MILAN — There was a chill in the air both on and off the runway during the four days of Italian menswear for the fall/winter 2010-2011 which ended here Tuesday.
Much of the clothing was dedicated to the outdoors, from the bulky knits to heavy duty footwear, culminating in the D&G show dedicated to "life on the slopes," which wrapped up the short fashion week.
But if the styles jibed well with the damp fog that enveloped the city during fashion week, above all designers hoped the easily wearable outfits would help defrost the economic freeze which has hit the menswear industry. Sales were down 10 percent in 2009 over the previous year, the greatest loss yet for the male 'Made in Italy' label.
"This is the time for real clothes that you can wear," said Miuccia Prada backstage after her much-applauded 'preppie' winter collection.
Overall, even when the styles were not outdoorsy, they still stuck to casual, of the chic rather than sloppy kind. Timeless items of the male wardrobe like sweaters, slacks, jackets and overcoats won over the riskier avant-garde styles popular over the past decade. Daring came in detailing, workmanship, and high-tech fabrics.
The suit and tie as well as elegant evening wear were almost totally absent from this round of preview shows, a further confirmation that designers are looking to ring up sales not reap fashion rewards.
Ermenegildo Zegna's devotion to the suit on its winter runway was thoroughly justified. This year, the family-run company celebrates its centennial in luxury menswear. But in general, no matter how well-tailored, how many suits does a guy need?
According to Domenico Dolce, "menswear is a dangerous field" with many more ways of looking at fashion than in womenswear. This round was no exception with more than one designer straying from the 'real clothes' path. Donatella Versace presented a cyberworld punk, while DSquared2 opted for a cross between a blood-spattered hockey player and characters from the 'Rocky Horror Show.'
The winter silhouette is at times bulky but never oversized, and has a generous jacket but narrow pants.
Black and gray remain the favorite fall-winter colors, with bright flashes of yellow, green and red to break up the monotony. Wool knits are everywhere, at times intertwined with leather. Fur is never of the shaggy kind but rather so finely worked it is almost inconspicuous.
Footwear is made for the outdoors, but rather than the currently popular running shoe, it comes in leather with a sturdy sole. Bags too are big and made of fine leather, with more than one style resembling old-fashioned luggage.
A return to velvet, popular in the golden age 1980s, confirms that designers haven't given up on luxury altogether.
Following are highlights of Tuesday's shows
Armani chose a romantic rather than rough-and-ready sports look. His winter male wraps himself in cozy knits and warms his legs with sheepskin gaiters. At all times he sports a cocky old world beret.
The Armani silhouette is restrained with tailored trouser and fitted jacket, but as in many of the shows seen during fashion week, the detailing makes the difference. Neat overcoats are lined in leather, while a simple pair of jeans are finished in velvet bands and piping.
Armani underlines the innate elegance of velvet by using it for daytime slacks as well as shining eveningwear.
Indisputedly debonair, the Armani winter man will find himself perfectly at home in the designer's new hotel in the Dubai Tower, the tallest commercial and residential building in the world, or in the newly opened Armani Cafe in the designer's mega complex on Milan's fashionable Via Manzoni.
In what was certainly the most upbeat -- and probably the most sellable – collection of the four day preview presentations, the designing duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana created a day on the ski slopes, from an early morning run, to a late night party in a cozy chalet.
Replete with bulky Nordic printed sweaters, knitted hats and scarves, snow boots, and shiny ski suits, the collection is a ski (or snowboard) bum's delight.
After a rough day on the slopes the D&G snow jock peels off his suit and is ready to charm the apres-ski crowd in a soft and sexy velvet Tuxedo.
The collection's theme picked up on a new trend, especially among the young (the D&G target) to mingle fashion and sport.
"The mixture is good for both," Stefano said in a chat with reporters ahead of Tuesday's show.