Milan designers blur gender lines

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

MILAN (AP) — Milan designers continue to blur the lines between female and male dressing, to various degrees.

For some it is experimentation with textiles, but others are challenging to the core long-held assumptions about what belongs to men and women.

Here are some highlights from shows Monday, the third day of menswear previews for next spring and summer during Milan Fashion Week featuring Gucci, Fendi, Canali, Etro, and Brioni.


So, it turns out that Alessandro Michele's speedy Gucci collection for men in January, pulled together in just five days, was very indicative of his fashion leanings, which are decidedly gender flexible.

Gucci looks for men included white crocheted shorts with an embroidered butterfly and anchor. Transparent lace shirts with decorative appliques were worn with shiny basketball shorts or athletic pants. Flared elephant pants were paired with glittery sweaters and shirts with pointy collars. A double-breasted suit had a shirt with micro-ruffles and a red flower at the neck.

More traditional designs like the belted Gucci trenchcoat had applique details like a big snarling cat — one of the season's motifs — and was shown with a red crocheted hat with a pompon. The trench also was worn with a trailing floral scarf.

When Michele did dip into the Gucci archives, he turned those references on their head by making a sailor top out of patterned fabric or embroidering anchor detailing on tops. The red-and-green Gucci stripe circled around a coat like a rainbow motif would have in the 1970s.

As he has done in his past two shows, Michele sent both men and women down the runway, often in similar outfits, as he blurred the lines between genders. They wore the same baggy shorts that shouted skirt on first impact, and floral suits were unisex.


Michele is breaking with the past in every way conceivable. Last season he ventured to turn the contemporary theater where Gucci has previewed its collections for years into a subway station. This season, he ditched the theater entirely and took the fashion crowd on a weed-strewn journey to a disused former customs station.

Michele had the cavernous space lined with red-lacquered chairs with green floral upholstery, and models strutted down an unusually long runway of a couple of hundred meters -- but were spared the turn back.


Andrea Pompilio is wiping the slate clean from his first two seasons at Canali, sweeping aside geometric prints in favor of monochromes.

But the real news of the season is his materials. He made outerwear out of a silk organza that created transparency, durable denim out of linen, cotton and silk and terry cloth tops and jackets from knitwear.

The papery transparency of the safari jackets, bombers and trench coats allow just a glimpse of the softly striped shirt below. Despite its lightness, the organza fabric maintains a nearly architectural shape.

"That they see through your trenchcoat your suit or shirt, I find very interesting," Pompilio said backstage after the show.

The terry cloth recalled the heyday of 1950s men's dressing, when Hollywood stars would be pictured poolside in terry cloth shorts outfits. Pompilio expressed his love for geometry by creating stripes of terry cloth on shirts and jackets, alternating lines of spongier weave with a more compact one.

"We take something very easy and we make it very luxury," Pompilio said.


Keane Etro's looks for next summer were clean and contemporary, anything but the bohemian and ethnic attire often associated with Etro.

Etro chose female fabrics for the men's line, continuing the Milan trend of exploring the lines between genders, and maintained a sharp silhouette. The deployment of Etro's familiar paisley was understated and any tribal touches were reserved for linings of the garments, not for outward display.

Etro revamped its showroom into a circle, and at the end the designer joined hands with the models in an outward-facing circle as a tree grew up on the screen behind them. Sustainability is in the air during the Expo 2015 world's fair, which is in its second month and continues until Oct. 31.