by Anthony Enright
Are you wondering what stylish gentleman will be wearing next year? Perhaps, it’s the furthest thing from your mind as we all bask in the immediacy of summer’s splendor. Trust me though, it’s not too early to start thinking about it. Staying ahead of trends gives you time to investigate and find ways of incorporating some of the better ideas without seeming too obviously trendy or like you’re blindly following the pack. The annual fashion shows in Milan tend to be a bastion of excellent taste, and a reminder of the continued (though somewhat diminished) dominance of Italian tailoring in the world of menswear. There’s something about the Italian devotion to quantifiable quality (as I write this I’m snacking on rustic Italian bread, excellent Italian salami, and a rich Chianti Classico) that makes me particularly interested to see the menswear shown in Milan. This is a broad generalization, but the Milan presentations exude class and always seem to be more assured and less gimmicky than menswear shown in Paris or New York.
The big story of this year’s Milan shows was the return of designer Jil Sander to the label that bears her name. With the firing of Raf Simons (who was producing excellent and cerebral collections – see below – but not perhaps the sales that the label’s parent company expected) a hole was left at the house that allowed Mrs. Sander to return.
In the world of fashion, Sander is a legendary iconoclast who has for her entire career been an evangelist for an almost brutal level of Modernism. Her influence on the generation of designers currently setting major trends is incalculable, either as a touchstone or as a exemplar of the the formal constraints that they rebel against. Though she has been working continuously since leaving the Jil Sander brand (famously as the main designer at Japanese fast fashion brand Uniqlo) the return to her eponymous design house was greeted with both extreme interest and a kind of morbid fascination. Would she still have it? Would her years away from the brand have diluted her singular vision? The respective answers were yes and decidedly no as Sander presented a collection that was a kind of Master Class in the timeless, impeccably tailored minimalism she made famous in the 1990s.
Sander’s collection, along with an artful and stark collection from Miuccia Prada provided bookends to a new kind of Minimalism that seems a direct repudiation of some of the more florid, embellished and retro-influenced clothes that have dominated many high fashion runways the last decade (and which 99 percent of guys just don’t wear).
Beyond the clearly minimal color palates and fitted tailoring, the big idea in both collections that really grabbed me (and seems to be something that could catch on) is the long, slim, three quarter-length coat cut in a variety of shapes and colors. If there’s one piece you should be on the lookout for in the next year I think that’s the standout item. It’s elegant, practical, versatile and timeless yet remarkably modern.
It’s worth noting when looking at the runway shots above, that by their very nature clothes presented in this context are going to come with a bit of ridiculousness. The whole concept of presenting to a jaded group of style cognizanti forces styling and grooming choices that are dubious (i.e., don’t try wearing shorts and a frock coat, or you will look like a fool). The way to use these images is think about how a specific piece could compliment your wardrobe and how wearable it would be and then be on the lookout for something similar in stores over the next few months. If you can afford it by all means look into pre-ordering one of these amazing minimalist pieces. If not (and I’m completely in the not category, though I am besotted by the long, double-breasted Jil Sander coats), start looking for something similar that is in your price range and know that you’ll look stylishly ahead of the game next fall.