VIRTUAL STYLE-MAKERS: A CRITICAL REVIEW OF MILAN’S FIRST DIGITAL MEN’S FASHION SHOW

by | Jul 31, 2020 | Fashion, Style

Virtual fashion shows are currently an in-vogue response to gap-fill the need to showcase fashion collections. The National Chamber of Italian Fashion presented Milan Fashion Week in a digital version in mid-July. On display were the men’s spring/summer 2021 collections and the men’s and women’s spring/summer 2021 pre-collections. 

Related: “Wealth is of the heart and mind, not the pocket.” 10 black-owned fashion brands making an impact now

Overall, viewing it, fashion designers may sew well, but when it comes to cyber catwalks, many of them don’t show well. Only two of the 37 brands, Dolce & Gabbana and Etro, made the effort to produce a live-audience performance. They were the only ones who attempt to satisfy the audiences’ hunger for a fabric fix. The bulk of the garment companies threw in pre-recorded videos. Some even opted for bizarre, doom and gloom apocalyptic themes.

Swings and misses

In one example, presented by the Japanese company Jieda, we all had the misfortune of watching a video showing a bloody kidnapping. Italian designer Andrea Pompilio joined his fashion colleagues with a simulation of a sadomasochist sex scene. That was unfortunate.

Still, is this an opportunity to remake the fashion industry, pushing it in a more digital direction? The Milan virtual show was modelled after the successful “China, we are with you” project held in February. That event claimed to have over 25 million people virtual attendees.

Understandably, the Milan event had its share of hits and misses. However, any time we can discuss fashion, even taking a critical look, that’s a good thing. It’s one sign the world is starting to move again. So here are our conclusions, factoring in presentation, information and grooming.

Ermenegildo Zegna

Zegna’s video was shot in the woods, near their HQ in Trivero, cradled beneath the Oasis Zegna Hills. Starting off, brutally handsome male models  walked through a green forest, then to the Zegna wool mill. After that they headed up to the factory’s rooftop.

“This season the collection is about lightness. It is about light colours, beautiful fabrics, light constructions and light shoulders,” said CEO Gildo Zegna. “The season is also about hybrid garments and hybrid constructions.”

One piece that stood out for us was an overcoat/short combination that can be easily worn as a jacket itself, also a sportswear piece. The materials on display were light but solid, and included recyclable wool, hemp, raw fibers, linen, and silk. Colours included a mixture of clay, fragrant spring yellow, hydrangea pink, gray, blue and black slates.

What emerged from the men’s collection was business attire that is smart, sexy and suitable.

Eleventy

La Dolce Vita. Eleventy, which was founded 13 years ago, opted for a one studio shoot. Creative entrepreneur Marco Baldassari chatted about style with architect Aldo Parisotto. He also paid tribute to the Italian film icon, Marcello Mastroianni.

In a relaxed setting, at times sitting on the sofa, Baldassari emphasized how their new collection line portrays elegant ease. It allows you to adapt and look good when handling business, perfect for videoconference calls at home.

The made-in-Italy look on display ranged from comfortable denim attire to business casual. The main colours were beige, light brown and reds. The suave and sophisticated designs were contemporary. They will blend in well on and off the golf course, in the home office or back in the bustle of downtown life.

Numero 00

Regarding pre-recorded videos for presentations, the small-sized company based in Rimini spared no expense. CEO and founder Valerio Farina went all out with a top quality video. The audience was treated to high production values, drone shots, and a musical orchestra. A squadron of male models paraded along the sea, before venturing into a forest. Then they crossed the bridges and the streets of the town before resting on a river barge.

Numero 00 put on a digital show that featured street wear. But they also made the point of addressing the current pandemic, displaying stylish protective visors. The audience saw colours of basic white, black and grey. Overall the fashion showed a readiness for travel.

In the end, Numero 00 presented elegant fashion that men should keep in mind when building out their wardrobe collection. They’ll soon discover how work and leisure can be easily combined.

David Catalan

This was yet another pre-recorded video in the forest. But it was a pleasant surprise from the Spanish fashion brand nonetheless. Founded in 2012, Catalan has already shown that he is a serious contender. He won the prestigious award at the 2015 Mercedes-Benz Fashion event with his debut showing. One thing Catalan has an eye for is masculine vogue.

Catalan’s collection of shirts, pants, hats, tops and sandals in blue, green stripes and pink colours showed off a stylish camouflage look. The fashion at Milan Fashion Week  looked comfortable, ideal for trekking adventures.

Catalan’s work brings together design, innovative production techniques and youthful culture. Yes, it’s made for a younger audience. But his clothing line is easily adaptable for Baby Boomers, as well. What stood out was the simplicity of shapes, attention to detail and the smooth treatment of the textiles.

