MILAN FASHION WEEK

DIESEL AW22


In the eyes of most, denim is considered an untouchable symbol, some sort of iconic object to be treated with care. It is filled with such meaning and laden with signifiers, that it is almost impossible to handle without compromising its coolness. The creative director of Diesel, Glenn Martens, thinks of denim as what it truly is: a fabric. With his first live collection for Diesel, the never-too-hailed Glenn has not only shown how in tune he is with the brand’s universe, but he has also approached denim as a technician, as a deep connoisseur of the fabric, by making it go through many changes of state until it became almost aerial.

Frayed, cut, washed, marbled, needle-punched, vitrified, bleached, printed, embossed or all of the above; in Glenn Martens’ hands Diesel’s raw material has risen from the underworld into which streetwear had cast it; it has once again become one of the most exciting fabrics ever created by human hand.

Moreover, the whole show was a remarkable proof of how much of a textile culture this iconic company has accumulated and how the topic of craftsmanship – often associated with embroidery or crochet – can also fit in with this industry, triggering a chain reaction that surpasses the nitration of glycerine (which is the process of preparing nitroglycerine).

To bring back the appreciation for textile research – a concept now so old and glorious – our Glenn brought us back to the immense and ubiquitous Y2K: a moment of human history when, in hindsight, it seemed like people were having much more fun than nowadays, heels were very high and different genders seemed to seemingly coexist in peace.

The 2000s have suddenly become mythological (see also Roberto Cavalli) because they’re considered a huge platform on which to display a representation of reality that would now be considered unacceptable by many; a reality made of skinny and slender bodies, of heterosexual relationships and unbridled wealth. In any case, adapting a narrative to fit into that world doesn’t mean accepting its values, but rather treating it as a metaphor to make the stories, bodies and situations (that are currently being given a heavily negative interpretation) more believable and acceptable.

Fashion is a tough business; but Glenn Martens knows what he’s doing and also Renzo Rosso who chose him. As an entirely possible science-fiction scenario at Diesel, we can totally imagine Glenn Martens becoming the creative director at Margiela. Mainly because we all know that he would be Martin’s perfect successor.

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ROBERTO CAVALLI AW22


There is no brand in the world that can better symbolise a period in history when the female body was objectified, eroticised and controlled by the male gaze than Roberto Cavalli. Neither Dolce&Gabbana, nor Versace have ever reached his level of ruthless lust, of absolute eroticisation of the female body; capable of dehumanising women, while chanting: ”I am the only designer who truly loves women. In every sense of the word”, adding a nice homophobic touch to an already nonsensical statement.
Basically, this is why Cavalli today is a brand that is as hot-to-handle as Diabolik’s loot and is viewed with extreme suspicion by the majority of the press because it takes us back to a time when the female body had not yet been problematised and certain behaviours hadn’t been made public.

This is why Fausto Puglisi’s job is even more challenging. Firstly, it is a question of cancelling the fatwa (rightly) thrown at the brand by those who think that this world is the bearer of retrograde values. Secondly, because reinterpreting Cavalli’s work and bringing it back to the present day also means subverting its founding principles, not aesthetically but ethically. Cavalli’s second live collection had to contend with all this, and Puglisi’s focus almost always came out on top.

Fausto is a boy from the south, like Versace and Alaïa and, in his world, women play a fundamental if not principal role, their figure changes from mother to sister to lover without losing its relevance and splendour. And as a southern boy, he associates decorative maximalism with luxury, wealth, fullness and happiness, just like the Byzantines who occupied those lands for quite some time did.

The meaning of these clothes today is radically different from that of twenty years ago and it speaks much more of a woman who has reclaimed her body, not only as a weapon but also as an absolute instrument of individual pleasure. 

On a critical side note, the collection would have needed more editing, because the themes on the catwalk seemed a little too varied, but perhaps talking about subtraction – to one of the few brands that is preaching a return to maximalism – makes little sense. Maybe you just need to let yourself sink into the deep whirlpool of animal prints, gold, fetish references, tartans and roses and enjoy it for as long and in whatever way you want.

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ANDREA ADAMO AW22


You could really tell that Andrea Adamo was visibly shaken the day after his show. The (metaphoric) triple pike backflip he did while walking the catwalk for the first time with the collection that bears his name was a tiring, dangerous and not entirely successful affair. But that’s not to say he shouldn’t have done it.

Transforming a single-product collection into a total look capable of narrating a whole and precise identity isn’t easy – even if Katie Grand and Pat McGrath are there to help. In this case though the location and strobe lights that prevented people from seeing properly didn’t help.

That kind of story, so strongly eroticised, body-oriented but with a subtractive and not maximalist approach, deserved at least an abandoned factory and a Bjork soundtrack and not the cloisters of a fifteenth-century convent.

Talking about female bodies today is a dangerous affair but if done like Andrea Adamo, it suddenly becomes acceptable and it probably helps the empowerment cause. This is because Adamo’s women are very aware of the power of their own bodies and they respect them in a sacred way, as one respects a saint’s relic.

For one of the most interesting designers of the new Made in Italy, the problem now is to remain attached to his roots but also to open up to new signs that will allow him to acquire a unique and recognisable identity.

In the meantime, though, I would go beyond merely criticising the obvious references to Alaïa’s work: the references are there and for a reason in a project of this kind. Azzedine Alaïa has produced a body of work that should in fact be used, narrated and then surpassed, given that, between you and me, whoever was put in his place is not doing a very good job.

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AC9 AW22


Alessandro dell’Acqua’s former collaborator, Alfredo Cortese, followed his spiritual father and mentor’s guidance very well, as we can see from the many obvious characteristics that have derived from dell’Acqua’s aesthetic.
The point, however, is that creating a project with clear and ambitious commercial horizons can lead to the cards being revealed a little too soon; forgetting to reflect on what a brand should really be and resolving the problem of identity in an easy manner. A brand needs to have recognisable traits that tell the story of how it started somewhere and continued elsewhere. Post-war Italy and the subtle eroticism of Anna Magnani are all at the heart of dell’Acqua’s work; which form a framework that allows us to never lose track of the limits within which we must stay.

In the case of AC9, the founding myth of the brand doesn’t yet seem clear; perhaps it doesn’t exist or maybe it hasn’t been formulated yet. This, however, can lead to the risk of a light and fragile drift that could move the brand towards magnetic poles that change from time to time, displacing those seeking a secure anchor in the solidity of the message.

Coming up with a project from scratch is difficult – we’re aware of that -, but it’s even more difficult to allow yourself the freedom to contribute something that profoundly belongs to you and only you and bring it to the project. Like every solo navigator in the sea of life, Alfredo Cortese probably has a lot of stories to tell and we’ll be here to listen when the time will come for him to open up that part of himself that has been hermetically closed until now – something that we could end up really enjoying, even if it may be imperfect and not that sparkly.

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NR.21 AW22


Fashion is capable of doing three things: analysing the past, building a future or telling the present. When it comes to defining with millimetric precision what is currently happening in the world of fashion, Alessandro dell’Acqua is the master. Each time, his fashion shows force you to reflect on what is really happening in real life, in the market and not in the metaverse.

