Milan Fashion Week A/W 2016: The Highlights

Our team's verdict on Dolce and Gabbana, Versace and more

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1 | Ermenegildo Zegna Couture

There are very few fashion designers we'd actually like to look like. Wearing the clothes they make is one thing, but in terms of what they wear themselves, not so much. Stefano Pilati, creative director at Ermenegildo Zegna Couture is an exception to the rule. One of the most stylish designers in the business, Pilati's signature slouchy style is equally prevalent in the clothes he produces. For Pilati's Autumn Winter '16/17 collection, his lightness of touch was more noticeable than ever. Billed as 'haute couture for men' the collection was desirable in its entirety. Fabrics came embellished with three dimensional embroideries and clustered Jewel motifs, while cuts were impeccable. Elegant coats in wool boucle and alpaca were oversized and teamed with wide tapered trousers, sometimes complete with as many as four pleats. Quilted bombers and under layers added a technical sensibility to the more traditional tailored items such as jacquard suits, while tailored blousons in wool gabardine embodied Pilati's approach to smart dressing. Featuring lapels traditionally found on classic blazers and cut from fabrics more commonly used in tailoring, Pilati proposes a new, refreshingly relaxed approach to mens dressing.

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- Teo van den Broeke


2 | Versace

You can always rely on Donatella Versace to put on a good show. Set beneath an enormous digital light display not dissimilar to a James Turrell light installation, the collection was high sex sportswear at its finest. Fur hooded puffa jackets, woolly tracksuit bottoms and chunky high top sneakers were practical and fitted. Smarter garments such as slim cut suits and oversized wool overcoats, on the other hand, could easily be absorbed into more conservative wardrobes. The palette was winter-ready with icy shades of brittle blue, dusty pink, washed sage and diluted lilac throughout. Things took a turn for the nineties with tight Versace print cycling T-shirts teamed with equally close cut jeans, while super-cropped hooded bombers worn with wintry long johns displayed the models' perfectly toned torsos. In short? The whole effect was very Vanilla Ice Queen.

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- Teo van den Broeke

3 | Bottega Veneta

Tomas Maier's collections for Bottega Veneta are  fast becoming a highlight of the season. Perfectly encapsulating the menswear mood of the moment, Maiers clothes combine elegant Italian tailoring with a slouchy aesthetic all his own. Where the past few seasons have focused on sports-inspired loungewear, for Autumn Winter '16/17 it was Maier's intention to create a leaner silhouette. "I wanted to create a line that's very long and lean, with everything elegant and elevated", he said. Rope shouldered double breasted suits wrapped torsos perfectly and looked modern teamed with wider legged trousers finished with tonal military-inspired blood stripes. Bowling shoe-esque sneakers kept things casual. The real beauty, as ever, was in the fabrics. Boucle wool overcoats were cocooning and chic, while soft-shouldered jackets in boiled wool tea towel plaid are already on our wish list.

- Teo van den Broeke


4 | Dolce and Gabbana

The invitation was promising. An illustrated picture book format that opened up to the Spaghetti Western tunes of the celebrated composer Ennio Morricone. A Sicilian Western theme? Of course. This is Dolce and Gabbana. Those Sicilians get everywhere. Including the desert. Would there be real Cowboys? Spurs and chaps? A change of silhouette even ? Not this time. Yet the cacti and desert rock set provided the backdrop to a collection that shouted 'We Are Sicilian' even though there was a ton of soft bull leather, faded denim and outsize layered shearling coats on show. The theme was encapsulated by western emblems - all captured in real time by tablet - carrying models who's mini 'films' of the audience were projected onto catwalk screens.  Classic black tailoring - hand sewn and precise- was embellished with silvery hand guns, denim jackets embroidered with cherubs, flowers and cacti and silky shirts were printed with horseshoes plus the Dolce crown and bee logo denoting the queen and worker bees of the house. Most successful of all were the silk printed  pyjamas. Monochrome print with white piping in classic shapes, they may not have enhanced the theme but were desirable nevertheless.

