It's all working at Fendi
With notable names not on the show schedule (Gucci) and others choosing presentations in lieu of a full-blown catwalk (Canali, Corneliani, Etro), this Milan Fashion Week could have felt a little flat. Thank goodness then that there are new pretenders to the throne of these big brands to bring the excitement. After the buzz around Philipp Plein and Versace on Saturday and Plein Sport and Prada on Sunday, Fendi became the big talking point of the final day.
Having grown in strength for the past few seasons thanks to cool, curveball themes and superb styling, the historic Italian label is currently having a renaissance - and moving far beyond solely being known as Italy's most famous furier. This season, menswear creative director Silvia Venturini Fendi continued the Eighties thread that was so critically successful in her Autumn/Winter 2017 collection, but took it to the office. The showspace had the feel of a cold, clinical skyscraper lobby with models hitting the marble,paved catwalk through constantly opening lift doors and exiting through steel turnstiles. Even the invitation to the event was on an ID-style lanyard.
As Sister Sledge's "Lost in Music" blasted, we were presented with a collection that mixed relaxed suiting in light greys and beiges (complete with higher, appropriate waists and Wall Street braces) with pastel-pink infused sportswear, open-necked striped shirts, leather baseball caps and loosened, graphic silk ties kept in place with low-riding tie cips. The whole selection had the feel of 5pm on a summertime Friday in the city - upbeat, relaxed and looking forward to a couple of days off after a week of being buttoned-up. And as the temperature soars not just here in Milan but also back home in the UK, bringing that feeling of shrugging off your responsibilities to spend some time having fun felt perfectly timed.
Pink still trending hard
Over the past year, the rise of "Millennial Pink" - that particular shade of warm, pastel-y rose you see being worn by younger guys right now - has been well documented. However, judging by the shows we've seen so far, this trend shows no signs of stopping any season soon. After a strong showing in London at Oliver Spencer, the colour has been seen filtering through the collections here in Milan too. Aside from the contrast sleeve members-only jackets at the aforementioned Fendi show, perhas the biggest proponent this season in the Italian fashion capital was Tom Ford, who showed head-to-toe looks in various shades of the colour - our particular favourite item being the blush pink jeans that will be hitting his stores early next year, although the shawl-collar tux jacket in the same colour comes a very close second.
However, it wasn't just pastel pink that was seen at the shows. Vibrant hot pink was seen too, most notably with the outer- and eveningwear at the Billionaire show - this season all themed around James Bond (with a live band and diamond-encrusted singer performing the theme tunes by Shirley Bassey and Tina Turner). Combine this with the fact that 007's current tailor, Mr Ford, was showing the colour and it begs the question: will we be seeing Daniel Craig return in a pink tux?
Leon Bridges can bring a room of grown men to tears
After the final show wrapped, we were invited by Tom Ford to the launch of his latest fragrance, Noir Anthracite, at the legendary Bistrot Giacomo - an intimate, bookcase swaddled restaurant in the east of the city. After a brief speech by the man himself to celebrate the scent, we were treated to a surprise performance by one of the designer's favourite musicians, American soul artist Leon Bridges, whose set of three acoustic, emotionally charged tracks caused an entire room of otherwise talkative journalists to fall pin-drop silent - and many to well-up. If you haven't already heard him, boot up Spotify for a listening session immediately.
Sunday 18 June
Prada returns to form
While other labels put on a catwalk, every season Prada truly puts on a show in Milan. Every season, the brand's hangar-like HQ in the city is transformed into the physical embodiment of the inspiration for the collection. For Spring/Summer 2018, the room was plastered with sketched cartoons, with every corner and dividing line on every surface accentuated with thick black lines - like you were sitting enveloped within in a comic strip. The collection itself felt like a flashback to the future from the 1990s, graphic and bold yet packed with wearable pieces when you prise the looks apart. The full boiler suits might only be for the boldest menswear fans, but the layering was something all men could learn from for next season: fine-gauge cardigans worn over a striped shirt or the shirt with a a mock turleneck underneath, all tucked into loose, light herringbone trousers with a colour-burst belt or a suit with a sporty popped-collar polo shirt underneath.
However, the collection also showed how Miucci is still the master when it comes to creating standout items that men will want to own. Those comic-strip prints in shades of red and baby blue felt fresh and covetable (especially on accessories), the Tron-like velcro shoes were pure high-fashion normcore and expect the colourful, primary-colour infused square shades to sell out immediately.
What was notable too was that, for the first time in many seasons, Miuccia Prada didn't mix her women's resort collection into the show, allowing us in the audience to really concentrate on the menswear. While other designers seem to be trying out many ways of presenting their lines, whether that be combining genders, showing outside fashion weeks or making it all instantly shoppable, it appears Miuccia is going back to basics both in her brand's USP and her show format - and, judging by what we've just seen, it works.
