On a Fashion Journey With Gucci, Prada, Missoni and Armani

Travel, as others have pointed out, has been a leitmotif throughout the Milan men’s wear season. And while this is probably not the place for cranky opprobrium, it feels necessary to call out the obliviousness of designers who presented collections rife with references to campsites, tarpaulins, tents and displacement when millions of Syrian and Afghan refugees crowd Europe’s borders or wash up dead on its shores.


Prada, spring 2017.

Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Naturally there is a temptation is to sit back and enjoy the spectacle when Thom Browne stages one of his usual displays for Moncler Gamme Bleu (a subsidiary line of the puffer giant Moncler, founded in 1952 and reinvented five decades later by Remo Ruffini as a fashion concern) in a glamping show rife with references to scouting and Smokey Bear.

What is the harm? Mr. Browne is a skilled entertainer, albeit one occasionally in need of a dramaturge. As with past collections, the tableaux vivant devised here ended without plot resolution.

In a bunkerlike show space on the edge of town, Mr. Browne laid sod, installed mature fir trees, piped in the sounds of crickets and birds. He erected 40 translucent pup tents in four parallel rows and then had his models march out in hooded floor-length coats that were half sleeping bag, half cagoule jacket.

One by one the guys installed themselves before their bivouacs. Soon two mascot bears appeared, stopping by turns to help the models wriggle out of their bag-coats, revealing beneath them suits with short pants that formed the collection’s core.


Missoni, spring 2017.

Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Some were in blanket plaid. Some were channel quilted. Some were in techno fabrics. Some had sequins and several were constructed using astrakhan, the fleece of newborn or fetal lambs. (Memo to PETA: Don’t blame the messenger.)

Most were worn with knee socks and either safari or field jackets, all adorned with so many bellows-pockets you’d need a compass to find your keys. Once revealed, the models paraded around the space, dragging their cloaks behind them before returning to their tents and, unfurling the bags, bedding down inside.

That was it. The show ended. The audience filed out. And as they did, some wondered what may become of those tents. “Exaggerated utility,” was his theme, Mr. Browne said later. Given recent events in Europe, the phrase struck an unwittingly callous tone.

Miuccia Prada, too, seemed to take up travel as a thematic for a show that cast models as vagabonds, dressing them for the road in skinny cycling pants or chunky sweaters or nylon blousons, burdening their scrawny frames with bulging rucksacks (Prada’s first commercial success, in 1984, was a nylon backpack) from which brogues were hung hobo-style.


Giorgio Armani, spring 2017.

Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

That many of the clothes had been printed with random motifs like watermelons, sombreros or the Buddha suggested Ms. Prada has more in common with a designer like Mr. Michele than you may imagine. Is there anyone left whose creative process is not influenced by the mysterious algorithms of Google Image? Probably not.

The imaginative set for Prada — by AMO, a research arm of the Dutch architecture studio OMA — recast the interior of Prada’s space as a series of raked ramps constructed from structural metal mesh. Entering under eerie green light, and with Frédéric Sanchez’ distorted remix of Bjork’s “Army of Me” as an aural backdrop, the models climbed ever uphill toward some unseen vanishing point.

As at Moncler Gamme Bleu, exaggerated utility was Prada’s tacit through-line. And as at Moncler Gamme Bleu, the show provoked questions that even a designer of Ms. Prada’s sure intelligence seems unprepared to answer.

The sunniness of Angela Missoni’s relationship to travel is not easy to square with her personal experience of its perils. It was just three years ago last January that a chartered plane carrying her brother Vittorio, 58, his wife and four others (including a pilot and co-pilot) vanished as it left the Caribbean archipelago of Los Roques. The loss was devastating for a family whose eponymous label Mr. Missoni ran with his siblings.

Yet there on Sunday, almost exactly on the anniversary of the discovery of the wreck and the identification of the bodies, Ms. Missoni mounted a show that harks back to travel in happier times. “We went on a family trip to Guatemala when I was 15,” Ms. Missoni said backstage. “And I never forgot it.”

A jacket she bought on that trip was the point of departure for a collection that used Missoni’s signature knitwear patterns for shorts and cropped trousers, tracksuit tops and shirts, relaxed suiting, Breton-striped undershirts and roomy jackets embroidered with toucans. The woven leather Malibu hippie sandals had closed toes. Cuban heeled boots were transformed into sling-backs.

Many of the models in what was by far the most racially diverse casting of recent memory wore straw jibaro hats more characteristic of Cuba or Puerto Rico than Central America, but no matter. Even with rain falling in the loggia of the university courtyard where the show was held, the mood was celebratory, even redemptive.

Giorgio Armani also alluded to travel in his show on Monday, largely into his own back pages. Mr. Armani, undisputed king of Italian fashion, surveys a realm that — however remote it may occasionally seem from developments in contemporary design — sooner or later must acknowledge him.

It is not rote obeisance. Mr. Armani laid down the codes other designers flout. He devised silhouettes many decades ago that have sustained him, snapshots from a long and memorable journey.

If there was little novelty in a collection that offered variations on his customary snug knit jackets and tunics, worn over voluminous bottom-hugging linen trousers as feminizing as anything Alessandro Michele ever created, the collection served to remind viewers that the past is also, for some, a destination. The future is, of course, uncertain.

The present, at the moment, is in certain ways a pretty ugly place.

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