In this case, there were elements of formal male elegance – built in a sculptural way – and a juxtaposition of laces and dramatic sequins. Both themes established a precise connection with the female and male bodies, by exhibiting them openly and enclosing them hermetically, creating a state of constant imbalance between something extremely solid and something liquid and elusive.

It isn’t only down to a simple contrast between male and female aesthetics but more about two different and parallel ways of narrating the two main paths that fashion is taking nowadays: favouring the construction and remodelling of the body or freeing it by enhancing it.

However, this contemporary dilemma is reinterpreted and simplified by Alessandro dell’Acqua who has the extraordinary ability to make these shifts in taste – that could lead to exasperating excesses – more comprehensible (and sellable).

In the N°21 collections, you can never find something too excessive or exasperating because around here the everyday is planned out, softened to the point of becoming edible.

Dell’Acqua’s immense effort is to ultimately give back credibility to fashion, by creating a constant dialogue with his final customer; a real person walking the streets who – for how much she may think that fashion is an instrument of extremely powerful expression – she can never quite outshine it.

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MARCO RAMBALDI AW22


Since the 1960s, the body has become a political object, a ground for clashes, discoveries, claims, violence and conquests. The female body, much more than the male one, has marked epochal moments of humanity’s cultural evolution because for centuries it was oppressed by those social pressures we no longer even notice today. It is enough to observe the comments full of resentment that have been left under any post in which any of the non-conforming bodies that modelled for Marco Rambaldi was photographed.

These can be shocking comments caused by the amount of bitterness, frustration and unexpressed anger that we would expect to no longer exist but are instead there, clearly typed in and visible to everyone, to remind us that actions like the ones Rambaldi has taken will never be able to obtain a unanimous consensus because they tear off pieces of rotting beliefs from the living flesh of society and, in doing so, they cause so much pain to become almost unbearable.

Condemning those who aren’t ready for change is easy, what comes difficult is building a career and a brand on the idea of not being universally accepted. Marco Rambaldi is 32 years old and, together with a very trustworthy team (including some family members) surrounding him, since the very beginning, he has been capable of creating a Brave New World in which acceptance isn’t a rational act anymore but a spontaneous push towards the formation of ever-growing collectives that include everyone and everything. In that same world, every season designs collections that change according to the body that wears them.

This is in fact the true political sense of his work, as Pier Paolo Piccioli of Valentino said in a credible act of support, who was present at the fashion show that was being streamed on the brand’s Instagram profile in the meantime.

Rambaldi’s collections have always had a naïve, non-violent, colourful and optimistic approach and each time they speak about women from a different point of view, they maintain a healthy detachment from the idea of overpowering the bodies of those who wear them.

At a time when, not too strangely, many brands are making reactionary turns towards an era of conforming bodies, the early 2000s, Rambaldi’s message resonates even more deeply and to think that it angers so many people is perhaps a good sign.

Soon enough we might live in a world in which clothes will no longer define gender and social role but only personal identity; a world in which gender-based violence will cease to exist and no man will kill women just because they have stopped loving them; a world in which the body, even the one furthest removed from the centuries-old standards of acceptability, will be just a body and not a battleground.

A world in which what the inhabitants of Kiev, Odessa and Kharkiv in Ukraine are hearing are not the sounds of Russian bombs being dropped and the news we read are not the ones we are receiving from the battlefront, whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, we should all want to live in Marco Rambaldi’s world rather than Vladimir Putin’s one.

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CAPASA MILANO AW22


Costume National, the brand designed by Ennio Capasa for 30 years and of which Carlo Capasa, the current president of the National Chamber of Fashion, was the head of, ceased to exist in March 2016. Soon after, it passed into the hands of the Japanese fund Sequedge, who requested from the bankruptcy court of Milan an arrangement with creditors.

Not unlike many other brands that were born in the 1980s and grew globally in the 1990s (for instance, Ferré, Romeo Gigli, Krizia), the story of Costume National ended up amongst the papers of a court of law, probably leaving behind a trail of sadness. In the meantime, the fashion world radically changed.

As with all the most self-respecting comebacks, the backstage of Capasa’s Milan show at the Teatro Degli Arcimboldi was hailed as a happy return after years of unjustified absence. Although the last few years of Costume National’s life were not exactly blessed with commercial success, many felt that Ennio Capasa still had the ability to tell new stories, especially when it came to men’s fashion.

The new project revolves around menswear staples that are turned into genderless pieces through a wider size range and therefore fitting into the revision process that fashion is carrying out, surrounding nineteenth-century concepts such as binarism and normativity.

In reality, apart from moving towards more oversized volumes than Costume National’s staple pieces, it is difficult to find a precise identity in this collection. Therefore, it is just as difficult to find the motivation behind it.

What also seemed really unusual was the fact that Capasa’s Milan show was the opening act of this fashion week, assuming a newfound relevance – witnessed by its prompt appearance in the Vogue Runway bible – that the collection failed to live up to.

The fact that Carlo Capasa, Ennio’s brother, is the current president of the National Chamber of Fashion and, according to some newspapers, also has an active role in the project, makes it all the more difficult to understand.

Perhaps it would have been better for the Capasa brothers to clear the field of possible conflicts of interest before the event, without letting the chatter tarnish their fashion week debut.

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CALCATERRA AW22


In a parallel universe, Daniele Calcaterra is recognised as one of the most ardent moulders of textile materials around the human body and he may even be the creative director of some mega-brand. In our universe, on the other hand, he designs a collection named after his surname and he runs a small company that moves with precision through the dangerous waves of the equatorial storms of fashion, but probably also with insufficient means.

Yesterday morning, in front of a collection made with such a precision and sophistication that didn’t make us regret our lady of minimalism, Jil Sander, we were all disconcerted by how, even today, clothes shown on models in a loft could have the power to transport everyone, or rather to lift everyone up, towards a world made of absolutes, sculpted forever in time, as light as feathers and as significant as the words spoken by a fortune teller.

When you are able to dig so deep into the product, removing everything but the essentials, you get to touch the cement layer that lies in the depths of the history of clothing and that is hardly ever seen today. This heart, so comforting and solid, is made of pieces that have been sailing for hundreds of years under our hands and inside our eyes, but are constantly covered by an unbearable background noise.

Daniele Calcaterra is an archaeologist who desperately digs desert lands to bring to light treasures buried by centuries of sandstorms, and observing the result of his work is so liberating because it gives us back a part of that beauty that we didn’t even know existed anymore.

But it still exists and, probably, thanks to people like him, it will never cease to exist.

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MARCO DE VINCENZO AW22


Marco de Vincenzo, in addition to having worked for years as a bag designer at Fendi, also had his own collection universally-recognised as one of the most interesting things to have happened at Milan Fashion Week. LVMH, the same owner as Fendi, had also joined the company, but the economic contribution and know-how hadn’t helped reverse the downward spiral the brand had taken, if you can even talk about contributions at this point.

At the moment, De Vincenzo has put a stop to his men’s and women’s collections and has gone back to dedicating himself to his project of reviving his archival collections and one in particular, Supèrno, which is built around upcycled one-offs. Presented off-season, outside of Vogue’s runway and generally far away from the spotlight, Supèrno is certainly one of the most interesting things that we’ll see in Milan during this fashion week dedicated to winter 2023, not so much because the concept of reworking vintage clothing is new but because something so obvious has become extraordinary in the hands of De Vincenzo, something magnificently new to obsessively desire.

