MILAN (AP) — Designers are resizing Milan Fashion Week for menswear, condensing previews for next spring and summer into just over three days.
While New York and London's commitment to menswear has waned, Milan remains true to the segment that fuels Italian exports. Of the 9 billion euros ($10 billion) in menswear revenues last year, 64 percent were cashed in abroad — a higher percentage than womenswear at 61 percent of 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion).
Just the format is shifting. More designers are showing menswear alongside womenswear, with many like Gucci and Bottega Veneta waiting for the September round. And a number of fashion houses, including Missoni and Etro, have opted for presentations, while yet others are in a creative transition.
Highlights from the first day of menswear previews in Milan for next spring and summer on Saturday:
MILLENIALS RULE ON THE RUNWAY
Singer Shawn Mendes took a turn on the Emporio Armani runway, showing off the brand's new smart watch line dubbed "Connected."
Designers see their future in Millennials, a generation that has unprecedented power to influence and be influenced, thanks to ubiquitous social media. They migrate seamlessly from platform to platform, even from brand to brand.
Mendes appeared in a video promoting the watch at the end of the show, and then appeared in life to show it off and take in the fashion crowd as much as it did him. The touchscreen watch is both Android and Apple compatible.
Armani described Mendes as "a singer of true talent who touches the hearts of his fans."
"Shawn embodies and conveys the values in which I believe: Professionalism, commitment and innovation," the designer said in a note.
MARTIAL ARTS AT EMPORIO ARMANI Giorgio Armani's latest collection for his Emporio Armani line proposes a dialogue with Japan, no simple cultural appropriation, mixing trademark tailoring with a flourish of martial arts.
Dark blue urban suits had a long billowing under jacket, the first hint of the exotic and a clear statement that this not your salary man's workaday wardrobe. Suits were worn with either button-down striped shirts or asymmetrical collarless shirts, both paired with leather cords instead of ties. Notched lapel jackets were belted, or not.
A clutch of silken printed jackets, including one with a flock of silvery birds, won a round of appreciative applause.
Armani has long played with volumes. For this collection he incorporated martial arts-style Hakama trousers, pleated split pants that have a skirt-like appearance. To demonstrate its versatility, a model performed a series of karate-style kicks.
The Hakama-style trousers, sometimes silken, sometimes plaid, were worn with baseball jackets or short-sleeved sweaters with Koi detailing.
Hair was pushed from the face with crisscrossing headbands, creating a cartoon Magna-style look of spiking locks.
Donatella Versace's collection for next spring and summer is meant as a tribute to her late brother, Gianni Versace, who was the creative force behind the brand.
"In a few weeks, it will be 20 years that my brother is dead. I wanted to return home, creating an homage to him," Versace told the news agency ANSA. "It is not only me who wants to make an homage, it is also the Millennials, who ask for the iconic printed shirts."
Actor Armie Hammer was among the star guests for the cocktail party-themed runway show, with guests seated at small round tables in the fashion house's Via Gesu' garden courtyard, sipping champagne and nibbling on hors d'oeuvres.
Versace created looks for both men and women, including complementary pinstriped overcoats with Bermudas for him and tight-fitting pin-striped dresses with off-shoulder asymmetrical detailing for her. And she took the pinstripes from day to night, with sexy, sequined versions closing out the show.
Versace reached into the archives and retrieved the brand's iconic Greek border, which trimmed men's shirts, while a more ornate floral version finished dresses. They merged and popped into bold black and white optical illusion prints in a series of evening dress-up looks for both him and her.
Loose fit high-waist jeans in pastel colors worn with matching color Versace emblazoned T-shirts completed the journey back to the 1990s.
Gianni Versace was shot dead outside his Miami home on July 15, 1997, leaving Donatella to take over the creative side of the fashion house.
KING OF HEARTS
At Dolce&Gabbana, it was a game of "name that Millennial."
The designers again invited a cadre of young influencers from show business and social media to strut their latest collection, 106 for this season, from all corners of the globe.
They included Chinese singer Junkai "Karry" Wang, whose fans gathered outside the Metropol theater waiting for a glimpse; the American comedian Andrew Bachelor; the Mexican actor and singer Diego Boneta; and the French-Polynesian model Tuki Brando, the grandson of Marlon Brando.
Ever the romantics, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana dubbed the collection "King of Hearts," and many of the looks included hashtag-able slogans about love, from Amore Per Sempre (Love Forever) to Amore Sacro (Sacred Love).
The collection ranged from silky lounge wear inspired by pajamas to upscale athletic wear, including baseball shirts and basketball jerseys with the new team DG logo, to the designing duo's tightly tailored suits.
The social media-savvy designers even got in a hashtag on their tote bags in the form of handles.
FASHION DISSONANCE AT MARNI
Marni's new designer, Francesco Risso, in his second season, has tapped the brand's playful spirit. The collection is imbued with a boyish charm of purposely ill-fitting, mostly over-sized, and mismatched outfits.
"In a way, it is playful and a way to piece and put together in a very libertine way. Spiritual, too," Risso said backstage. "The nobility of coincidence. That is what I really love."
The man-boy of Risso's imagining has pieced together a wardrobe seemingly of found objects. Shirts are patch-worked together and worn in skewed layers, short over long. Everything seems to have been somehow repurposed, from an athletic cap to old racing bibs with purposely naive drawings by Los Angeles artist Magdalena Suarez.
There is an undercurrent of femininity that can be seen as part of the movement toward genderless dressing: A long tunic seems almost a mini dress, until you see the Bermuda shorts peeking out.
Philipp Plein is back.
After announcing he was decamping to New York last summer, Philipp Plein has brought his main line back to its native Milan after just a one season hiatus, showing a mix of looks for men and women.
The German designer maintained his sense of showmanship with a cast performing tunes from the 1970s film "Grease" followed by fire-spitting hot rods. There were bumper cars just off-stage and a barker saying something very unpresidential over the PA system.
The looks were fitting of the drag race setting, with leggings and jeans updated with swaths of crystals and studded tigers and cobras. Women's hair was teased, men's greased back.
A crop top sweater with a hissing cobra paired with leggings and a bomber jacket was the perfect look for Sandy, at summer's end, while Danny wore a hot rod T-shirt while flame motifs licked at this calves, seemingly out of his red sneakers.
Don't expect Plein to be politically correct. Models walked down the runway puffing what looked like real cigarettes, with familiar box shape rolled up in T-shirt short sleeves James Dean-style.
ORANGE DESERT AT ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA
Designer Alessandro Sartori's debut collection for Ermenegildo Zegna Couture was presented on the eve of Milan Fashion Week against the orange of the Tangier desert he created inside Milan's State University.
Sartori showed off his looks in the university's arcaded courtyards, where he said he used to come to read and contemplate while a student at the Marangoni Institute of fashion and design.
The collection mixed both romanticism and pragmatism. Safari jackets and anoraks had big utilitarian pockets, while retaining the brand's careful lines, while oversized sweaters had a more relaxed feel.
Pinks, pastels and worn denim gave a nostalgic touch, along with boyish stripes. But there was also a tailored salmon colored suit worn with layers of V-neck sheers.