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Ermenegildo Zegna XXX: Upper class athleisure in the Stazione Centrale

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today Jan 12, 2019
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Half the audience attending the opening show of the new Milan menswear season this Friday had arrived in the fashion capital at Stazione Milano Centrale on morning trains from Pitti in Florence. And they returned to the massive railway station in the evening for the latest Ermenegildo Zegna XXX collection for the house.


Ermenegildo Zegna - Fall-Winter2019 - Menswear - Milan - © PixelFormula

 
“We suggest warm attire,” read the invite. Wise words, as the audience all sat down on a chilly evening in Lombardy to witness the latest ideas of designer Alessandro Sartori.
 
Under Sartori, this collection has become an architectural tour of Italy’s fashion capital, which has already taken in stops at the country’s top business school Bocconi and, last season, an epic show at Oscar Niemeyer’s justly famous Palazzo Mondadori.

With several high-speed Frecciarossa, or Red Arrow, locomotives pulling in on the tracks above us, the first models appeared. From the opening looks, it was clear we were in the presence of upper class athleisure. Bulbous padded leather jerkins or hooded felt wool après-ski tops paired with seamed tight track pants; techy short parkas worn with drawstring matelassé trousers.
 
As any retailer or e-tailer will readily tell you, the quickest way to grow your menswear business in the last two years has been to add athleisure to a sartorial mix. Sartori has been one of the bravest designers to enter this realm at the top end. Sometimes with great results: his posh bondage putty gray pants; ergonomic felt high-collar blousons and down coats, boldly embroidered with a truly fantastic print of youths reading newspapers, were all superlative.
 
Though his best ideas were the risky tailoring – from wrap-around one-button jackets to some stupendous check suits, swiftly dashing about the station.
 
It used to be said of Mussolini that he made the trains run on time. Italian designers have never followed that path and this show began a half hour late. Though it says an enormous amount about the power of fashion in Italy, that Zegna managed to close down the main section of Stazione Milano Centrale for this show. Some 120 million people pass through the station annually. And, in some elaborate staging, producer Bureau Betak installed enormous screens outside on the 220-meter façade so thousands of fans outside could follow the show. Inside blue arc lights bathed the Assyrian-Lombard building with its 70-meter vaults – the largest in the world when built – and the cast, who marched with purpose on the Art Deco marble floor.
 
Finished in the 1930s, Mussolini personally insisted on giant steel canopies for the station’s enormous glass roof to symbolize the power of Fascism. Though that mattered little when in April 2945 his corpse was hung upside down at a nearby Esso gas station.


Ermenegildo Zegna - Fall-Winter2019 - Menswear - Milan - © PixelFormula

 
Not that these clothes had anything to do with totalitarianism. Anything but, as they were about free-flowing ideas in tailoring.
 
This week, Sartori has telegraphed his punches on Instagram, notably when it came to the fabrics. His hashtag read UseTheExisting; while one post said: “This fabric includes pre-existing post-consumer natural materials, which have been recycled with innovative processes.”
 
Fact is no other designer in menswear competes with Sartori when it comes to revolutionizing materials. His deep palette of Beluga black, taiga green and Warsaw greys all combined to create a memorable fashion statement. That said, Sartori’s name is derived from the word for "tailor" in Italian, and that’s where his greatest skill generally exists.

Hence, while the business of brand building means we can expect ever more athleisure in Milano, this collection was not one of Alessandro’s greatest collections. It felt a little too much like a designer trying too hard.

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