Throughout Milan Men’s Fashion Week, it was clear that war, death, destruction, migration and environmental issues were on the minds of designers
With the fashion industry’s ever-accelerating speed a hot topic of conversation at the moment – Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz have both voiced their concerns, and a Dazed poll amongst the London designers during LC:M showed similar worries – we sometimes forget that there’s one very positive side to the crazy pace: the quick, seasonal turnover means a very immediate response to whatever is going on in the world.
As the Milan shows unfolded it became clear that the current state of affairs – war, death, destruction, migration and environmental issues – were very much on the minds of designers, whether they responded on a conscious or perhaps more subconscious level. Reactions were as varied as the houses themselves, from heartbreaking works of poetry to romantic escapism or baddie-free sci-fi worlds.
“...war, death, destruction, migration and environmental issues were very much on the minds of designers, whether they responded on a conscious or perhaps more subconscious level”
Miuccia Prada hit you right in the core with her ghostly sailors, lost or drowned at sea with their bundles of heart-shaped keys still attached to their belt buckles, a beautiful and heartfelt commentary on the dangerous and deadly voyages currently being attempted by refugees and migrants. What killed you was the way love and death were so completely intertwined, and one of the closing looks – a shirt depicting Noah’s Ark-like pairs of animals – felt like a warning of more tragedy to come.
Then there were the designers who ran away from it all to build imaginary, intoxicating, romantic palaces of decadent beauty and seemingly bottomless dressing-up boxes, namely Alessandro Michele at Gucci and Peter Dundas at Roberto Cavalli. Their peace, love and harmony message found its footing in a seventies aesthetic and use of flora and fauna, and backstage at Gucci, Michele spoke of his love of animals, echoed in the invitation’s scientific slides of animal specimens.
You couldn’t help but feel like his hyper-precious, animal-embellished pieces were a call for us all to start treasuring and elevating animals in the same way we do material things before mankind’s greed has killed every single one of them. That love of the natural world was also at Vivienne Westwood, where Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler’s political message this season was climate change, symbolised by a slowly sinking Venice. For Westwood and Kronthaler, clothes are merely an extension of what really drives them.
Backstage before his superhero-led show, Philipp Plein explained that he was very much thinking about the escalating threat of terrorism and that we are all sitting around, hoping and waiting for some Batman-like figure to swoop in and save the day. And wouldn’t that be nice? You felt that kind of pressing need for protection at Moncler Gamme Bleu by Thom Browne as well, where every single look was menacing camouflage from top to toe and the boys looked ready to go to war.
If the world is currently less than ideal, another solution is to focus firmly on the future. That’s what Donatella Versace did with her intergalactic sci-fi sportswear, which unfurled as a kind of comic book alternate universe of buff guys in lilac, prepared to defend the galaxy from evil. Calvin Klein’s androgynous tailoring also had a whiff of the futuristic and survival-y thanks to Italo Zucchelli’s use of foil outwear. While Zucchelli said the pieces didn’t come from survival blankets, they could certainly be interpreted in that way.
“If the world is currently less than ideal, another solution is to focus firmly on the future. That’s what Donatella Versace did with her intergalactic sci-fi sportswear”
In a time of crisis, it’s also natural to yearn for rosier times and for safety and security. Neil Barrett did that with riffs on his childhood, where the nostalgic appeal of the quintessential English tracksuit gave Barrett’s clean handwriting a warm, nostalgic glow. At Fendi, Silvia Venturini Fendi looked to a cosy, protected home environment: we arrived to a shagpile-carpeted, domestic set with a spiral staircase (presumably leading to a plush playboy bedroom), Barry White on the soundtrack and shaggy loungewear silhouettes for the streets.
It was Venturini Fendi’s strongest collection in recent years, and afterwards the designer spoke of wanting to retreat to the comfort and luxuries of home, but she could just as well have said the safety of home. “And then… There are too many other reasons that probably bring us to stay more at home,” she said, trailing off. She didn’t need to go into specifics: whether we care to admit it or not – or whether we change our daily routines because of it – being out in public spaces no longer feels as carefree as it once did.