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Milan Men’s Fashion Week Redefines Italian Preppiness Through Simplification

A new way of making fashion or a product-centred tactic?
Prada Fall/Winter 2023
It’s only the first month of the new year and a new round of fashion’s musical chair game has already started. CEOs changing camps and open sports are waiting to fill in with new creative directors. For fashion, these shifts are part of its normality and business of course. But sometimes they reflect an essence of the uncertainty of the times in the market. How will society interpret fashion’s newest collections and how the market will react? Society is going through many changes on a political level during this period, especially in Italy, so fashion has to work as a safe zone for every taste. And just like the rest of the world, Milan Men’s Fashion Week this season was divided between puritanism and modernism. In difficult times there isn’t space for much, that’s why creativity was absent in general. Creativity isn’t something we have spare, it has to be targeted and has to deliver a strong message. Instead of that simplicity and minimalism took over as a way to re-write Italian fashion history in a season where normality looks like a thing that should be celebrated. 
The unbalancedness of the industry was clearly reflected in the Gucci Fall/Winter 2023 show that opened the fashion week last Friday 13th of January. The Italian brand presented its first menswear show after 3 years and after the departure of its former creative director Alessandro Michele last November. Outside the Gucci Hub people from the industry were recalling a familiar moment back in 2015 when Frida Giannini left the house and Alessandro Michele presented his collection. One that changed our perception of fashion and gender and reformed the culture as we see it. We weren’t sure what we were about to see inside the round catwalk that was built to host the show but everyone was absolutely curious about what comes next. The collection was divided between the past and the future. A stripped-down approach to Michele’s codes and a simplified perspective point out the company's new brand strategy. The most anticipated outing of the season started with a series of exceptionally made tailoring, oversized coats, and beautiful wide jeans and it scaled up with a motorcycle take-on paired with high wool socks and boots, creating a weird effect on the silhouettes. The collection that Gucci’s menswear design studio created was drifting between oversized and skinny, minimalism and pluralism, echoing notes of different cultures that clearly weren’t unified under the same creative direction. It lacked a message but it was full of wearable clothes. 
Giorgio Armani on the other side had a lot of clothes, perhaps too many, and a loud message: ‘’Only straight couples can wear Armani’’ judging by the fact that only straight couples (men and women) paraded at the end of the presentation, showing affection and love one for the other. Before this moment that worked as a nod to normality and stereotypes, a series of Armani classics were thrown down the catwalk that was celebrating Milanese architecture. Emporio Armani on the other hand was a surprise since Mr. Armani presented a new format for the brand with a fresh point of view about Italian masculinity that still remains very straight-looking. 
And from being strict we jumped into being open. For her Fall/Winter menswear collection, Fendi’s creative director Silvia Venturini Fendi took on Italian preppiness. What should it look like in the temporal? What men do need to wear and what society wants to see on the catwalk? For her, this was the perfect time for a change. Miss Fendi redefined Italian tailoring by adding dramatic long coats, draping capes, one-shoulder shirts, knitted tops, skirted trousers, and sequinned details on the clothes. In a season full of stereotypically executed tailoring, Fendi’s new kind of masculinity felt fresh and sexy without being vulgar. This a power move from Silvia Venturini Fendi’s side who has a natural talent for finding the balance between edginess and elegance. 
Fendi Fall/Winter 2023
The same exact feeling Etro’s creative director Marco De Vincenzo saw a connection between him and the historic Italian fashion house. Etro started as a fabric maker, so the show took place in a warehouse, amidst scraps and rolls of fabric. De Vincenzo’s own love affair with fabric started, when he was a child, with a velvet blanket whose pattern was reproduced on a coat. All this love and admiration was translated into maxi skirts, easy-to-wear prints, clogs, and fluid flares that made the Etro man relive his childhood years through the contemporary spectrum. 
In a season in which reductionism is the ultimate trend and business strategy to follow, it takes true mastery and talent to make things simple and eventually stir them down, especially when you have to compete with the Italian classicists. For Johnathan Anderson that wasn't something difficult to achieve. For his J.W. Anderson Fall/Winter 2023 collection he played the game of dress and undress by making a direct connection with the art of garment making but also with his creative past. After 10 years his ruffled shorts made a glorious return on the industrial runway only to question once again society’s gender norms. In a poetic way, Mr. Anderson tried to unpack humanity and the body in a period where society tries to package everything in boxes. An absolutely clever and meaningful way to simplify things. 
But the essence of simplicity and re-identification wasn’t more vivid than at Prada’s show. Since Milan Fashion Week started we’ve seen so many Italian basicness trying to be fitted for the ephemeral. After a few collections, I was wondering how Italian craftsmanship, tailoring, and masculinity should be in order to feel modern and addressed to every layer of society. How can a very old tradition such as tailoring, can be manipulated to fit every man’s wardrobe today? Can brands form a connection with a generation that’s fully committed to hoodies and trainers? Is the revival of the Italian suit an approachable goal or is it just a dream? The answer came through Miuccia Prada’s and Raf Simons’ latest collection for the brand. Breaking the rules of stiffness and relaxation they created a hybrid collection fitted for every generation just by giving us a simple thing. An overload of reinvented minimalism. Raf Simons’ signature men’s dresses, color-blocking, and styling tricks went through the Prada spectrum creating an easy-to-wear but completely fashionable result. Pillows turned into jackets and tops while high-waisted trousers and chunky shoes dominated the catwalk. Nothing was absolutely new in the collection but everything was executed under an entirely new perspective, one that gave meaning to versatility of fashion. Yes, fashion can be both a wonderland and a business. It’s about products but it can also be about dreams, and in this industry every person should have the permission to dream regarding if he’s wearing a pair of trousers or a skirt. 
Prada Fall/Winter 2023