Stripes are going down
One of the big trends we saw at London Fashion Week Men's was vertical stripes - and whether candy-cane thick or pintripe thin, this shows no sign of stopping during Milan. Yesterday we saw the trend hit hard at Marni, Daks, Damir Doma and Versace.
While we're on the subject, it's worth noting that Versace had a masterful season, where Donatella showed a collection packed with a palette of pastel pinks and blues spliced with navy pinstripe tailoring, as well as plenty of the label's Medusa head silk shirts (remixed in lavender and yellow). All in all, a selection of items that exemplify that covetable brand of sexy-loucheness the label's known for - and, in the face of swirling rumours about Riccardo Tisci possibly taking the design helm at the Italian fashion house, proof that Dontatella is still at the top of her game.
The rompers have arrived
We saw at least three shortie jumpsuits on men attending the shows yesterday. You've been warned.
Saturday 17 June
Shorts in short supply
Of course we're primarily here to see what will be trending in six months' time on the catwalks, but we're also keeping a close eye on what's trending on the men attending the shows right now. Sometimes, despite journalists' best predictions, there's a disconnect between the two - and a prime example seems to be occurring currently in the Italian fashion capital. Look back to the Spring/Summer 2017 shows and you'll notice the collections were awash with shorts - some shorter than ever, some slightly longer, more tailored and grazing the knee.
However, flick through street style galleries from this season so far and you'll notice a distinct lack of shorts being worn here in the blazing heat (it's a scorching, cloudless 34 degrees). Instead of stripping off to expose more skin, many men are reverting back to a more tailored vibe, with light summer suits and tailoring separates in cotton and linen, worn with a T-shirt. And while this might be a regional anomaly (Italian men historically default to sprezzy, smart tailoring), it feels like there's less of a streetwear influence among the most influential men in the fashion industry. Is the throwback sportswear vibe that's been so prevalent in menswear for the past few years coming to an end?
Millennials are the Milan buzzword
While the past few years have seen more bloggers and/or influencers attending the shows, Milan's biggest, most established labels have embraced digital youth in a way not seen in any other capitals (with perhaps the exception of New York) - by taking them off their front rows and placing them in the shows themselves. While Dolce & Gabbana test-drove this approach last season with its show "The New Princes" for Autumn/Winter 2017 (starring some of the biggest names in social media, from Lucky Blue Smith to GQ's very own Jim Chapman), this season they upped the ante. The Sicilian design duo's summer catwalk featured a smorgasboard of social stars from Tyler Clinton (model and nephew of a similarly surnamed former president) to Braison Cyrus (a similarly surnamed singer's brother). From Britain, musician Dougie Poynter, models Ollie Cheshire and Toby Huntington Whitely, YouTuber Marcus Butler, former Made in Chelsea star Spencer Matthews and uber-cool, bespectacled artist Luke Edward Hall. And if this wasn't enough to convince you that Dolce & Gabbana is currently repositioning its label to appeal to a younger audience, the shirts with "D&G Millennials" labels sewn onto the back should server to convince you.
However it wasn't just Dolce. Across town at the Giorgio Armani show, the designer took the opportunity to close his show by debuting the commercial for his new smartwatch, Emporio Armani Connected, starring Shawn Mendes - a clean-cut young singer with nearly 23 million followers on Instagram. Afterwards, Mendes himself hit the warwalk for a solo victory lap to rapturous applause from the audience. And why not? His subsequent post revealing the watch on his account has already racked up nearly 1.8 million likes. As proved in the latest UK election, it's the Millennial generation who hold the power right now.
Philipp Plein stunts at his first MFW show
With all the brands in the Philipp Plein portfolio showing on separate days this MFW, some have dubbed this season Plein Fashion Week. The first for his eponymous brand Philipp Plein happened tonight on the outskirts of the city: an extravaganza (as always) which spliced together the automotive, muscle car influences of Grease and The Fast and the Furious. And it was easily the ballsiest, biggest show of the day - even before the show started there were dodgems for the guests to enjoy before they took their seats. Once the lights went down, a fully-Plein-outfitted chorus hit the catwalk singing "Greased Lightning" and "Summer Nights", then quickly cleared the way for a series of cars and motorbikes (sometimes on fire) doing wheelies, jumps and handbrake turns approximately 15 metres from the front row. The clothes brought the Fifties vibes too: black T-shirts wth rolled sleeves, leather jackets, tight jeans and high-shine pompadours - and, of course, a healthy dose of sparkle. A triumphant show, which Plein himself celebrated by riding out into the catwalk in a gold hummer surrounded by an entourage of models and motors. Here's hoping Plein Sport tomorrow and Billionaire on Monday are equally extravagant.