In the middle of Giorgio Armani’s AW18 men’s show, held this week in Milan, four models appeared in business suits. They looked like they could have walked from the boardroom at Deloitte, which has offices round the corner from Armani HQ. It was a rare moment at these shows of, well, what? Traditional tailoring? Menswear has shifted its focus so squarely to sports and casual wear, it’s hard to know what to call anything any more. Even one of those Armani business suits was sent out with an oversized rucksack.
Before his satisfying Ermenegildo Zegna show, creative director Alessandro Sartori talked about the blurring of boundaries between sports and tailoring. For his work, he said, “there isn’t a name”. His was the rare show that pushed for innovation. He championed a one-and-a-half-breasted suit jacket, an ungainly description of an elegant style that needs its own nickname quick. It featured a sole button, set halfway between single- and double-breasted, giving shape when buttoned, but not leaving flaps of fabric when undone. Crucially, it looks natural, not a catwalk trick.
Much else at Zegna identified as sportswear — a padded jacket was quilted in broad and deep bands. Padded jackets were everywhere this season, as they have been for a while — look at the profits at Moncler, up 25 per cent in the first six months to June 30 2017.
At Prada, the padded jackets were a fresh step, by virtue of having no quilting whatsoever. Many were fabricated in the black nylon that first made Mrs Prada’s name in the late 1980s. A sky-blue padded nylon button-through jacket was a contender for the best piece seen at these shows so far. Most designs by Prada were supersized, a play on scale that made me think back to Craig Green’s show more than a week ago in London. Green had placed a sill around the edge of all of his clothes. Like Green, Prada was taking active steps away from a tailored line: it had asked four architects and designers to reimagine its black nylon bag. Rem Koolhaas created a rucksack to be worn on the front, like a large rectangular box on straps.
Pieces that used archive Prada prints caused immediate social media pandemonium. More interesting was the welcome return of Prada Sport, with its nylon anoraks and zip-ups that sat away from the body. The brand plans to sell the pieces in store as a separate collection.
Ralph Lauren was also bringing back its sports line, although this time RLX will be aligned with its higher luxury line, Purple Label. The message was clear: sports is no longer an also-ran, but the main contender.
It’s a year since Prada based a show around corduroy and the effects are still being felt. Brunello Cucinelli cut blazers and pants in various sizes of wale. Zegna wove its own cord from a mix of wool and cotton to prevent shine. Cord pants even appeared at Versace. Wide and with swagger, they were part of an energised show that saw the brand continue to seek value in its archives.
Versace prints were found on silk shirts, football kits and velvet. Most extravagant was a padded velvet jacket with a heraldic print from Versace’s home furnishings archive. It’ll be great for fashion shoots, but more interesting to buyers will be a new pumped-up trainer with an exaggerated chain-shaped sole. When luxury houses talk about footwear, the first thing they mention is usually a sneaker. Many are about the same size as the foot of a Transformer. Big-sole trainers were worn by some of the models at Fendi, along with Fendi logo zip-ups, Fendi logo bags, a Fendi logo luggage collaboration with Rimowa. The graphic designer Hey Reilly created some great Surrealist images for T-shirts and bags, like a pile of bricks with a fried egg and a screwdriver. The nicest look in the whole collection will probably be bought by no one: a boxy-cut, wide-check wool suit, single-breasted with pleasing patch pockets.
Bored at work and browsing some online stores? Click on Marni, which is evolving into a useful brand of neat basics. It may not appear so from its catwalk, where creative director Francesco Risso sent out models in nylon coveralls shaped like those worn by crime-scene forensics, but mixed up in the looks were strong staples: long-sleeve T-shirts with coloured stripes set at a slight angle; roomy handknits where stripes almost disappear into distortion.
And what of Armani’s business suits? No others appeared on his catwalk. There was casual tailoring, velvet tuxedos, zip-up blousons and stacked-sole trainers. The show was assured. Armani knows where there is money to be made.
Follow @FTStyle on Twitter to find out about our latest stories first. Subscribe to FT Life on YouTube for the latest FT Weekend videos