Men’s Fashion Week kicks off in Milan, Gucci brings back the boys

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Milan (AFP) – Gucci’s return to the menswear catwalk calendar, strong Italian fashion sales and a farewell to the pandemic-initiated trend of virtual shows all apply to Milan Men’s Fashion Week, which kicked off on Friday.

A promising spectacle and optimism after a year in which sales of Italian fashion showed the strongest growth in the last 20 years, the presentation of the autumn-winter 2023/2024 men’s collections runs until Tuesday.

Of the 79 shows, only four are digital, a holdover from the debilitating period of the pandemic that caused sales to drop and live shows to stop on track.

Nothing can replace “the live experience, the madness, the anticipation, the applause, top models parading on the catwalk and powerful music,” fashion consultant Elisabetta Cavatorta told AFP.

The most anticipated was fashion powerhouse Gucci, which presented a men’s-only show for the first time in three years and the first time since the departure of artistic director Alessandro Michele in November.

A new direction at Gucci?

At its minimalist show on Friday, Gucci said it celebrated an “aesthetic of improvisation” with a collection inspired by the classic gentleman’s wardrobe, reinterpreted in a subversive spirit.

Combining faded jeans with sequined tops and green and red or pink heeled boots, the collection mixed genres and colors.

Long oversized coats with ample shoulder padding and maxi skirts that revealed bare legs spiced up the collection, while wool hats and rectangular handbags slung casually over the shoulder added to Gucci’s arsenal of accessories.

With its colorful collections that broke through in the 1970s, Michele has been given a new lease of life after being tapped in 2015 to revive sales at the famous brand with its world-famous green and red striped logo.

While sales of Kering’s flagship brand exploded 44 percent in 2018, growth has lagged behind rivals in the past two years.

“We will see if the departure of Alessandro Michele initiates a change of direction for the fashion house,” Cavorta said.

Alessandro Michele left Gucci in November and a successor to the artistic director has not yet been named
Alessandro Michele left Gucci in November and a successor to the artistic director has not yet been named © Miguel MEDINA / AFP

As for who will take over the reins at Gucci, the fashion world is waiting with bated breath for news of Michele’s successor.

Growing returns

Armani, Prada, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana and Zegna are among the big brands unveiling men’s collections in the Italian fashion capital.

But there have also been defections, including Versace, which plans to show its men’s and women’s collections together in Los Angeles on March 10.

Despite the war in Ukraine and the impact of the energy crisis on the energy-intensive fashion supply chain, Italian fashion sales rose 16 percent to 96.6 billion euros ($104.4 billion) last year.

Big brands like Giorgio Armani answered the call for a live men's show at Milan Fashion Week
Big brands like Giorgio Armani answered the call for a live men’s show at Milan Fashion Week © Miguel MEDINA / AFP/File

“This is the highest income in the last 20 years,” Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian Fashion Chamber, said at a presentation before the shows last month.

Inflation had an impact as Italian fashion prices rose by around nine percent in 2022, but the increase is “a positive sign that closes a year marked by dramatic events and difficult times,” Capasa added.

Exports of “Made in Italy” fashion rose 18.7 percent in the first nine months of last year, driven by demand in the United States and Gulf countries, where exports rose by more than 50 percent.

Sales to China grew more modestly, up 18.8 percent, while exports to Russia fell 26 percent due to the invasion of Ukraine.

One area where the impact of the Covid-19 crisis will still be felt in Milan is the absence of Chinese buyers.

Despite Beijing authorities lifting coronavirus-related health restrictions, the number of buyers traveling to the city for the shows will be “limited”, Capasa said.

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