MILAN, Italy — Who knew Italo Zucchelli was an alchemist at heart? Yep, the whole base-metal-turned-to-gold kit and caboodle. Maybe it's not such an unlikely idea. Alchemy makes a provocative metaphor for the art and craft of fashion design, and Zucchelli literalised it spectacularly today. He bonded his fabrics with gold or silver foil, or used the same stuff to line, say, a beautifully tailored black silk coat. His nylon parkas were also foiled, like something plucked from an astronaut's closet. Their lined hoods looked like satellite dishes, set to signal occupants of interplanetary craft.
The white jacquard denims with which Zucchelli opened the show weren’t foiled, but they were eerily smeared with gold. This overlaying of the familiar with the spacey has been Zucchelli's singular contribution to the Calvin Klein aesthetic, but it was particularly pointed in today's show, where he wanted to make a strong statement about a new way to approach tailoring. And he used not just the gleaming metals, incongruously laid side-by-side with fine wools and silks, but also the inspiration he drew from what he called "the sensuous core" of the brand.
With Calvin Klein, "sensuous" invariably involves skin. So, for the first time, Zucchelli showed jackets shirtless, with a nut-and-bolt pendant to dress the bare flesh. Earrings were fashioned out of screws. The jewellery was another first for Zucchelli. "There's something quite sexual about it," he mused. "Quite enigmatic. But that's Calvin."
The Calvin enigma has often found expression in polymorphous scenarios. (Think of those old Obsession and CK One ads). Zucchelli touched on them today with an androgynous subtext. Yet another first — there were women on his catwalk. But no ordinary women. The designer roped in a handful of the most memorable modelling faces of the past decade, led by Gemma Ward. And it was though he'd cast his men to match. Iselin Steiro — of the Scandi cheekbones and Viking hair — was bracketed on the catwalk by two young men, Charlie and Mark, equally gifted in the cheekbone department, equally golden-haired. “Striking” scarcely scratches the surface of that moment’s impact. It was quintessential Calvin Klein. And it was also quintessential Italo Zucchelli, designing a new world for the brand. A perfect meld, in other words, of teacher and student.