Etro

Finally, a live show. If not for the odd mask in the audience, you would have forgotten the woes of the current pandemic and think all was “normal.”

“We are finally back together, in the garden of this iconic hotel, in the heart of Milan’s Montenapoleone district. We want to emphasize that we are a family. Etro is a family that lives in a world of joie de vivre, colour and positivity. This season, we want to bring real clothes on stage for real people, discovering a new authenticity,” said Kean and Veronica Etro.

Etro presented their male wardrobe line, which included many “must-haves” to fill your closet.

Famous for paisley patterns and chic designs, the suits seemed more appropriate for liberal or semi-conservative boardrooms, academic forums and cocktail parties.

The show featured a summer colour palette of lemon yellow, fiery red, candy pink, forest green, night blue and shiny purple. Plus Etro has taken a ethical-nature stance that even environmentalists like Greta Thunberg would applaud. Etro said they were using eco-friendly fabrics. Then there were patchwork denim pants and jackets crafted from vintage cloths. Also, the shirts on display were made of eucalyptus yarns. Another statement-maker were the polo shirts, made from a special textile from recycled plastic bottles.

Santoni

Luxury footwear companies in general are at a competitive disadvantage when presenting alongside fashion lines from the textile moguls. However, Santoni proved a lot of people wrong. In the end they hit all the keynotes expected on a digital platform.

The film introduced the new SS21 men’s collection. But the public was invited in to discover Santoni’s origins, where the creation was born, all in the heartland of Italy – Le Marche.

Alongside an emotional narration with the musical score of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, a palette of colours was showcased. Included in that was carbon black, lava, nocturnal, sea blue, scorched earth, olive and oak.

Andrea Santoni founded the luxury shoe company in 1972. His passion for the craftsmanship of fine footwear launched a family business that is now a leading men’s footwear brand worldwide.

Tod’s

Unfortunately, Tod’s presentation at Milan Fashion Week was more about introducing the company’s new Creative Director Walter Chiapponi. It just seemed that their presentation was based more on ego than on product.

What was missing was more well-known personality, namely that of the chairman of the company, Diego Della Valle. The video was shot primarily at the company’s headquarters in Le Marche. But it did not take the viewer out of the premises or show people wearing the luxury footwear.

Unfortunately, in the end, it was a lost opportunity. Because more could have been told about design stemming from the Algonquin tribe. The moccasin line is definitely an appealing brand for North American culture and beyond. And Tod’s is a comfortable luxury shoe, ideal for any red carpet event.

Gucci

Gucci presented on the last day of digital fashion week, Friday, July 17. Unfortunately that day is also bad luck in Italian culture. And their show at Milan Fashion Week was indeed cursed.

Gucci’s video was live-streamed from Rome’s Palazzo Sacchetti and Campo Boario. For the audience, it featured the gimmick of hearing a director calling out for video inserts and screwing up the unveiling of the model line. The audience was supposed to feel like they were behind the scenes and had a backstage pass to Gucci fashion.

The Gucci show was called an “experiment,” a reality show with flashcard images and video inserts of the designers wearing their own creation. So it was about showing the faces who power the brand.

On display was a flamboyant collection that included fisherman hats and handbags with the Gucci logo. There were silk turbans with flowers, floral dresses in archival prints for ladies and floral shirts for men. Also featured were pink pants, jeans and a fantasy line that would make Aladdin think his granting of wishes went a bit too far.

Versace

Versace’s production focused on a hip-hop music video by British rapper A.J. Tracey.

The flagship outfit on display was a denim suit with a snake print délavé jacket, decorated in the centre by a baroque strip of gold and crystals. Tracey wore it himself.

Versace was a last-minute entry to the calendar of the Camera della Moda. Their video was shown live on the big screen in Piazza Duomo. There were other screens in Milan where it was shown as well.

The light violet suit would fit nicely in a lot of places, even some more exotic boardrooms. But the rap and funky fashion line seemed a bit of a mis-fit for such a conservative venue.

Fabio Quaranta

Yikes! The Wrath of Khan meets the Taliban, all on a doomed planet somewhere. We weren’t sure what was going on here. This was one of the weirdest fashion videos from Milan Fashion Week, from the acclaimed designer Fabio Quaranta.

To say the least, Quaranta’s futuristic vision was not a pleasant one. Maybe if you are planning a camel trip across the Sahara desert, or expecting to leave this planet entirely, then the Quaranta fashion on display was for you.

After viewing this, let’s hope the pharmaceutical companies arrive with a vaccine, well before the next fashion show in September.

TOP IMAGE: SAMSUNG’S MAXI LED DIGITAL SIGNAGE, WHICH LIVE STREAMED MILAN DIGITAL FASHION WEEK ON THE DUOMO CATHEDRAL

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