Marco de Vincenzo’s brain learned creative freedom and research into craftsmanship in Fendi’s atelier, distancing it from Roman bad taste and bringing it into a territory much closer to an elegant B-rated Italian movie from the 70s than the baroque comforts of Roman aristocracy. We are much closer to Fellini and Sorrentino (by the way, why haven’t they met yet?) than to the classicism of the Fontana Sisters or Emilio Schubert. De Vincenzo’s aesthetics are so radical to the point of being almost too obvious and the market has struggled to understand him but it also seems unnatural that it hasn’t, until now, found a way to channel itself into such an understandable, honest and contemporary vision.

Supèrno is a project that is equally as simple cas it is brilliant. It is a way of reconstructing the concept of high fashion itself from its ashes, of making the disconcertment for the most profound luxury recede in a definite way and applying it to poor, forgotten garments, perhaps without history and certainly without memory.

There are those rare moments where fashion mysteriously approaches poetry and speaks through metaphors, broken phrases and strange anagrams. This is one of those moments. It’s hard to look at this collection and not think about each woman or man who would deserve a piece of it, to make peace with the culture of waste and take a step towards slowing down the erasure of culture itself.

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PARIS FASHION WEEK

JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
HAUTE COUTURE SS22


Every season Jean-Paul Gaultier entrusts the creative direction of his high fashion collection to a different talent, as he has withdrawn from the limelight. The project began with the extraordinary collaboration with Sacai, while this time, it’s Glenn Martens who has taken up the reins of the Maison. Given that this is an extraordinary way of keeping alive a brand that otherwise would no longer be visible, entrusting one’s work to other people is a sign of great open-mindedness, a lack of narcissism, and maybe even of a big heart.

Glen Martens, who began working for Gaultier at the beginning of his career, has done very well in the playroom of the enfant terrible of French fashion. He has amused himself looking at the world of couture with the eyes of a thirty-eight-year-old who opens the wardrobe of an aunt who has just died and discovers unexpected treasures. Maybe he also discovers that his aunt isn’t really dead but has run away to Copacabana with her chauffeur.

Gaultier’s distinguishing marks are all there, but they have been re-engineered through Martens dystonic and cynical vision, with his obsessive way of wreaking havoc on the harmonic universe of western fashion, cancelling any trace of nostalgia, emotion and reassuring elegance.

As Nietzsche said: “If you look into the abyss, it looks back at you”. 

And so the creative director of Y/project went to have a look at what is beyond the limits of bourgeois good taste (as in fact Gaultier had done in the 80s). Still, he didn’t extract a saving recipe but instead brought back a series of mismatched parts and decided to put them all into this collection.

When you are in a territory of free expression, like the brand Jean Paul Gaultier, you can manage to recognize the boundaries that western aesthetics has given itself and move beyond, with a form of disrespectfulness that lets you create new things.

If behind Gaultier’s vision lay an actual operation of apostasy from Christian Dior (think of the Bar Jacket with conic breasts), Marten’s vision looks at the history of European fashion. The ribbons, a recurring element in the collection, look like a shapeless mass of entrails that someone has brought to light, revealing the dark secrets of a body that has perhaps been sick for too long.

The rotting carcass of what is commonly acceptable has taken a form, and Glenn Martens may be saying to us that one of the ways to save western society is to pull out a little truth from its insides.

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CHRISTIAN DIOR
HAUTE COUTURE SS22


The woman who tripled Dior’s sales and brought them close to those of giants like Vuitton and Gucci can do more or less whatever she likes.Maria Grazia Chiuri has no interest in innovating a formula that works perfectly, nor does she want to be, like her former partner Pier Paolo Piccioli, at the centre of philosophical discussions on contemporary aesthetics. When she talks about the principles that inspired every one of her collections, she does it almost absent-mindedly, referring to stories about craftsmanship and questions of inclusion that have nothing to do with the product of her work.

Specifically, this collection by Dior is, if possible, even less narrative than usual, with colours and decorations almost absent. This, however, doesn’t look like a step towards minimalism, or a dress rehearsal for the mythological creative direction of Armani (as some say) but the final adoption of a business approach, developed by herself, and which has become so incredibly successful that she doesn’t have to fear any rivals.

The approach is based on constructing products and collections that have been accurately studied to be immediately understandable and purchasable in an ever more violently fast market. Desiring recognizable objects and preferably with brands that munch and digests collections as if they were Oreo cookies.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with constructing a project without any romantic afflatus or creative pretensions but which produced unprecedented commercial results. Mainly because, as I have written before, Maria Grazia Chiuri knows exactly that clothes are created to be worn and not to end up in a museum.

The problem here (if there is one) is that the brand’s entire heritage has been reduced to zero or at least made to bend to the rules of a market that doesn’t want stiff Bar Jackets but fluid crêpe jackets, and which isn’t interested in bizarre architectural constructions but simple formal wear. This market doesn’t feel like looking towards the future and is very happy to stay in the present.

When a brand goes off the rails, it always travels along. It loses its identity, which is then reconstructed with derivative concepts that are not necessarily copied but also not created autonomously.

In the long run, this can be dangerous because while the historical identity may be a trap, so are the siren calls of merchandisers who ask for the seasonal print to be stamped on its hero products. 

Over time the freeze-drying of Christian Dior could lead to a total loss of taste, not to mention emotion, and this might prove to be not only a bumpy road but a road with no return.

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VALENTINO HAUTE COUTURE SS22


Pierpaolo Piccioli has decided to perform open-heart surgery on the very concept of haute couture. It looks as if the patient survived the operation and is doing well. The Paris high fashion shows this season are proving to be an area for deep reflection on the meaning of contemporary fashion and when, as in this case there aren’t any horses on the catwalk, they inevitably succeed in getting over the muddy grounds of coolness and landing on the softer and sweeter terrain of awareness.

Valentino is one of the few real Maisons de couture with an internal atelier that every year turns out dozens of very expensive dresses for women and men who live in every country of the world, for every age and every type of physique and whose DNA, one might say, consists of insisting on the very old idea of selling clothes: dealing directly with the end customer. No matter how much you might think that clothes costing hundreds of thousands of Euros, paraded in eighteenth-century palaces and worn by massively paid models are a symbol of exclusivity, not to mention exclusion, in reality, there is nothing more inclusive than high fashion. When a client comes knocking on their door, nobody, neither Cristobal Balenciaga nor Valentino himself, has ever been able to say no. Once draped over the clients’ bodies, the product goes from its ideal shape to the natural one through a process that is part of the very idea of couture.

Anatomy of couture is the title of Valentino’s collection, a successful attempt to tell a piece of the story of this centuries-old culture which, usually, nobody gets to see because every piece of couture is unique and is nearly always used in extremely private events.

Men and women paraded the catwalk who were very different from each other and through whom a story was told not of the clothes but of the relationship, constructed individually between one body and one piece of clothing, of a unique creation for a unique personality. A show that wasn’t phantasmagorical and sparkling, as is usually the case and which someone might say was missing that touch of the marvellous that Piccioli has accustomed us to. But the marvellous was there.

