MILAN (AP) -- Milan designers offered a softer, sporty silhouette for men next fall and winter.
Menswear has been driving Italian luxury exports as well as global sales of luxury goods as men become more daring and discerning in their wardrobe choices. Purchases are no longer relegated to special occasion tuxes or watches, but also encompass every-day wear for home and office.
That can help explain the trend in Milan toward relaxed and athletic looks, typified by active-wear pants cinched at the waist, often in knit fabrics, paired with big, boxy sweat shirts and sweaters. There was a sense of escape, offering men an alternate reality.
Still, there was no shortage of suits and coats. One of the week's strongest trends were skinny pants, evoking the 1960s, often worn with neat, cropped jackets.
The main color palate was darkly masculine, with a smattering of dusty pastels and contrast of eggplant, peacock and greens. Designers also flashed up garments in shiny silver and gold. Shoes were heavily soled and bags ample.
Even when loose and casual, the looks were always underpinned by Italian tailoring, craftsmanship and innovative textiles that enriched the garments -- putting the focus on Made in Italy. Designers achieved fresh effects by reworking fabrics, weaving flax with cashmere to retain a masculine edge to sweaters and bonding neoprene with Tuscan wool for a turbulent surface effect on outerwear. One house, Etro, even paraded their artisans down the runway alongside the garments they helped realize.
Giorgio Armani has loosened up his silhouette for next winter.
The Milan fashion powerhouse sprang to prominence with his 1970s deconstructed jacket with big shoulders. For next winter's menswear collection, previewed Tuesday on the last day of Milan Fashion Week, Armani has reworked that jacket, taking structural cues from cardigans.
The result is a look that maintains the emblematic Armani tailoring while at the same time being relaxed with gently sloping, raglan shoulders. Then Armani does something else: he inverts his look, and beneath the easy jacket, which is almost always unbuttoned, he puts a very button-down vest, double-breasted with or without a slotted lapel for a new take on the three-piece suit.
Pants were mostly straight, often with a neat raised crease running down the front. Armani also created baggier trousers for some more athletic and Bohemian looks.
Still, the looser silhouette was almost always kept in check by more constrained elements and mood of the collection overall was sober and elegant. Colors were dark hues, blue, brown and grays, with white shirts providing contrast. Fabrics included velvet and corduroy.
Roberto Cavalli's menswear collection next fall and winter encapsulated his vision of a man who is free spirited, never dull, and always impeccably dressed.
"So many menswear collections are boring," Cavalli said before his show. "I try not to make it boring."
His womenswear collections usually revolve around sexy dresses done in animal prints, and Cavalli's men's line also heeds the call of the wild. An overcoat starts out as herringbone at the bottom and gradually transforms to zebra print at the top. A slim-cut suit was paired with rock'n'roll inspired creepers with studs around the sole or done up in leopard. The surface of leather in biker jackets is reworked with studs from within to resemble the blister-like surface of tropical lizards.
And where else but on Cavalli's runway would you see a full-length fur coat done in a patchwork of black, white and red fox?
Canadian design duo Dan and Dean Catena at DSquared2, known for their memorable runway shows, outdid themselves this time by transforming their menswear fall-winter 2014-2015 catwalk into a prison.
The show started with a model tied up in a straitjacket and being dragged off by two burly orderlies to the sound of a siren. And the soundtrack included Nurse Ratched from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
The lights went on to reveal a cell block filled with DSquared2 "inmates," perhaps doing time for fashion crimes. The first model out worn an orange bomber jacket with "Caten Penitentiary" emblazoned across the back.
Many of the looks involved jeans cuffed above the ankle and Dr. Martens-style work boots. Leather or denim jean jackets were paired with black pants stopping above the angle. A jean jacket came with straitjacket-style buckles running down the back. For a more formal look, there was a black cloth bomber jacket with patch pockets worn over a white shirt and narrow tie.
It's East meets West at Brioni for next winter.
Designer Brendan Mullane, in his third season at the Rome fashion house, was prompted by Brioni co-founder Gaetano Savini's journal of a 1963 tour of Japan to take the same exploratory journey.
That inspired a silk bomber jacket, hand-painted by artisans at a Kyoto Kimono maker with cranes, plum trees and cherry blossom, which Mullane called "the nearest thing to a Brioni kimono."
Mullane also introduced what he called "more emotional and softer colors" like gray, cherry blossom and sky blue, taken from his Japan sojourn, into the deeper Italian chiaroscuro palate.
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