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David Bowie/Gucci AW16via of Gucci

How the Milan menswear shows paid homage to Bowie

Multiple designers used their AW16 shows as a way of saying farewell to the icon of music and style

Yesterday, after five days of runway shows, Milan Men’s Fashion Week drew to a close. As the dust begins to settle, a look back at the shows reveals a few recurring themes. However, one stands out more than most and it’s not a cut, nor is it a silhouette – instead, it’s a musician: David Bowie, who passed away shortly before the shows began. Bowie’s influence on fashion was and is profound and endures beyond his death; this week designers paid homage to this icon and his tremendous contribution to style and visual culture more broadly. Many soundtracked their shows with his songs, from Donatella Versace to Vivienne Westwood and Emporio Armani. It was as if it was their way of saying farewell... See below to see which songs they used.


Ermenegildo Zegna’s head designer Stefano Pilati is a known fan of David Bowie. In fact, he based his AW08 menswear collection for Yves Saint Laurent on him, specifically The Man Who Fell To Earth – the Nicolas Roeg-directed film he starred in. Though Bowie’s influence wasn’t evident in the Pilati’s AW16 collection for Ermenegildo Zegna, it was in the show music: “Right”, from the musician’s 1975 album Young Americans.


For his AW16 offering, designer Neil Barrett showed a highly personal collection which heavily referenced the wardrobe of his own youth – particularly the nylon anoraks he and his family used to wear. In contrast to this nostalgia, the show music was Air’s remix of Bowie’s 2002 song “A Better Future”, which is all about his desire for a brighter future for his children and future generations.


This season, Donatella Versace designed with space in mind. Models walked down a Space Age runway wearing Startrek-style Starfleet insignia brooches, astrological prints and metallic fabrics. Bowie’s 1966 song “Space Oddity was an obvious, but very fitting choice of song to accompany the collection. 


“We live in a world where terrorists and terrorism are really affecting our daily lives,” said Philipp Plein, speaking backstage at his show. “What happened in the last few months was terrifying and people are hoping that there’s someone coming who will rescue us.” Plein was holding out for a hero and this translated to a superhero-themed collection, complete with Superman insignia bling and Batman sweatshirts. And the soundtrack: “Heroes”, written by Bowie and Brian Eno and released in 1979.


Vivienne Westwood went a bit androgynous this season. While the collection was technically menswear, many pieces were inspired by womenswear – models wore wedges and high-heeled brogues, some wore dresses – asymmetrical and draped – and others wore tights. Similarly gender-defying was Bowie’s flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, so it was fitting that “Starman” from his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars provided the music for the show.


Giorgio Armani opened his Emporio Armani AW16 menswear show by playing a recording of Bowie performing “Life On Mars” live. The first five models reflected the galactic theme of Bowie’s song, donning Space Age silver foil skiwear.


Alessandro Michele’s reference to Bowie was not musical, but sartorial. Whether intentional or not, the slim-fitting, wide-lapelled suits – often in bright hues, busy patterns or else embroidered details – bore a striking resemblance to the singer’s early seventies outfits. Michele’s vision for Gucci, which is marked by its flamboyance and androgyny, is similar to Bowie’s aesthetic of this period.