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A Welcome Sense of Familiarity at Milan Men’s

Thu 21 Jan

People who’ve experienced trauma tend to avoid unpredictable circumstances, seeking comfort in the familiar. Rather than watch a new series or listen to the new Drake album, they’ll flick on their nostalgic favourite or set their Spotify to repeat. Arguably, many of us during this pandemic have felt that same pang for familiarity and comfort. And while loungewear and our yearning for physical comfort have driven sales these past months, it’s the recognisable signature styles that have dominated of late (See Fran Leibowitz, Pretend it’s a City.)

At Milan Fashion Week, brands and shows aptly stuck to their core ethos and aesthetic. In times like these, consumers aren’t necessarily looking for the next innovation; we’re still relishing in the safety of what we know and already love. Despite buzz-words such as ‘New Normal’ (Fendi) and Reset (Zegna), there was much at play over this digital fashion week that soothed our ache for the familiar.

Zegna’s show was presented via the brand’s typical architectural visual feast; models walked the runway in segments of rich burgundy, pine green and mouse brown (usuals for the house). This, with tactile cashmere and softer trouser silhouette amongst Zegna’s signature luxury tailoring - perhaps a continuation of their knock-out collaboration with Fear of God - was almost meditatively soothing.

Luxury accessories, despite our lack of going out-out, prevail in this climate too. Brands such as Ree Projects and VeeCollective have core, timeless styles that can easily be updated season after season. Ree Projects’ longline staple bags have been quilted for extra tactility, while VeeCollective plays with twists on muted tones.

Fendi’s AW21 collection had embraced the loungewear trends of 2020 through padded robe outerwear and cosy cable knits but lept too far forward in its boldness and energy. Too much too soon for those of us pandemic-stricken; the MTV-inspired bright lights and Noel Fielding (!) scribbles were a bolt of new optimism, at a time when the customer wants to wallow in the habitual.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing new this season; those who excelled, hybridised signature styles with modern ideas. Even better, were those that introduced or brought back core pieces. A-COLD-WALL* managed to strike an equilibrium between newness and the outerwear styles and cerebral referencing that we’ve come to expect. Ader too, their core cobalt blue and often seasonless design updated through silhouette.

In some cases, familiar signatures may have been a brand downfall. Raf Simons’ debut menswear show with Prada for example - while undeniably attractive, and offering such greats as those patterned longjohns, was an Easter egg hunt of old Raf favourites. The effervescent mystique of Prada had been side-lined by cocoon coats, mini-bag gloves and the multi-layers.

With the world as unpredictable as ours is now, It seems this consumer habit isn't shifting any time soon. With Paris Fashion Week around the corner, perhaps it will only be the escapism of couture that equals the comforting familiarity of house staples. These times have shown what sticks when the world falls and, even when a sense of normality returns, designers have learnt that an integral brand identity, core collection or brand motif will always serve well.