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Colour lights up Milan men's catwalks

Flashes of colour lit up the catwalks at the Milan men's fashion shows this week, where eco-chic urbanites and check patterned shirts ruled the day.

Winding up the four-day event Tuesday, Giorgio Armani sent out an "urban and solar" man sporting a chic line that never verged on tedious.

Unsurprisingly for Armani, beige, black and white dominated the show, but touches of yellow and Chartreuse green on pouches, belts, ties, shoes and even sunglasses brightened up the spring-summer 2011 collection.

With the sun in mind, cardigans were sometimes worn over bare skin, supplanting shirts and often leaving midriffs exposed.

Armani was also on trend with gingham checks, popular in the 50s and 60s and seeing a comeback in Milan this week, but used them sparingly as pants or jackets, never covering the entire body.

Models shod in sandals and braided moccasins had black eye-makeup like vampires out of the Twilight saga.

At DSquared2, the twin designers killed off slim pants, fielding instead a series of 80s-era rock'n'roll jeans with edgy cuts in a monochrome palette of black through to white.

Winks at a luxury yacht lifestyle came with navy blue blazers with big gilt buttons, while the fashion house's nightlife apparel included a midnight-blue shirt paired with aviator sunglasses.

Also flashing out colour for summer attention-seekers was a skimpy green-and-white-striped speedo and an outfit made up of apple-green shorts, sky-blue shirt and pink jacket.

Iceberg, offering urban styles ranging from skater to sailor, put the emphasis on the neck, with ubiquitous V-neck sweaters and ultra-light scarves, which dotted or striped, seem to be the must-have accessory for summer 2011.

Leather jackets echoed eco-friendly themes at other brands, as discreet greens and beiges, whites and greys dominated the show.

Many of Italy's fashion giants embraced green themes and eco-chic this season, laying grass on walkways and wrapping models in eco-friendly fabrics and plant and animal motifs.

Setting the tone, Dolce & Gabbana titled its show "Luncheon on the Grass" after Manet's masterwork and had birds chirping as models strolled down a grassy catwalk, carrying leather bags stuffed with vegetables and baguettes.

Flowers, shades of green, and rope-soled shoes were ubiquitous, as were checkered patterns in red, blue or green reminiscent of the 1950s.

Etro, too, had models wafting down a lawn runway in light cotton, soy and nylon fabrics stamped with Indian patterns and Celtic embroidery. Earthy colours dominated, with greens and khakis and exotic plant prints inspired by the Amazonian rainforest.

Gucci went a step further, presenting jet-set hunter lookalikes clad in leather and snakeskin like their prey with colours in natural blues, greys and earth hues.

Instead of ties, Frida Giannini, the house designer, went for soy scarves in flower patters and necklaces in coral or horn.

Ermenegildo Zegna, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, stuck to its classical style but toyed with details: a yoke of leather on shirt collars, a small foulard around the neck and Pete Doherty-style hats, all in sober shades of camel, light blue and grey.

Contrasting with the cheery eco-chic, a note of sadness hung over the shows following Friday's apparent suicide of iconic Burberry model Tom Nicon, a 22-year-old Frenchman who fell out of a fourth floor window in Milan.

His death was the latest in a string of tragedies on the fashion scene. Last November South Korean model Daul Kim was found hanged in Paris at the age of 20 and in April 24-year-old Ambrose Olsen, 24, was found dead in New York.

Star British designer Alexander McQueen took his own life in February aged 40.