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Italian menswear fights glum economy with classics

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The menswear fashion industry, teetering on the economic tightrope, has rigged an age-old safety net with its return to casual chic.

Italian menswear sales in 2009 were down almost 10 percent from the previous year, Italian fashion chamber president Mario Boselli told reporters before the current round of fall-winter preview showings.

Miuccia Prada summarized the new approach backstage after her show on Sunday: “It’s time to reinvent the banal.”

Without using the word “preppy,” the trendsetting designer nevertheless presented a collection that would make anyone feel right at home in Harvard Yard, with tweed blazers to crew neck pullovers and casual slacks.

Miuccia said she liked the show so much she sent out a his and her version of many of the outfits. Although, in a deviation toward a more Prada style, the overcoats had bold tapestry prints for him and lighter pastels for her.

Gucci’s creative director Frida Giannini took much the same tack, saying after her show on Monday that “the moment calls for timeless rather than seasonal fashion.”

The Gucci collection revolves around a classical sports jacket, which came in camel hair, herring bone or velvet as well as specially treated leather and fur. Slim pants, V-neck sweaters, scarves and traditional Gucci loafers complete the top-drawer look.

While most designers are fighting their economic battles with sporty elegance, Donatella Versace flexed her fashion muscles Monday evening with a roaring motorcycle show full of shiny biker boots, black leather jackets and bulky bags. Dolce&Gabbana also brought a tough look to face the times — presenting on Sunday a yesteryear Sicilian construction worker complete with cap, sleeveless undershirt and oversized dusty footwear.


The “preppy” collection shown Sunday is so normal it might have risked boredom were it not for the Prada fashion genius. Thus a simple crew neck sweater has an almost plunging neckline and is cropped temptingly above the waist to reveal the classic blue shirt underneath. A prosaic pair of slacks are spiffed up by an extra high waistline. While blazers are as old school as they get, the overcoats are definitely avant-garde in brightly woven tapestry prints. Footwear is of the tasseled college loafer kind, but bags in multicolored fabric take Mr. Prada off campus and down fashion boulevard.

A little wooly scarf collar much like the fur collars worn by women is the latest Prada accessory.

Collection novelty comes in the presentation of his and her versions of many of the outfits.

“Often while designing menswear I’ve thought, this would look great on a woman. This time I did it,” Miuccia Prada said after the show.


Roberto Cavalli played on the return to classics for his winter collection presented Sunday, with everything an over-the-top version of traditional menswear. Pants are in woven leather and cropped mid-calf. T-shirts laden with sequins peer out of tailored jackets. The stripe of a pinstripe suit is in leather, while kilt pleats decorate the rear view on a pair of jeans.

The overall look of the collection is sensual rather than sensible.


The Gucci fall-winter 2010 collection shown Monday is casual yet sophisticated, with details such as leather finishings or fur workmanship making the difference.

The overall silhouette is narrow, with a slim equestrian pant cropped at a sockless ankle and worn with the traditional Gucci horse bit loafer. Jackets are tailored and usually paired with a silk turtleneck and V-neck pullover. Hand-knit sweaters of the winter lodge type and ample overcoats complete the confident male look.


Donatella Versace, who dubs her winter collection “anticrisis,” opted to face the economic slump head-on with an aggressive biker collection full of shiny black leather.

Models walked down the runway Monday in biker boots, tight pants, chain metal sweaters and tough guy jackets. Their hair gelled back and their ears bejeweled, they represented the best of yesteryear’s punk as well as vintage Versace.

“Fashion and glamour are in our DNA. Why not go for it?” the designer said backstage after Monday evening’s show.

© 2010 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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