This semantic upheaval of couture’s principles led Valentino to approach bodies in a way that has never happened before in the brand’s history, with an explosion of sincere, liberating and contemporary eroticism bursting out of the evening dresses.

The moment had to come when Pierpaolo decided to take a pickaxe to the unbreakable concept of haute couture. And that moment did come and has probably opened up an exciting new pathway for a brand that has been perhaps too closely connected with an idea of elegance that it’s time to question.

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SCHIAPARELLI HAUTE
COUTURE SS22



Daniel Roseberry is taking to care to remind everyone what haute couture collections used to look like when, between the 80s and 90s, they were released from reality and went to planets inhabited by aliens, while refusing any type of contact with humanity. In that precise historical moment, the most respectable Maison de Couture (including Saint Laurent), came to the realisation that they didn’t need made-to-measure clothing anymore because their cash flow was heavily insured by the sales of perfumes and tiles. Hence why they decided to hijack glorious high fashion and take it towards a marvellous world made of nonsensical sculpture-like clothing that worked admirably from the point of view of conveying a message.

A whole universe, cancelled by intellectualism and the body culture that appeared in the following decades, was miraculously taken up again by Schiaparelli – a brand that can take on any quest into the surreal, since it was founded on these principles by its foundress, Elsa.

Daniel Roseberry has found a formula that remains strangely unique in today’s fashion world today and consists of diving into the most exaggerated maximalism, while also keeping a obsessive formal balance and in fact telling a tale of detachment from what is real, like a psychosis.

A lot of people (as we’ve already mentioned), currently feel the need to detach themselves from reality in a radical way but Roseberry’s way isn’t one that saves but an interesting one nonetheless, given that is is doesn’t align with the principle of pleasure that so dominates Western society but contains something deeply sick.

Rather than living in a Fellini or Sorrentino film, Shiapparelli’s women are trapped in Alain Resnais’ “Last Year at Marienbad”: a film in which absolutely nothing happens to the main characters in those two hours, making it an aesthetically paralysing feature. Daniel Roseberry’s work is exactly the same: aesthetically paralysing and his apparent inconsistency make him one of the most interesting things to have happened in the fashion world in recent years.

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ALAÏA AW22


Pieter Mulier is part of fashion’s aristocracy. For years, he was Raf Simons’ right-hand man, as he followed him on his adventures with Jim Sanders, Dior and then Calvin Klein and he became quite well-known amongst the insiders. He’s been Alaïa’s Creative Director for a year now and he’s presented his second collection for the brand that most overflows with eroticism on the whole planet, revealing quite clearly just how difficult it is to perpetuate Azzedine’s kingdom. Eroticism in the fashion world is something of a delicate matter but right now it’s a topic that is being widely worked upon and with interesting results (Laquan Smith or Mugler) because one of the rights of passage to free a woman’s body from century-old cultural constrictions is to reveal it, making it visible and desirable.

The Tunisian Azzedine Alaïa has always recounted tales about free bodies that are perfectly integrated within powerful personalities just how all his muses had been (from Iman to Naomi Campbell, from Farida Khelfa to Tina Turner). His legacy is important because he’s one of the few to have given the perfect synthesis between love for a woman’s body of Middle Eastern origin and the so-called refined bourgeoisie taste that has always kept female bodies hidden away.

It seems like Pieter Mulier doesn’t care much for this searing legacy and that he’s actually made sure to forget about it quickly, in order to replace it with a cold intellectualism that is typical of his work with Raf Simons. You see walking towards you male coats, flared jeans that bring to our mind La Isla Bonita, sartorial jackets, polo neck sweaters that cover half of their faces, together with completely transparent stretchy catsuits or dresses with macro Picasso prints; in a set of outputs that can hardly be defined in any other way than disastrous.

All of this could be defined a bump in the road if it wasn’t for the fact that the real problem is probably a consequence of having picked the wrong Creative Director. Or rather, Pieter Mulier could be the right person to continue Alaïa’s work if the brand’s intention was to go down more commercial or simply different routes. Of one thing we’re sure: Azzedine’s celebration of female bodies has most certainly disappeared, together with the feeling of joyful appropriation of flesh. Unfortunately, this is a real shame because the teachings of one of the greatest geniuses in history should be respected, with the intention of following into his footsteps and not moving on with the aim of forgetting him.

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KENZO AW22


Nigo aka Tomoaki Nagao is a mythological character for all of the real streetwear connoisseurs who have known him since 1993, when he created the brand A Bathing Ape. He then became one of the characters of reference for this subculture – that eventually became an official culture -, while also piquing the market’s interest. The fact that American streetwear has become distilled and made popular by the Japanese and it has therefore become respectable within the fashion and costume world boils down to the fact that it is a historical truth; although in this moment in time when everything seems to be move forward so quickly, no one has had the time to remember. Japanese denim will always be one of the best and not because there’s ever been a tradition of indigo cotton, but because at some point some enlightened industrialist decided to apply their artisanal approach to an American product they were attracted to.

The founder of the homonymous brand, Kenzo Takada, whose place Nigo has recently taken, had never been interested in streetwear and he hadn’t even ever tried to bring Japanese aesthetics into his collections. However, he was one of the first to have created ready-to-wear collections that spoke to younger people and were affordable and he brought these to a bourgeois Paris that was still dangerously attracted to haute couture.

Since the brand entered LVMH’s orbit, an attempt was made to bring it closer to a younger audience and, with the duo from Opening Ceremony, the operation was set to be completed. The collaboration with Nigo should represent the final step of this strategy. Unfortunately, despite the presence of people like Kanye West and Pharrell Williams amongst the audience, nothing substantial came out of it, which proved that it’s not the right time for nostalgic missions and that the streetwear language has evolved so much to have become incomprehensible even to Nigo.

The collection showed a delicate, minimalistic approach that puritans will have recognised as an unmistakable trait of Japanese streetwear culture but, at the same time, it also looked dangerously similar to any contemporary brand that department stores are filled with.

We should ask ourselves, even though the question itself is uncomfortable, whether a 51-year-old today can recount things that might interest a 15-year-old or if it would be a wiser idea to look amongst the students, rather than the teachers, and find someone who has received those type of teachings which they’ll be able to make their own in the future.

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RICK OWENS AW22


Behind his fantastic styling, Rick Owens’ ability to also create clothes that are in perfect dialogue with our contemporary times is undoubtedly outstanding. His collections’ solidity and commercial success derive from a love for the product that is so deep and so visible if observed from up-close, that it makes his work very similar to Giorgio Armani and Rei Kawakubo’s.

It would also be very interesting if somebody close to Armani’s team could have a chat with him before they pick the almost mythological figure who will take King Giorgio’s place.

Particularly in this collection (maybe that’s what the neon lights on their heads stood for), Rick Owens indulged in a simplification of the narrative language that revealed how every single garment is a decisive part in the construction of his complex Gothic imaginary; while also showing how every single piece can have its own life, its own identity and tell its own origins without having to be a part of a whole look.

Owens’ version, to which his adepts adhere as if to a secret sect, is so precisely alienating and also profoundly recognisable, to have become the object of a mediumistic cult. That’s why it represents a happy island outside of the indistinct fashion flow; but it is also what stops the brand from growing.

