N°21, Marni subvert menswear codes in Milan
While a number of brands went back to basics at this season's Milan Fashion Week Men's, reviving their heritage and DNA, some designers, notably N°21's Alessandro Dell'Acqua and Marni's Francesco Risso, sketched out a bold new menswear aesthetic.
With his fine cashmere sweaters which opened at the back, his azure poplin shirts featuring collars that extended into ribbons to be knotted at the neck, and his t-shirts in khaki or nude lace, Dell'Acqua gave his menswear a sensual twist. One classic white shirt even featured a cut-out over the shoulder blades, while woollen trousers were cinched at the waist with an extra-long belt that floated through the air, and leopard-print jumpers were made in super-soft mohair.
"My starting point was the idea of creating a new kind of formal wear. But this 'new formal' has to be constructed. Young people today are attracted to formal clothes, but it can't be too classic. You have to offer them a new attitude," the designer explained backstage, exposing the reasons behind the sexy aesthetic of his latest offering.
According to Dell'Acqua, the collection has, in fact, been conceived so that it can also be worn by women, a consideration that could perhaps be seen in the feminine touch lent by an elegant trench decorated with giant lettering spelling out the brand's name, as well as by some sleek sweaters and pretty men's shirts.
At the polar opposite of N°21's hedonistic sensuality, Marni took the attendees of its runway show on a journey through long metallic tunnels and into a dark and vaguely hostile universe, tinged with an apocalyptic atmosphere. The crowd went silent as a beam of bluish light swept the room. The movements of the models were slowed right down, as though they were struggling against some sort of viscous morass.
Here and there, the light illuminated models with uncertain outlines and the clothes that they wore. Low-cut jumpers and tight, mini polo shirts were worn over tops with exaggeratedly long sleeves, while others left the models' midriffs exposed. At the other end of the spectrum, shirts with hypnotic prints were blown up to supersized proportions, as were extra-large trousers.
Some models' heads peaked out from enormous scarfs wrapped around their necks, while another recurring look involved oversized jackets, paired with maxi-shirts and giant jumpers, all worn like mini-dresses over bare legs and anchored with solid leather boots – a silhouette not dissimilar to that achieved at N°21 with a pair of boxers.
One loose check jacket was frayed at the bottom, another looked moth-eaten. Cotton trenches and woollen coats had shiny collars that made it seem like their shoulders and sleeves had been drenched by torrential rains. The browned edges of some pieces made them looked burnt or singed.
In a choreography thought up by artist and dancer Michele Rizzo, two opposing groups of models eventually assembled. The members of this strange community crossed each other's paths without ever touching, the men and women eyeing each other with a haggard, almost transfixed gaze.
This latest show continues Marni creative director Francesco Risso's ongoing experiments, where imperfection is ever more clearly establishing itself as the watchword of the brand's evolving aesthetic. Perhaps the greatest illustration of this new philosophy were the collection's hybrid pieces, such as the short crocodile-skin jacket that transformed into a long green leather coat on the other side, or the buttoned cardigan that was maxi on one side and micro on the other.
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