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- Catherine Hayward

5 | Gucci

If Wes Anderson was to direct a fashion show, it might look something like Alessandro Michelle's third for Gucci. The embodiment of Michelle's magpie-esque sensibility, the Autumn Winter '16/17 collection riffed on themes seen previously. Immaculately embroidered carp, floral motifs and bees could be found emblazoned across oversized shearling-lined denim jackets, carpet fabric capes and lurex tracksuits. Where previous seasons have felt more feminine, this collection felt a modicum more classically masculine - where lace and silk once dominated; now wool, denim and corduroy prevail. Hunter S Thompson-style yellow lensed aviators came teamed with crocheted baseball cap-deerstalker hybrids and wide leg trousers in shades of khaki and navy. It would be easy to suggest that the effect was seventies-inspired, but in reality, Michele's arteries of influence flowed with far greater riches. Every piece in the show, from the velvet pyjamas embroidered with Far Eastern-influenced motifs, to the immaculately cut (and surprisingly simple) buff wool trench coats felt as if they had been painstakingly considered and produced for many months prior to the show - a show which was as rich in symbolism and ideas as it was in wearable, desirable product.

- Teo van den Broeke

6 | Etro

Lucky Blue Smith's hoards of screaming fans weren't waiting for him outside the Etro show this season, but the 17-year-old supermodel stalked the runway nonetheless, sporting the all important closing look of the collection. Was the departure of his fan club a sign of the young paramour's waning popularity? Probably not - he walked in the majority of the big shows in Milan. More likely is that it's a demonstration of the fickle nature of his preteen fans. Instagram and Vine sensation Cameron Dallas attended the Calvin Klein show on Sunday and was mobbed by hundreds of screaming girls. Will the professional selfie-taker garner such attention next season? Not likely. The good news at Etro, shown at lunchtime on Monday, was that the collection shone without any help from the social media set. One of Kean Etro's best in seasons, our favourite thing about it was the new trouser shape. Where in previous collections the designer has opted for either paint-on skinny or super baggy, for Autumn Winter '16/17 he focused on cropped, just-wide-enough trousers, cut from velvet (which looked surprisingly desirable), flannel and pony skin. As ever with Etro, the beauty of the collection was in the fabrics and patterns. Oversized boucle wool overcoats with subtle checks had an understated appeal, while frayed edge crew neck jumpers worn over regular roll necks in tonal shades looked clever and most importantly, warm.

- Teo van den Broeke

7 | Prada

And on to Prada, and another fantasy set build - this time a wooden structure that resembled the interior of the globe theatre or a 17th century drinking establishment, complete with balconies and recessed steps for added drama. Or maybe not. Miuccia prefers her audience to decipher clues themselves - no show notes here. So what were her new stage directions?

The idea - if Miuccia had a particular one in mind - was nautical in theme. Obvious references to sailors were apparent in cropped trousers, voluminous capes, matelot shirts or the addition of jaunty sailor hats - even detachable tricorn shaped collars made from distressed wool or leather and shearling. Shipmaster keys dangled playfully from belts and chunky fringed shoes were an inexplicable nod - in the midst of a maritime theme- to Canadian Mountie shoes of the 70s. But strip away these styling details and you re left with some of the strongest commercial pieces that Prada has produced for a while. A navy pea coat: slim line and cut short on the hip. Frock coats: romantic in feel yet devoid of tricksy details. Windowpane and Prince of Wales wool checked shirt jackets with low key contrast top stitching. A new collaboration with artist Christophe Chemin produced some beautiful prints that referenced historical drawings and paintings from yesteryear. Unicorns, Greek gods and pomegranate- nibbling mice seemed appropriate for the setting. Set to a melancholy soundtrack of PJ Harvey, Swans and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the effect was a thoughtful reflection on the strong outerwear pieces men need for winter.

- Catherine Hayward