This time though, it’s as if the American designer wanted to resign himself to comprehensibility and therefore decided to switch on a light in the dark ravine in which his creativity lives, revealing his significant traits which, contrary to what you may think, are quite simple.

Similarly to Martin Margiela, Rick Owens builds his narrative starting from the solidity of a product that has been thought through and marvellously realised and that, once worn, immediately becomes a luxurious, erotic, recognisable object.

His savoir-faire is even clearer in this collection and maybe some of the more recent brands from the new generations will want to follow this really old way of building a collection, since it can also be extremely contemporary.

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Y/PROJECT AW22


Glenn Martens studied fashion at the great Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, which is the most celebrated art school in the world, together with Central Saint Martin’s, and from which talents of the calibre of Margiela and Raf Simons and others have come out. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts – which is one of the very first art schools in Europe (founded in 1663) – is said to be one of the toughest to study in because students are completely left alone with their creative ghosts or their unresolved incapabilities. Whoever manages to come out of it after four years is able to unfold every single one of the fashion world’s secrets from a conceptual and structural point of view and is not afraid of anything anymore. Imagining a military camp shouldn’t be too far off from reality.

What all students who have ever attended Antwerp’s art school have in common is to have an extremely recognisable identity, one that is very difficult to tarnish, and a deconstructed methodological approach, anti-bourgeoisie and, in a way, nihilistic. To understand what we’re talking about, let’s think of Martin Margiela’s work. Glenn Martens loves being disrespectful beyond the limits of comprehension and this is what makes him so fascinating: there are always wrong button-ups, wrong folds, wrong curled up parts that force us to second-guess our own idea of good taste.

It’s very probable that in this collection created as a tribute to Jean Paul Gaultier, he has moved towards the construction of a more concrete and solid adult-like project. This is because Y/Project never used to be a brand that could be defined in a specific manner, but now that the excesses are less visible and caricatural and it has become a more identity-driven and recognisable type of fashion, a lot has changed for Margiela (who was also Gaultier’s pupil), while he’s also been able to start a very interesting dialogue with our contemporary times. That’s why Glenn Martens is doing a great job as Diesel’s Creative Director.

In a moment when it has become more and more difficult to associate the word authorial with a fashion project and in which the market’s magnetism has made everyone accept any type of compromise, Y/Project seriously takes into account its own codes, something which is refreshing. We could even say comforting.

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LOEWE AW22


The Loewe team led by J.W.Anderson allows itself an expressive freedom that is hard to find elsewhere either because clothes have to sell (that’s not the case) or because the hyper-reality of street culture has led contemporary fashion to favour product representation over layered narrative.

It’s been some time now since Loewe abandoned the old Freudian reality principle  (or substituted it with the pleasure principle) in favour of an unreality, or rather a surreality whose concentration of meaning comes precisely from the fact that nobody knows where the product, saleable and commercial, is at home. Like all brand accessories, Loewe focuses its own energy on bags, shoes and a few logoed objects while carefully avoiding trying to sell the impossible creations of its creative team.

However, this split is doing the LVMH group’s brand a lot of good which has for quite some time given up any attempt to construct wearable collections and substituted them with veritable fairy tales, abstract, metaphysical, free and rather joyful.

For winter 2022 the idea was to restore a human shape to what happens on the other side of the phone screen, from electrical impulses to selfies, from visual distortions of filters to memes using a language that is openly surrealistic in which the decorative elements were sink drains or one of the many images of kittens posted on TikTok (in this case with a bird on the head). Like in the surrealism of Dalì or Magritte, Loewe’s design mechanism seems to be directly linked to the unconscious and therefore doesn’t reply to clear and rationally expressed questions but contrives ways of escaping from a boring, oppressive reality by opening doors into universes in which fashion history is a vague reference instead of a constant presence.

To put it even more precisely, this seems to be a situationist methodology, a movement that derived out of Marxism and which has been described as a voluntary loss of orientation or like wandering around without a destination or purpose. The aim behind this loss of orientation, by those who practice it, is to accustom people to being open-minded towards new, unexpected and possibly even alienating aspects of reality, especially if this is done in geographical locations where they usually live. Thus, this is a form of sensory training that allows new perceptions and aesthetic experiences through which a person can reconfigure themselves. Aesthetic experimentation thus becomes the opportunity for transformation, also in the political sense, of individuals who have become endowed with a new awareness.

What is there to say? Personally, I’d prefer to spend a lot more time inside Loewe’s world and a lot less in the one we’re living in now.

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LOUIS VUITTON
MEN AW22


Apparently, the collective mourning process for the death of Virgil Abloh has concluded with the Vuitton Uomo winter 2022 fashion show, the last to be signed by Abloh himself. I used the adverb “apparently” because the choice of a new designer by the LVMH group may not come immediately and they may prefer to stick with the current team for a while and carry on Virgil’s aesthetic and cultural legacy. From a marketing perspective, this is likely to work as the cult that has arisen around the creative director of Vuitton Uomo won’t disappear any time soon.

At this point, however, also watching this show, we’re justified in asking what Virgil Abloh actually bequeathed to the fashion world and maybe to the world in general, while avoiding the excess of glorification and saint worship which tastes slightly of Catholicism and which I think not even Abloh himself would have liked.

Abloh decidedly opened wide the doors of the extreme luxury paradise to the sweaty, howling masses who had always considered that terrain to be off-limits to them, from which they were far removed, not only economically but culturally and in their ability to understand. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp! With silent lips. Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Like the Statue of Liberty, Virgil Abloh’s activity was incredibly effective and at the same time highly narcissistic, the product of an idolatry mechanism that is part of contemporary communication. Just like the Statue of Liberty, the path taken by the most popular contemporary designer was to effectively welcome into the mechanisms of luxury all those who had never been familiar with it and who had perceived it as something exclusive, inaccessible and not egalitarian and in the process, he also massively enlarged Vuitton’s potential client base, expanded the market of the biggest multinational in the luxury sector, a holding company that has a marked tendency to become a global monopoly instead of a talent scout for creatives.

Today there are herds of fifteen-year-olds ready to shell out 890 euros for a pair of Vuitton sneakers (Made in Italy) who simply weren’t there before.

All of this was obtained thanks to a celebrity appeal machine which didn’t use to exist in the fashion world or if it did exist (it’s always a good idea to remember Marcelo Burlon, DJ and creative director of County of Milan) it was still being deployed, shall we say, naively, or at least light-heartedly. 

Vuitton’s latest collection, on the other hand, is a perfect mechanism for self-representation and at the same time for communicating the product, in an age when designers and products have completely fused and Abloh’s liberating message has turned into a big bag. Rather than a Louis Dreamhouse (the collection’s title), the show was a gigantic pastry shop full of very sweet and brightly coloured candies, of every shape and taste, Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in the form of an uninterrupted sequence of very beautiful clothes shown in a dazzling set with a wonderful soundtrack.

Like in Tim Burton’s movie the chocolate factory can’t survive without a soul (in the film represented by Charlie’s family) and what we should be wondering is whether Virgil Abloh’s legacy won’t go beyond the fact of having invited new generations of young people to the global consumer banquet or whether it will bring back a healthy, ethical and highly creative approach to the world of luxury which seems to have lost these characteristics for some time.

