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milan menswear, day 4

The men’s shows got spunky on the last of Milan as Roberto Cavalli, Dsquared² and Z Zegna got their rock ‘n’ roll on.

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Leave it to Roberto Cavalli to see Milan Fashion Week off on an epic note. His show on Tuesday afternoon was about homecoming – to the men’s runway and to the essence of the Cavalli man. A blockbuster short film tracing the rebirth of this man and his understanding of harmony in society and nature opened the show before models walked out in a rock ‘n’ roll Cavalli collection of the house’s archive animal prints worked into an urban, modern silhouette of razor sharp, highly detailed leather pieces and tailoring, which above all felt like Cavalli was in a rootsy mood. “That’s exactly what I wanted,” he said. “I was tired of just seeing the men’s show. I used to say, ‘I am the director of a castle,’ but this time I wanted to be the director and the player. Everything.”

Celebrating his first season on the Cavalli men’s team was Dutch designer Martyn Bal – formerly of Dior Homme, Versace and Margiela fame – who tactfully infused the collection with his trademark black, skinny cool while honouring the Cavalli legacy more than a little. “I wanted to show the world this kind of Cavalli,” Roberto said, hinting at the label’s departure from the sparkly playboy tailoring of seasons past. “I had a chance to show this to some very famous friends and rock stars today, and they all said, ‘That is Cavalli.’” Riot was in the air, and they certainly felt it at Z Zegna where Paul Sturridge went all out in the mod department, fine-tuning the distinction between his young, hip Zegna and Stefano Pilati’s advanced mainline.

It was a fresh reaction to the season’s social awareness, which saw a more rebellious attitude towards our cruel, cruel world than the escapism that’s ruled Milan. “Young kids today, maybe they need a little straightening out?” Dean Caten winked after the Dsquared² show, which very appropriately had the Alcatraz nightclub turned into a penitentiary, bad boy bodybuilders and straitjackets in tow. “You know, all our friends are in jail so we just thought we’d just go with it,” Dean quipped. “No, we love a theme that gives a lot to our brain,” he said. “And there’s so many characters that go through these penitentiaries,” Dan weighed in. It was the discipline and rigidness of life on the inside that had inspired the collection’s sharp lines and stiff bags. And paradoxically for a Dsquared² creation, it was actually quite demure – and delightfully so.

You could hardly call Giorgio Armani demure, although his autumn/winter 14 mainline collection embraced an earthy kind of ease, where tailoring was relaxed and cosy-fied, and sportswear, in turn, had an increased elegance about it. With its artisanal distinction and down-to-earth casualness, the collection represented one of three major waves, which have washed over the runways of the austere Italian fashion capital without leaving a show-goer in doubt that the autumn/winter 14 season is a memento of a global society in pain. Whether approached from the free-spirited way, the revolutionary way, or opulent way, all the collections of Milan shared an undercurrent of escapism born out of the dreary reality of a terrorised semi-post-recession society pained by poverty and pollution. Sorry to sound emo.

But unlike the cloud of minimalism that has loomed over the fashion landscape for seasons on end, this Milan Fashion Week saw a kind of healthy stubbornness and taunt of a world destroyed, expressed in a longing for all things dreamy. Dolce & Gabbana did it with old-world opulence, while Versace did it with new-world opulence. Roberto Cavalli and Fendi got lost in the magic of nature, and Gucci and Vivienne Westwood put on a romantic riot for a better world. All across the Milanese menswear line, a resounding yearning for a richer, funner, greater and prettier existence could be heard, and at the finish line that's what fashion dreams are truly made of. Make that change.