The trilogy about travel that started at Prada's runway on Sunday afternoon with a colourful raver-meets-luxury hiker mood and continued on Monday with Gucci's peculiar grown-ups travelling in time loops in extravagantly embellished clothes, closed yesterday morning with Giorgio Armani's collection, entitled "Crossing Borders".
Though he updated his silhouettes to appeal to a younger audience, Armani retained his minimalism, and opted for sensible travellers in unstructured jackets and wide-legged pants in soft fluid fabrics such as silk, linen and cotton. The emphasis on wide trousers and tight cropped jackets (that retained a workwear edge about them) had a bit of a vintage mood that harked back to a Chaplinesque sort of style, more or less forgotten in the age of skinny pants and silly skull shirts.
But while on Giorgio Armani's runway men looked a bit like the luxurious version of Charlie Chaplin's vagabond, on Emporio Armani's another cinematic reference may have been established via the fingerprint T-Shirt that opened the show.
Fingerprint appeared here and there in the collection (that featured functional soft-shoulder jackets and cardigans and a wide range of trousers): at times they were employed in abstract configurations; they were blown up and turned into embroidered versions of the same graphics or formed three-dimensional ribbed motifs on zippered jackets. Armani used them to tackle the theme of identity and individuality from the double points of view of the designer and the wearer.
In this identity game two films came to mind, Wim Wenders' Notebook on Cities and Clothes with that incipit in which the director wondered what is identity ("'Identity' … of a person, of a thing, of a place. 'Identity'. The word itself gives me shivers. It rings of calm, comfort, contentedness. What is it, identity? To know where you belong? To know your self worth? To know who you are? How do you recognise identity? We are creating an image of ourselves, We are attempting to resemble this image…Is that what we call identity?") and the fingerprint shots in Elio Petri's Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto, 1970).
In the film Gian Maria Volonté plays the role of a police inspector who kills his mistress and paradoxically plants clues that lead to him, because he knows he can get away with it, being "above suspicion". The film at the time broke many taboos, exploring the nation's fascist legacy, showing a policeman in the role of a murderer, and dealing with the repressions put into practice by the police force.
In his collection Armani wasn't certainly breaking any taboos, or playing with such themes, though he was maybe trying to react to the current trend for over-embellished and over-decorated pieces that scream "look at me", reshifting the attention towards practical designs that constitute an investment rather than a trend and that can be adopted by men of different ages (compared to designs featured in many of the most pumped up collections out there, mainly geared towards young audiences).
Yet there is an interesting connection between fashion and repression as portrayed in Petri's film: the main character in Indagine is a split personality, a guilty man playing at being innocent, and the fashion industry loves duality and split personalities, after all, it preaches individuality but it essentially prompts people to conform, creating a fascist army.
As Paris menswear starts today it will be the turn of other brands and fashion houses to present their reinvented and revised identities for the next season, though you wonder if, after a reduced and rather weak Milanese menswear week and more earthquakes in the fashion calendars, it wouldn't be better to keep your own identity rather than buying into a fake one suggested by the fashion industry.
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