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DIOR MEN AW22


It’s rather hard to imagine that Kim Jones’s most interesting collection since he came to Dior will overwhelm millennials and GenXers with its coolness. After last summer’s collection created in collaboration with Travis Scott and never delivered, it looks like one of the most genuine propagators of the phenomenon of collab has made an abrupt change of direction and arrived at (or gone back to) the by now forgotten terrain of formal menswear, the classic kind, what our dads and granddads used to wear.

In fact, what’s happening in the world of menswear seems to be following a common pattern: the attention of many designers has shifted away from sweatshirts to jackets, from down jackets to coats, from t-shirts to jacquard knitwear. It’s possibly because the markets are saturated with shockingly expensive sweatshirts or maybe because also formal menswear is economically lucrative. Whatever the case, the fact is that everyone and I mean everyone (even the most irreproachable standard-bearers of streetwear) have included in their collections references to pure men’s clothing from the nineteenth century.

But Kim Jones has done this in an extremely credible, adult and mature way, like a brave sea captain steering the complex ship of Dior out of the storm and sailing it into the safe and harmonious harbour of perfect sartorial constructions and colour tones that are barely hinted at.

There’s some very old style poetry in this collection which was shown on a reproduction of the Pont Alexandre III (one of Paris’ most cinematographic bridges) with M. Dior’s original voice in the background and it all comes with a lot of nonchalance as the Parisians might say. 

What we need to ask at this point is how the market will react to this new world of Kim Jones without the electricity of the collabos, the mega-celebrities, without Hollywood and the half-time show at the Super Bowl.

Will it look elsewhere or will it understand that this might be a precious opportunity to learn something anew that it had forgotten, to listen to the subdued sound of someone who makes beautiful clothes which might go unnoticed but which contain astonishing constructions, invisible to the naked eye and which require an effort to recognize.

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KIDSUPER AW22


KidSuper is the brand of 29-year-old Colm Dillane, a New Yorker from Brooklyn, a rising star and totally out of the box when it comes to American streetwear. Kid Super’s references are much closer to a 1980s low-fi Stringer Things style than the super hype of Off-White or Alyx and Dillane’s 176,000 followers on Instagram are there to prove it. In spite of this, if you take the time to watch the 16 minutes of the film presenting the 2022 winter collection you will be magically drawn into a parallel, teenage-like, childlike universe made up of M&M’s and doors that open into other dimensions, created around a naifcore that Van Gogh or Ligabue might have enjoyed, two figures who all their lives danced along the thin line dividing reality from madness.

What’s extraordinary about KidSuper, compared to so many other U.S. designers is that the world of streetwear is a departure point and not a point of arrival, it’s a language that tells wonderful, nostalgic fairy tales of lost childhood, stories in which nobody gets hurt and everybody ends up a winner, even if in reality they are born losers.

It is extremely hard today to find designers that don’t accept filters, either from society or from the market or from the brain or (especially)from an overdeveloped ego. Colm Dillane is certainly one of these. Everybody tells complicated and potentially edifying stories. From KidSuper, if you want, you can listen to contemporary fables that are liberating, authoritarian and true. Pull up a chair and sit down in front of your computer, as if it were an old fireplace in a distant time when someone would help you fall asleep by telling you a dreamy bedtime story.

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MILAN FASHION WEEK

PRADA AW22


Raf Simons is the son of a night watchman and a cleaning lady. Miuccia Prada, aka Maria Bianchi, is the heiress to the leather goods shop Fratelli Prada, founded in 1913. Working-class origins and upper-middle-class origins, two worlds far apart, came together in the first truly successful show of the Raf Simons age. What happened is that, apart from the incidental presence of Hollywood actors, Miuccia turned everything over to Raf. The Belgian designer’s vision clearly defines the Prada brand in this collection, and is no longer an awkward attempt to reconcile opposites.

Raf and Miuccia staged a generational handover in the form of class struggle, admitting that their origins made any kind of common ground impossible. Upper-middle-class tailored coats and jackets and workers’ overalls, alternating simply but extremely visibly, represented the clear distinction between two fundamental themes that Raf Simons—who has always followed and always imagined bourgeois good taste, without ever really finding it—has long worked on. But they also represented Prada’s approach to the codes of contemporary fashion, like those of Demna Gvasalia, for example.

 

The titanic struggle took place on the terrain of a disturbing minimalism, cold and abstract, distant and sick, reminiscent more of the cold cellars of Raf’s first shows than the aseptic lofts of Prada’s first shows. The game was always in Raf’s hands as the soundtrack by Human League is there to show.

 

 But all this is not a defeat for Prada—it’s a victory.

 

Raf has finally entered the Miuccia world. Her codes have become magically his own, and she can retire in peace if she wants to because I believe she knows she has handed over her child to someone who understands it, who respects it but isn’t overwhelmed by it. From the point of view of aesthetics, it is the victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, a radical change of meaning for Prada and probably the beginning of a new era. This era no longer understands self-destruction, and now the son of two workers is helping one of the most influential giants in global luxury transitioning towards the future.

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ETRO AW22


Controlling the enormous heritage of Etro and giving it an essential and contemporary vision is, I believe, not something easy to do. The brand has often fallen into self-quotation, indulging in its past and obscuring a potentially bright future.

With this men’s fashion show Kean Etro, immediately after the transfer of ownership to LVMH, has shown he can express an idea of the brand that stays close to its historical roots, but that is reaching out to a mentally and chronologically younger public. Here nothing is suffocating, exaggeratedly decorative, dustily bourgeois or unrealistic. What we saw passing in front of our eyes was an operation coming incredibly close to reality, even more focused than the already successful last season.

Etro was founded in 1968 by the legendary Gimmo Etro, Kean’s father, who was one of the founders of that industrial, creative revolution that later took the name Made in Italy. This is a story linked to Milan’s cultural fabric, which few other current brands can claim. A story that is also the story of a handover from one generation to another, which, as we know, can be disastrous.

 

And yet Etro managed to pull it off. Not only did they succeed in transitioning from textiles to clothes, accessories and perfumes, but they created a universe of references that has commanded respect and whose value was recognised by the French colossus who paid 500 million euros for it.

 

What most companies ought to consider is that this is a success story in every sense of the word. Brands can be passed on but rarely survive the pressures of dysfunctional families, sons without talent, and daughters obsessed with being in the spotlight. The Etro family is a shining example of how value can be passed on over generations, grow and take its place in the global market instead of perishing under the exhausting blows of infighting or simply from an absence of awareness and preparation.

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MAGLIANO AW22


Luca Magliano began working on his brand in 2016, and in a very short time, he became the most important male clothing designer in Italy, and perhaps one of the most important of his generation in the whole world.

The winter 2022 fashion show was held in the Circolo Arci Bellezza, a historical Milanese cultural circle where Luchino Visconti in 1960 shot a scene from Rocco e i suoi fratelli. Divided into different rooms, the action reconstructed micro-situations from daily life drowned in a dreamy, romantic, and deeply disturbing atmosphere. In the one I was in, two performers, a man and a woman, were arm wrestling and looking into each other’s eyes so intensely that it was hard to take your attention away from them and look at the clothes. There was something primordial, threatening and free in their way of struggling with their arms stuck to an old wooden table. The simplicity of their enactment seemed to represent centuries-old meanings—the struggle between the genders or just between human beings.

