The New Suit

Men's fashion is traditionally a slow burn, but the recent fall collections has seen an overhaul of the traditional silhouette. Some musings on the shape of things to come.

Giorgio Armani Fall 2014/15.
Calvin Klein Collection Fall 2014/15.
Salvatore Ferragamo Fall 2014/15.
Ermenegildo Zegna Fall 2014/15.

One of the biggest trends I have noticed this season is a deconstruction of jackets and coats, all of which creates a rather top-heavy silhouette prevalent in the collections of countless Italian brands. In a way, it’s a casual turn as it moves away from the structure that we associate with corporate suiting, and no one captures this feeling better than Stefano Pilati in his role as artistic director at Ermenegildo Zegna.

At last season’s spring shows, everyone else was still focused on imbuing traditional tailoring with sportswear elements, such as harnessing details and tech fabrics, but fresh from his reign at Yves Saint Laurent, Mr Pilati introduced a leaner, more languid silhouette, a softness that he continued this week in Milan. That the show’s first exit was a grey single-breasted suit worn with a coat over the shoulders and – gasp! – a woollen beanie, quite shocking when you think of the sartorial history of the house, it was obvious that Mr Pilati is taking seriously his role of modernising the suiting purveyor for a contemporary audience. There was suiting in this collection – lots of it, and quite beautifully made, too – but the designer has a unique ability to make it feel modern, but it wasn’t just the styling that achieved this. In one look, a three-piece grey suit is worn with a beautiful, wide-lapelled overcoat with fur trim, slashed at the waist and elasticised, turning it into a sort of coat-cum-bomber. That playful eschewing of tradition continued throughout: the collar of one bomber jacket extends from the front of the jacket itself, resulting in an unusual shape that fuses drape and structure, while bomber-like quilting was employed elsewhere.

Tomas Maier at Bottega Veneta is, of course, a master at this sort of effortless simplicity that belies complex construction and creation, and his menswear collections for the house continually rework the suit into something softer and more luxurious. He too incorporated that padded, elasticised bomber style, rendering them in grey wools that might traditionally be used for suiting, and paired other two-piece numbers with zip-up cardigans.

The sense of texture that is the result of this kind of experimentation is something seen in plenty this season, nowhere more obvious than at Salvatore Ferragamo where its designer Massimiliano Giornetti adopted the kinds of weaves and stripes found in luscious, traditional rugs (something he collects, apparently). Its most striking incarnation was in a few coats that presented panels of colour in an ombre effect, achieved, of course, not through digital print but the weaving of threads. Now that’s luxury. Most of the jackets – whether cropped safari-style, traditional blazer or mid-thigh coats – were belted at the waist, further thwarting the classic suiting silhouette in this season’s overhaul of tradition.

At Giorgio Armani, the Italian brand's more mature line, the unstoppable designer focused on the jacket, presenting an anatomical study that "reworks the emblem of the Armani universe, bringing an evolutionary element to tradition." That was certainly the case in the way Mr Armani presented countless iterations: cut short at the hips; belted at the waist; double-breasted, single-breasted; with contrasting collars, and no collars at all. What brought it all together, of course, was the designer's innate understanding and mastery of tailoring, ensuring that even in casual, cardigan-like styles that it retained a sense of authority and masculinity.

Kris Van Assche looked to the jacket, too, taking inspiration from Christian Dior’s own wardrobe for his unusually formal, suiting-based collection for Dior Homme. Like previous anatomical studies of the same garment, the suit, with its high-cut lapels, was presented in two-, three- and four-button iterations, and like at Ermenegildo Zegna, was worn with casual nylon parkas over the top.

Calvin Klein Collection was one of my favourites of the season. It was a stroke of genius on Italo Zucchelli’s part to emblazon sweatshirts with the logos of the house’s best-selling fragrances, something he probably could have done already, given the popularity of such garments in recent seasons, but it was the voluminous, almost unrealistic proportions of his overcoats, trousers and said sweaters that was most appealing as, again, it transformed that slim athletic silhouette to which we’ve become so accustomed.

Frida Giannini elevated Gucci’s menswear offering this season, too, eschewing the sporty style of last season for the classic style of sixties-era London. As always, luxury is king at the Italian house, and the powdery palette of cornflower blue, blush and cream rendered elegant slim trousers, newsboy caps and cropped double-breasted duffle coats. The addition of leather pieces – and not just jackets, but also pants and shirts – added masculinity to the boyish shapes. And that seems to be trick of luxury menswear at the moment: elevating oftentimes simple, casual pieces with quality fabrications.

Just look at Hermes, where artistic director Veronique Nichanian rendered quilted puffa jackets in black crocodile leather. The shape of things to come, indeed.

Top image: Calvin Klein Collection.