MILAN, Italy — This season, BoF dipped its toes a bit deeper into the waters of the Italian men's fashion scene, starting with Pitti Uomo and moving on to fashion week in Milan. And, as the fashion circus moves on to Paris tomorrow, my fashion fantasies are still lingering on the outstanding presentation by Raf Simons for Jil Sander Spring/Summer 2011 at the stunning Villa Gamberaia just outside Florence. It might not have been particularly wearable, but it certainly left a lasting impression.
Editors and bloggers were out in full force to see Mr. Simons' pops of colour, which Tommy Ton aptly described—in the words of Michael Roberts, he was careful to point out—as a bit of sorbet to "cleanse the palate" before the start of the season. Tim Blanks called it "a synthetic sundae." And afterwards, Susie Bubble was practically reeling from the sensory overload created by the combination of fluorescent colour-blocking, the setting sun, a looming rainstorm and those sweet flashes of colour below the classic shoes.
Describing the collection, Raf Simons told BoF that it was "A celebration of colour; a tribute to the vibrancy of extreme tropical nature, with colours that were brighter than ever before, renewing the summer wardrobe and subverting the codes of formal tailoring." Indeed, it was a refreshing and promising start for the men's season which had just begun.
There was little subversion in Milan, however, where the mega brands were out in force, doing their commercial thing with the expected dose of Italian swagger. Gucci, D&G, and Ermenegildo Zegna were among the brands who showed their wares in large scale fashion shows dotted throughout the city's golden triangle.
While of impressive scale, there was little in these events to leave a lasting emotional impact, though there was plenty to add to my personal wish list for next Spring. Unfortunately, it will be at least 6 months before I can buy any of it.
Luckily, Burberry's outerwear—and not just the trench, this season saw Christopher Bailey's homage to the biker jacket—was available for sale online immediately, with deliveries in a six to eight week timeframe. But the amazing Burberry gladiator sandals and delicate military shirts will have to wait until the Spring/Summer 2011 merchandise hits the shop floor sometime around December, conveniently in the middle of winter. When we will sort out these fashion seasons for once and for all? I want to buy now.
More exciting than the click-to-buy clothes was Burberry's clever link-up with young British musicians, a refreshing and authentic step forward after last season's PR-heavy push to keep livestream and 3D viewers entertained as real-life guests took their seats. This time, online viewers could preview videos of acoustic tracks by some truly talented young musicians, as curated by Christopher Bailey. It risked coming across as gimmicky, but instead felt perfectly in tune with the brand's British DNA.
"Burberry is an iconic British brand and Britishness is so much about music," Bailey told me in a mob of international media backstage after the show, saying that he discovered the young talents in lots of different ways. "It's never very strategic...when something really hits me, I love it."
As for the Burberry Acoustic concept, Bailey said that it came directly as a result of feedback from the brand's Facebook fans. "Whenever we've done things with music at shows or events, it's always been incredibly well received. We've got a lot of Facebook fans and we've had a lot of feedback that they love the music, so this was kind of an organic project," he explained.
Rumour has it that Life in Film, one of the bands featured in Burberry Acoustic, is being heavily pursued by an international music label. So, the young musicians may get more than just great exposure from the Burberry collaboration, there are music contracts to be had as well.
Speaking of new talent, there were some interesting newbies on Milan's men's runways too. Unlike the womenswear season which is pretty much devoid of new talent, young men's designers in Milan are making a serious mark. The pre-show buzz about Umit Benan was virtually deafening, and Albino showed his first men's collection in a quiet but confident debut. Tomasso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi showed an elegant and relaxed collection for Gianfranco Ferré, even if it seemed out of step with the brand's heritage and indeed, its more structured womenswear, designed by the same duo.
All in all, after spending an enjoyable few days in the heart of Italy's fashion community —and surrounded by some of the best dressed best men anywhere—it looks like the Italian menswear circuit may become part of the BoF roster in seasons to come.