Ermenegildo Zegna Couture
Pilati's Palladian Panache
Where the basis of British menswear has been its colonial, and indeed military, roots; and that of France the country’s need to express its superiority through its sophistication, Italian fashion has always been intimately linked to architecture – which is logical enough seeing no country has greater patrimony of fine buildings than Italy.
And the ghosts and echoes of that heritance wafted through an evocative and chicly structural collection by Stefano Pilati for Ermenegildo Zegna Couture which kicked off the Milan menswear season on a bright Saturday morning. Ghostly, for the invitation was a faded lavender board featuring an architectural sketch that recalled de Chirico – whose ethereal imagery captured the way the remnants of the past always manage to mingle with the unconscious when living and dreaming in Italy.
Pilati underlined that notion with a fantastic set, which physically recreated the invite in a huge superstructure from which the models marched moodily into the massive show space of the Milan Fiera. Stefano is a master of staging, and if anything has taken the skills he honed at Yves Saint Laurent to a new level at Zegna. So much so, that this collection is now one of the half-dozen must-see shows of the international men’s wear season.
He designs very much for the modern gent, though one determined to maintain a certain ambiguity about his purpose. It would be hard to know what any of these gents did for a living, though the clothes granted them a tremendous sense of arty assurance.
Pilati opened with some fabulous fine cashmere coats cut with precision and paired with his signature belted and darted pants, all anchored with ergonomic sneakers and chunky sports sandals in fine leather. He wowed with bold and classy mega stripe cardigans, delighted with taffeta jackets with patrician élan and impressed with a couple of sensationally streamlined suits which almost looked as if the stage set had given birth to them. To a marvelously dreamy sax-driven soundtrack by James Murphy the cast marched in synch to a 10-foot wide electronic board which counted down in seconds.
Pilati does not live in the heat of Milan, but in the chill gray Berlin and that showed in the choice of materials – like double face gabardines and quilted nylons that looked rather heavy for a spring collection. But his intent – made clear in the show’s title, “Architecture and Space” – was to fuse Italy’s physical structures into modern tailoring was nonetheless brilliantly realized in an impressive moment of staging, chic and cool.