 

Luca Magliano gives the impression to consider life as a challenging game. Still, instead of succumbing to pessimism, he turns what could be pain or anguish into something engaging, exciting and restorative. Several times the work of another great narrator occurred to me who Luca ought to meet, Antonio Marras, but unlike Marras, Magliano builds his poetic apparatus around the clothes, not inside them.

 

There isn’t an evident compositional unity in the aesthetics of the young designer. It looks as if every single piece was fished out from somewhere, accurately observed, studied and finally slipped onto a friend who happened to be passing there by chance. The intention is not to create an identity narrative or deliver a particular message but maybe only to free that friend from a curse, to mend some broken parts, or heal them more quickly.

 

If you want to get an idea of what we felt while we were observing with surprise this gigantic stream of emotions, maybe you should think of the meaning you give to the concept of intimacy, also of solitude and how your way of dressing helps you discover it and communicate it to others.

The result of this joint effort, together with the excellent stylist Elisa Voto and many other talented collaborators, proves that in fashion today, whoever decides to stage emotions, perhaps using them as a therapy to free themselves from their ghosts, has a surprising level of courage and audacity. That’s how Magliano leads us into an authentic, wonderful and unique world, which is uncoupled from the obsession with the hyper-visual.

Luca is a pure brilliant talent whom the world should get to know, preserve and possibly, come to love.

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DOLCE & GABBANA AW22


When in 1986, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana commissioned their first campaign to photo reporter Ferdinando Scianna, who immortalised Marpessa in a Sicily that looked more like an anthropological study than a postcard, they didn’t imagine that they were creating fashion history and maybe general cultural history.
Scianna’s eye told the story of a free and resolute female figure who isn’t just returning to her roots but to the heart of the very concept of Italianness, cancelling in one fell swoop all the stereotypes of 1980s hedonism and raising the discourse around fashion to a lofty cultural plane.

Thirty-five years later, Dolce & Gabbana has become a global brand that communicates the joy of being alive, eroticism and carefreeness and which, after the unfortunate incident in China, is trying to reorient itself to the contemporary world. Any kind of intellectualism is long gone, and the dynamic duo has managed to tell simple stories in an understandable way, certainly with the risk of banalising the narrative but with the result that sales have topped a billion euros, and they have also begun to open stores in China again.

I’m afraid the nostalgia buffs who would like to see the black guêpières of the good old days, and the Sicilian widow’s dresses back on their catwalks will have a long wait, the time has come to reflect on the possibility (or impossibility) that this brand will recover its relevance for the fashion world.

Watching the men’s fashion show for winter 2022, one could say that they are making a little progress but that they have a long road ahead of them. Excess for the sake of excess doesn’t seem to be very significant for this historical time. Still, in a circus of prints, graffiti, embroidery, and loud music pumped out by Machine Gun Kelly, some elements burned with intensity, indicating something that is changing – more on the outside of the brand than on the inside.

First of all, the brand itself, Dolce & Gabbana, in all its variations as a logo or as a simple inscription, harks back to a mythological age (Y2K) in which distinctly separated male and female roles were narrated through sculpted physiques, open eroticism and a simplification of language which today isn’t even remotely conceivable. Objectified men and women protagonists of their own lives–thanks entirely to the endowments they received from nature–are the flip side of the coin of awareness and empowerment. Today these are romantic concepts that can be compared to those of Tarzan and Jane. The younger generations don’t view this with nostalgia but with sincere curiosity simply because they are not used to a message having that level of bi-dimensionality.

Today a t-shirt bearing the D&G logo in big letters on a ripped male physique has become aesthetic archaeology, and may be considered an interesting source for reflection.

In this sense, Dolce & Gabbana is the ideal brand to explain the “dolce vita” of the 90s while making it clear that the concept is no longer applicable, but it could still be an inexhaustible source of inspiration.

 

The second interesting element (we already spoke about this in the review of Jordaluca) is the coexistence of entirely different and opposite languages within the same discourse. Formal and streetwear, constructed and sporty, masculine and feminine, serious and delirious, simple and maximalist. Over the years, Dolce & Gabbana have won for themselves the freedom to range across the entire spectrum of menswear while never falling into the banality of everyday life. They built an imaginary world in which the protagonists are Marvel superheroes who have forgotten to have a double identity, and are keeping their stage clothes on even when they’re at dinner with their girlfriends or in a meeting with a board of directors. Removing all the in-between steps leaves only the extremes. And if that would have been considered hard to sell some time ago, today is actually why people are attracted by this brand. This kind of maximalism is both semiotic and ethical, in a world where normality no longer interests anyone, in apparent and open contradiction with the first point above.

 

The third thing to be observed is optimism, which today is a word empty of meaning and is only used to sell diapers in supermarkets and on TV shows to convince elderly ladies that winning a 150 euro coupon is awesome. Optimism isn’t, of course, the key to happiness, but as with extreme simplification, it’s a concept that has dropped off the radar screen and whose meaning we struggle to recognise. Dolce & Gabbana have built an empire on this word, a million light-years away from the bitter reflections of Balenciaga or the cartoonish, hallucinated world of Gucci. In this case, too, they are the ideal brand to bring back this concept to the centre of the discussion and redefine it.

No one can know whether this semiological examination of the brand corresponds to an actual, conscious strategy, but personally, if I had to point to a project that still has immense potential today, I would say it’s Stefano and Domenico’s. Together with Giorgio Armani. But that’s another story.

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JORDANLUCA AW22


Jordanluca is a brand founded in 2018 and is the brainchild of Jordan Bowen and Luca Marchetto, whose DNA is partly characterised by a love for Italian products with a constant reference to London subcultures. This winter 2022 collection, presented for the first time in Milan, showed that the Italo-British duo is moving with extreme dynamism and confidence into the immense gap that has recently opened up in menswear: the need to find a blend between streetwear and tailoring, between sport and formal, between high and low, between yesterday and today.

The collection showcases many elements that are very different from each other and very hard to manage. Still, even if it’s a little rough and metallic, the result is harmonious and feels new.

Outerwear, denim, jacquard knitwear, prints, formal jackets, leather and even a tuxedo are issues that many address individually because finding the key to making the perfect double-breasted jacket coexisting with a stonewashed denim suit is simply hard to do.

This hasn’t kept the dynamic duo from a spasmodic quest for something that is becoming increasingly rare, consistency through a pathway that, in fact, appears to encourage the opposite.

The result is not only interesting in terms of the collection but also because it gives some idea of where men’s fashion is heading at the moment: integration no longer means knocking down gender barriers but also historical and generational divides. The battle lines are no longer drawn between the male and female genders but between fathers and sons or daughters.

Millennials and Gen Zers are trying to reconstruct a dialogue between the old and the new, which almost seems to have originated in a gigantic Oedipus complex due to the absence of a paternal figure, a black hole of apparent harmony, an abyss that may have escaped notice. Father, rules, form. These are extremely powerful concepts that have led earlier generations to rebel, but now it looks like they are helping the youngest to build bridges, restore relationships, and come closer together.

