Consider it common knowledge among the fashion community that when it comes to predicting trends in womenswear, the menswear collections in Milan and Paris can act as a sort of editor’s crystal ball.
Designers model their men’s wares nearly nearly a full month before women’s ready-to-wear hits the New York runways in the second week of February. Of course, one can never predict with 100% certainty that a trend will transcend the genders, but, having just returned from a fast and furious Autumn Winter 2012 season in Milan—where we saw some very directional and very strong decisions by the most influential designers—I think we can make a decent case.
There were reiterations of past season’s usual suspects: shearling, great leather, varsity jackets and cropped outerwear. The need for a sharp overcoat in a man’s wardrobe has never been so clear. Those on display in nearly every Italian-shown collection were rich in fabric, impeccably tailored and practically screaming, “It’s time to grow up.” As for what’s new, here’s what the boys were wearing that the girls might like too:
Capes, cloaks and cape-like coats: As soon as Dolce & Gabbana’s runway show started, I thought to myself, “Let’s go to the opera! 200 years ago!” Yes, it was all 19th century romanticism for Stefano and Domenico, and included in their past-is-present collection were flowing hooded cloaks fitting for any Phantom. Alexander McQueen, Ermenegildo Zegna, and Calvin Klein all had their own variations (Mugler just showed them in Paris as well), many with that most necessary modern day update: sleeves.
Brocade: Sometimes it wasn’t just a cape coat at Dolce—it was a brocade cape coat at Dolce. The materials were luxe and the gold, silver and jeweled ornamentation on the blazers, jackets, shoes, and, yes, even socks got fancy. McQueen and Bottega Veneta showed more accessible interpretation of this trend, simply running a raised embellishment along a blazer lapel or the edge of a sleeve. The quixotic effect, though, remains the same.
Pony hair: To be more specific, burgundy pony hair. On a tunic at McQueen, an overcoat at Z Zegna, a blazer at Canali, and nearly all of the above—even a full suit— at Emporio Armani. It’s shimmery and totally glam—just in case that’s your thing.
Velvet: At a re-see appointment one afternoon in Milan, a PR rep for the label had to get real: “Is everyone really doing velvet again? I feel like it’s my senior year of college again.” The answer—much to my colleague’s chagrin—is yes, yes we are. While velvet hasn’t entirely faded out in years past, it returned in full force for next fall. Trousers and blazers were the most common velvet garment, but where it seemed most fresh this season was in…
Tailoring: For so many seasons it seemed like we couldn’t get away from the boxy cuts and then slowly but surely designers made their suits tighter and sleeker. Finally, this season it looks like suits are back to being superbly tailored, much the same way that womenswear is reverting to the lady-like silhouettes and cuts that define femininity. There was nary a baggy leg, drop crotch, or slouchy blazer in sight. Dolce, Bottega, and Ferragamo, who up until last season were still being generous in their cuts, brought everything closer to the body. No one was quite as tailored as Burberry Prorsum; it looks like it’d take a good greasing to slip into the brand’s collection.
Prints: As far as prints go, Miuccia really demonstrated a keen eye for pattern in the micro-print fabrics of brown, burgundy, mustard and red of Prada’s collection. Her’s was among the strongest of the season—and not just because celebrities like Gary Oldman, Jamie Bell, Adrien Brody and William Dafoe walked in the show. Canali followed suit with a similar bent and a strong use of stripes. Even at Missoni—the pattern masters—size was dialed back for a less abrasive, but more intricate visual.
Color: The palette of AW12, beyond a few popping collections from Versace and Roberto Cavalli, wasn’t quite vibrant. Grey continues to be the go-to color and deep emerald green was about as adventurous as things got. Together ,with the aforementioned burgundy, the two were seen in nearly every collection. Bottega had some impressive footwear, again proving Tomas Maier’s continued dedication to amping up the house’s shoe presence. But if anyone steered away from somber hues, it was for rich mustard, camel, or, winter white. And in some cases—Jil Sander, Costume Nationale—it was all about black on black.