Prada celebrated “a casual kind of elegance,” Calvin Klein's #obsessed and Vivienne Westwood's saving the planet; Sunday in Milan addressed the downfall of the world.
Why even read the news when you have Prada to tell you how the world is doing? With her “intimate, introverted” autumn/winter 14 aesthetic, Miuccia hit the decadent yet louche atmosphere that’s been hovering over the season right on the head. It was the dismal reality of Germany in the poor early 80s and the waning of the vivacious 70s, as echoed in the parallel of the country during the depression of the early 30s and the decline of the Weimar Republic’s Golden 20s, which set the mood for Sunday evening’s Prada collection. “I wanted to change the set from really bold to industrial. Zero soul,” Mrs Prada said backstage, referring to the collection’s struggle between the opulent and the demure.
It was expressed in semi-utilitarian, monochromatic tailoring executed in light fabrics and rich colours – “a casual kind of elegance,” Prada called it – set to a soundtrack of cheerful jazz courtesy of a live band, which was occasionally interrupted by a German schlager of the 30s or the violent throbbing of Rammstein. The barren set played backdrop to Prada’s assembly line of post-glamorous workingmen, who trekked determinedly through its grey podiums in their collective uniforms and “cheap fox”, as Prada described her fur pieces. “It’s a kind of fur that’s really masculine and kind of poor.” Ingeniousness does flourish in times of hardship, and if we must make do and mend, it might as well be Prada.
The grand finale of the second day of Milan, the show cleverly merged the dark outlook, which embodied the London shows, with the optimistic ease that ran through Sunday’s shows in the Italian fashion capital. Tomas Maier based his dark-paletted Bottega Veneta collection of everyday-wear on informality, echoing the departure from extravagant tailoring employed earlier in the week in London by fellow purveyor of super luxurious menswear Tom Ford, while Missoni went as far as paying a nod to American surfer culture in a collection that took the hippie approach to the season’s otherwise darker aesthetic, knitted man shawls in tow.
Indeed, free-spirited Americana by way of the workingman is sneaking into autumn/winter 14 menswear one show at a time, although at Calvin Klein Collection it was pretty much a given. Largely camel coloured – “they even tinted my hair,” Clarke Wesley, who walked the show exclusively, noted backstage – the collection of slouchy trousers and metallic performance tops instilled a sense of ease, which Italo Zuchelli attributed to “modern, urban workwear” executed in a “very refined and elevated but curious way.” It was pure escapism, backed up by Zuchelli’s salute to the iconic Calvin Klein fragrance names – Obsession, Eternity and Escape – which featured on jumpers in their original typography.
“I started with Obsession, because I think it’s the best name ever given to a fragrance in history. We live in an obsessed world, and we are all obsessed. These are words that are really very relevant today,” Zuchelli commented. “I’m a little obsessed and I want to escape,” he winked. Fighting for a better world since 1941, Vivienne Westwood dedicated her collection to creating awareness around the increasing issue of fracking. “The government are behaving totally irresponsibly. We can’t at this point in time continue to fracture the planet that we live on, and maybe there’s still a chance to save it,” Dame Vivienne said after the show.
It was a riotous spirit that materialised in activewear and Andreas Kronthaler’s metallic take on the tracksuit, the season’s superstar staple. “I think it’s a future look. It was really rather young. I imagined protesters. I imagined young guys in a check-in queue in front of easyJet. They really look cool these guys. They’re there to look after us. They stand for something. They fight,” he said. In a menswear season intent on empowering the world – whether politically, environmentally or otherwise – Westwood and Kronthaler’s tireless campaigning for a healthier society through their fashion designer platform seemed more appropriate than ever.