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ALYX AW22

Matthew Williams, creative director of the 1017 Alyx 9SM brand, comes from Pismo Beach, a small town north of Los Angeles famous for its 1928 pier. Although he never received a formal education in fashion design, he was nurtured by the Los Angeles club scene and began costume design for celebrities early on. That’s why his view of fashion is transformative: clothes create the character you want to be for an evening, for a moment.
Williams’ meeting and subsequent collaboration with Kanye West led him to link up with Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston, forming what is now considered the nucleus of revolutionary designers within official fashion.

We are talking about a musical culture with deep roots in rap, and a visual culture that feeds on skateboarding and surfing, that would lead him to work as costume designer for a couple of years with none other than Lady Gaga.

The rest is history, as his nearly 900,000 followers show. Williams, like his colleagues, managed to come up with a synthesis between Californian streetwear, Californian trash and Californian celebrity culture, creating a brand that very quickly turned into a cult, especially for Gen Z. He also became creative director of Givenchy.

What is interesting about this explosive new generation of creatives is that they are culturally untouched by many of the unwritten rules of the fashion world: they don’t believe consistency is a value, they don’t believe it’s wrong to copy, but above all, they don’t believe that there needs to be any narrative or message behind a collection. In other words, they’re convinced that clothes can be created without producing any meaning. “So maybe it sounds selfish or narcissistic, but I’m just making things that I like, and hopefully other people will like them too. That’s just how I move” says Matthew Williams.

The answer to this somewhat defensive statement, and to this vision of fashion that is not narcissistic but just a bit superficial, is that you can surely make clothes and sell them without generating any meaning. However, maybe somewhere in the woof threads, we can still detect a narrative, or rather an affinity with a certain way of telling stories.

Looking at the 2022 winter collection with the eyes of an outsider, there are a few things that strike one. Distinct binary genders, light years away from the kind of fluidity everyone is talking about, are portrayed so assertively that it’s astonishing: men are men and dress like men and women are women and dress like women. There seems to be only minimal common aesthetic ground, and roles are drawn so clearly that it looks like they’ve come right out of another century. This wouldn’t be surprising if it were the collection of a fifty-year-old, but Matthew Williams is 36.

Then there’s the question of stylistic consistency, which simply doesn’t exist and heavy-handed references to the work of Margiela, Helmut Lang but also of Nicolas Guesquière and Demna Gvasalia.

Somebody might say that this is a non-dogmatic attitude, and the whole idea about copying is just leftover baggage from the nineteenth century, which has outlived its time.

But the problem is that to give a positive judgement to a collection built on the idea of coolness instead of design would force us to adopt the same criterion for all other brands and so names like Phoebe Philo, Loewe, Valentino, Sacai, Lemaire, Watanabe or even Comme des Garçons would end up at the bottom of the rankings.

This may work for somebody looking for a sweatshirt, but I don’t think it makes sense in general.

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FEDERICO CINA AW22


Emilia Romagna dancehalls used to be epic entertainment venues in the 70s and 80s where thousands of people would go dancing Mazurka and Tango. These are the points of reference for Federico Cina’s 2022 collection that, as always, traces its origins back there.
Nowadays, to have points of reference that are extremely local and tell little local stories is a way to escape the virus of mass homologation and build yourself a healthy identity that is recognisable therefore commercially expandable.

Federico is young, and he has clear ideas of the type of product he wants to make—through his attachment to the tradition of the Made in Italy trademark—and the narrative he wants to convey through his brand. Maybe he has it even too clear. The fashion show we saw in person the other evening, which was also his first one during Milan Men’s Fashion Week, was a synthesis of his work up to the present (with the knitwear pieces on the forefront), but it was also the synthesis of what is happening today in men’s fashion in general.

We know how difficult it can be for a young designer to strike the perfect balance between identity and market, representation of his ideas and their commercialisation, saying and doing, thinking and making money. 

We also know that markets have now reached such a level of saturation that the message behind a collection should be one of uniqueness. Otherwise, it will be engulfed by the monstrous mechanism of global information in a matter of minutes, and it will disappear forever.

Federico Cina’s collection included lots of coherent and recognisable pieces which would be styled together in a very forced way, and would therefore lose that coherence and recognisability. At the same time, they floated surrounded by noisy electronic music in an environment that seemed to want to look cool more than anything else. 

The young designer’s system of value and aesthetics is clear. Still, you get the impression that his fear of being too literal—making you smell Emilia Romagna too intensely and falling into the Fellini stereotype—distance him from his real creative path.

Putting a pair of punk-inspired, lace-up shoes on the models’ feet doesn’t help to be more precise. It actually distracts from the true meaning of the conversation, making it difficult to hear Raul Casadei singing an old song in the background.

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ZEGNA AW22


Si chiama A Path Worth Taking la collezione di Alessandro Sartori per l’inverno 2022 di Zegna. Fondata ufficialmente Alessandro Sartori’s 2022 winter collection for Zegna is called A Path Worth Taking. Founded officially in 1910 as a textile factory—what used to be Ermenegildo Zegna and has now changed to just Zegna—has embarked on a treacherous path that, as the title suggests, was well worth taking.

With an expected turnover of 1,342 billion euros, Zegna has just been listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and has raised capital of 761 million dollars. This should enable it to become a powerful reference for menswear, and as well redefine the brand altogether since a lot has changed from 1910 until now.

The origins of menswear are deeply rooted in the British Industrial Revolution, and the rise of the new wealthy bourgeois class. In the 19th century, at the same time as men’s uniforms were structured based on codes that then became inviolable, Europe was slowly becoming what it is now, states were formed (including in Italy), and resources were being divided more equally. The roles of men and women were also being defined in a precise manner.

In this period, public space was separate from the private one: work and politics were in the hands of men, while the domestic world belonged to women. The male outfit had become a uniform to face the world’s hardships elegantly, while women wore a veil of hypocrisy to hide the fact that their female value had been deleted.

Every menswear brand was built on these historical roots and clear separation, but, as opposed to many others, Zegna and Alessandro Sartori have understood that this platform has been worryingly giving in, hence why they have built a new one, which is more open and in tune with the present. 

 

When watching the last films used to present the collections, we can see how this radical and complex transition has become part of a symbolic space that, in its neutrality, is the perfect way to erase a past made up of gender division. This becomes an opportunity to rewrite a more fluid and exciting future.

If the political role is taken away, sartorial menswear becomes fertile terrain to rebuild on, as it is made up of such cultural and artisanal richness that can be put to other uses today in telling new narratives. This is precisely what Alessandro Sartori is doing; he’s not afraid to use his tools to redesign a man who doesn’t look like he’s just finished his shift at the bank or is coming out of a boardroom meeting.

So far, so good. At this point, the Zegna group should also be focusing on something else: not being exclusively a menswear’s brand. Although the genderless message they want to convey is quite evident from their presentations, the reality is that you can only see men walking around Zegna’s shops, which is a real pity.

The revolution started by the Trivera friends will be truly accomplished when Zegna won’t be considered a menswear brand anymore but a brand making beautiful clothes that each one of us, irregardless of gender, physicality and story, will feel like wearing to be part of current times.

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