaker for a “high net worth individual”, defined as a person with at least $ 1 million in liquid capital) think twice before hitting the American Express Centurion down. Yet incipient sticker shocks did not prevent the listed Brunello Cucinelli brand from sailing through the pandemic (following an initial downturn during the first shutdown in 2020); expansion and opening of stores in Tokyo, London and New York; or indulge in a bear market with bullish confidence.
“I want to dress again,” Cucinelli said Saturday during a presentation at a studio in Milan’s Chinatown.
His own money, he added, goes to wealthy Gen Z consumers – or at least the CEO types that Cucinelli is their Gap for – who want to trade their Allbirds and hoodies for the kind of sartorialism he excels at producing. . “Nonchalant elegance” is the phrase he prefers to describe the intended effect of his unlined suits, which are structured but not covered; light in appearance but still plausible in a boardroom; and tonal faith towards the neutral palette, which is the security standard for new wealth.
It is not to be confused with “sprezzatura”, the deliberate malice that even Italians rarely pull off successfully. Sir. Agnelli, let’s face it, often saw something absurd in his impractical denim ski pants, dull riding shoes and wristwatches worn outside his cuffs.
What Mr Cucinelli was alluding to is something universal and rooted in both self-awareness and adherence to decoration protocols in public spaces close to the fur. Can it be restored? It’s hard to say further and especially after two years of futon life and waist-up Zoom attire. Selling up the idea that attire is a very bourgeois act as a personal act will require something to do.
Still, labels with different stripes signaled that one was ready to take the chance. In some ways, it almost felt as if this week in Milan was the menswear version of a Hail Mary passport. Not to comment on a revealed metaphor, but designers here moved the ball down the field.
In a show held outdoors under compassionate shady walkways on campus at Bocconi University, Kean Etro put on what was perhaps the best show of his decades-long career. Designers sell moods and atmospheres as much as garments, and when they see the Etro models, many barefoot and wearing gold tassels, strut a ribbon of concrete in blouse summer shorts, shirts with blonde-like openwork patterns, flowing gossamer capes, soft suits, everything. in washed-out colors or dissolving prints, felt like an extra in one of Luca Guadagnino’s dreamy tributes to filmmakers like Michelangelo Antonioni.
Wherever those models went dressed like that, you would suddenly follow them. People often joke with retail therapy. Yet it is underestimated how effective and necessary a form of escapism fashion can be.
Does that mean this critic is ready to apply for a Versaceworld visa? Probably not. Still, for a brief dizzying time in the garden of the 18th-century palazzo of the house, we were transported to another realm as models, unlikely with Versace urns and vases, or wearing espresso cups as belt ornaments, and we walked through pebble passages past rotating mirrored columns lined with gilded buster. Cockamamie classicism is, after all, a signature on a house with a Medusa logo.
You probably could not have found five people in the crowd who were able to name any of the 58 World Heritage Sites in Italy. Still, the house images telegraphed something overtly antique, like refrigerator magnets depicting Michelangelo’s David. That they are outrageously kitsch speaks for itself. Yet it is her effervescent embrace of cross-border vulgarity that Donatella Versace finds humor and a sweet spot. The result was a collection of pants with large-size python prints, pervy latex raincoats, tailored jackets, onesies for men and models with their hair trained in Roman waves lacquered with gold glitter.
Giorgio Armani is a designer just as entrenched in heritage as anyone else. That he continues to design in his ninth decade is in itself a tribute to a traumatic personal story as a child of World War II. Sir. Armani came early to its mature style and has rarely deviated from it. Although he rose to success in the 1980s as the wider world discovered his softly tailored designs in the 1980s film “American Gigolo,” the overall pattern of his career has been cautious and methodical. Theme and variation are his working methods, and if it sometimes risks monotony, one can, when left behind, find that what he is looking for is something durable like a tightly woven basket.
The Emporio Armani collection had suitably subtle, woven prints, especially rendered in a molded rubber Wave shoe with a bristly texture – think of Wookiee Crocs – as well as monochrome suits, summery shorts suits, linen pants with drawstring and waistband in paper bag, and a jacket with a palm tree painted on. Aside from a hairstyle flaw that put models of different ethnicity at the forefront, the show seemed well-judged for a cultural moment where consumers, regardless of gender, take small steps back toward sartorial tradition.
The point was driven home by the Giorgio Armani show, held in a theater in the 18th-century palace where the designer, so to speak, lives above the shop. “Do you think that means I’m old, that I suddenly love Armani again,” a prominent editor asked after a presentation that reminded us of how some of the hottest labels are currently proposing a softened suit for a new one generation, essentially citing Armani innovations from half a century ago.
“When I see Armani now, I see Amiri and the fear of God,” I replied, referring to pieces that were neatly constructed but that looked as cozy as the luxury sweater produced by designers Mike Amiri and Jerry Lorenzo. The editor made a spit: “I have Amiri on right now.”
It may seem strange that a designer who is in his 90s (Mr. Armani’s 88th birthday is next month) seems more suited to his moment than someone like Miuccia Prada, who for decades has demonstrated the ability of a divination to predict , what’s next. The Prada collection, designed by Raf Simons, featured thin black half- and half-rowed suits, denim overalls and short leather shorts with a zipper and flap at the front, based on the leader pants. Within minutes of the show’s finale, Instagram was flooded with almost identical source photos from the world of kink.
Although one does not know how harmonious Mr. Simons and Mrs. Prada’s working partnership is that it sometimes occurs to this observer that what is needed in her working life is less a co-designer than a conspirator. Until her death in 2015, this person was the Italian photographer and style minister Manuela Pavesi. It provides no service for a person of Mrs. Prada’s talents to suggest she requires a crutch. Still, the absent woman’s uplifting spirit, designer Jonathan Anderson, himself a Prada alumnus, once described as having such a crazy and unrestricted eye that one automatically wanted to know her, the atmosphere on the Prada track has become a bit sour.
Her show felt like the opposite of a charming Gucci capsule collection, designed by Alessandro Michele with Harry Styles (and branded Gucci HA HA HA, for their paired initials). The 25-piece group of suits with wide lapels, shirts printed with sour bears and cherries, bespoke pajamas, hats and ties that were wide enough to appeal to Bozo had a pleasing crispness.
The mood during the presentation, which was held in a famous Milanese thrift store, was so effervescent that when Mr. Michele and Mr. Styles met with design, they must have been as happy as two toddlers in a mud puddle. Maybe Mrs. Prada could use its own Harry Styles. They might start with a play agreement.