Chill factor: Everything a man needs to stay warm and stylish

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

From high-tech fabrics to sub-zero chic, the autumn/winter 2010 Milan shows had everything a man needs to stay warm and stylish, writes Tim Blanks

When asked what kind of man she envisaged wearing her clothes, Consuelo Castiglioni, the woman behind Milan's cult Marni label, cryptically offered, "Gorgeous ones."

It was an entirely logical answer from a female designer making clothes for men, but it was also a little off, given that Marni's menswear is precisely the sort of fashion proposition that the average gorgeous guy would find hard to digest, unless he had a particular passion for quirky, superfluous details like a shirt-tail on an otherwise sensible leather parka, or an over-dyeing process that made new shirts look old. But I introduce Castiglioni because she offered one item for next winter that seemed particularly apposite in the light of Deep Freeze 2010.

It was a tailored jacket (according to designerspeak, "a somewhat imperfect tweed") lined with a puffa jacket. It was also one of the more subtle incarnations of next winter's biggest trend. It may be giving too much credit to fashion's crystal ball to accept that designers foresaw the Deep Freeze, but they're certainly ready for when it happens again. There'll be no business like snow business for Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana, who both offered sub-zero chic in their second collections: straight-faced at Emporio Armani, anything but at D&G. And ski wear, the raison d'être of the old French label Moncler, got a thorough goosing at the hands of American menswear iconoclast Thom Browne. He has managed to insinuate his idiosyncratic – bordering on obsessive, bordering on fascistic – vision of the way he wants men to dress into a company whose name is a byword for functional sportswear. It's a win-win situation. Moncler got hip, Browne got wise. And his puffas were the new uniform of choice as the mercury plummeted in Milan.

If it wasn't puffas we were seeing, it was duffels and mufflers, huge, enveloping scarves that combined luxurious extravagance (form) with a bigger, better way to stay warm (function). And that adds up to desire (fashion). It made sense that Missoni's versions were the best because the label has half a century of family expertise backing up its iconic knitwear. There were as many as nine different fibres woven into Missoni's scarves, and that's the kind of artisanal authenticity which makes for a selling point in these overloaded times (or so I was assured by the man on the Converse stand at the Pitti trade fair in Florence, which precedes the men's fashion schedule in Milan).

A Brobdingnagian wrap might be one response, but no one in Milan made the leap from climactic extremes to sartorial extremes as effortlessly as Vivienne Westwood. Watching her show, I caught myself playing the Alien Visitor Game: travelling across space and time, what would our alien make of human sex? Moving right along, what would he/she/it make of men's clothing as viewed through the prism of Westwood's anarchic eyes? Her bricolage fully acknowledges that fashion for men is often just crazy drag, and her cast of bag gentlemen (the consorts of bag ladies, no?) with their rolled-up mats, their shopping carts full of junk and their outfits marrying Savile Row and Salvation Army fully embodied that idea.

To fully appreciate how convincingly such a point of view comes to Westwood, you only had to look at the latest collection from Roberto Cavalli, where the extraordinary workmanship of tooled leather trousers or a tunic in leather latticework ultimately seemed so far out of time that the soon-to-be-septuagenarian Cavalli's plaint in his press notes – "I wish I were younger and more handsome..." – seemed poignant rather than ludicrous.

At Jil Sander, the sheer functionality of the puffa struck a familiar and appealing chord in the midst of a collection which otherwise felt like it was trying a little too hard to parse the pieces of a man's wardrobe. Raf Simons is an instinctive futurist, but that sometimes means his work errs on the side of abstraction. One key element in this collection was something called "a mobile pocket", a lozenge shape that was incongruously applied to jackets and shirts. It reminded me of the organic forms that hang off sculptor Alexander Calder's mobiles – which could easily be the kind of association that contemporary art buff Simons was courting. Or maybe he'd merely come up with a new place for you to put your phone.

Mind you, Simons's forward-thinking with his fabrics did produce a particularly "important" navy sweater ("importance" is the ne plus ultra in the lexicon of the shadowy folk who pen the explanatory/obfuscatory guff you often find on your seat in Milan). Its thermographic shimmer hinted at outré experiments in laboratories where new textiles are developed.

The influence of technology is scarcely a new story in fashion. At the last womenswear collections in Milan, Alexander McQueen and Nick Knight collaborated on a presentation that was received as the fashion industry's Avatar. And last week, Donatella Versace launched her men down the runway in a rapid-fire salute to Tron, (one of the first movies to use computer graphics, in 1982). But I hadn't actually heard the word nanotechnology in a fashion context until Ennio Capasa, the motivator behind Costume National, talked about joining, say, leather and wool together at a cellular level. In practice, it was essentially an exercise in seamlessly combining textures, but Capasa at least appreciates that the hybrid is a concept which fascinates us all at some primal level. Isn't that part of Avatar's atavistic allure? Neil Barrett, born to a long line of master military tailors, called his latest collection 'Iconic Hybrid', because it dislocated and recombined emblematic items of menswear, such as the biker jacket and the blouson, or the white shirt and the banker's stripe; even the punk badges, wrapped in fabric and stuck on suit lapels, a grown-up acknowledgment of youthful allegiances. They were a charming touch, and yet an indication of the fashion curse: everything new is old already.

No one in the business understands this with greater acuity than Miuccia Prada, which is partly why she has no problem taking shapes, fabrics, and notions that other designers might reject on the grounds of something as banal as good taste and finding novelty in them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but the impetus is always intriguing. Her latest men's collection fell into the not-quite-right category – from the retro geek side of her personality, rather than the dystopian provocateuse – but it was a pleasurable challenge matching the techno environment she'd created for the show with the clothes themselves.

If we're talking atmosphere, there are few to match McQueen, who conceived a charnel house with digital mosaics of skulls and bones to introduce his winter collection of beautifully tailored suits. Well, it's suits, innit, and you need an aide-mémoire to make them stand out. Except McQueen didn't, because his tailoring was also covered with digital prints, some explicit (more skulls, more bones) but others hauntingly abstract and soulful. Maybe that's because he was probing literal roots – bones mouldering in the ground.

A more figurative approach to origins accounted for the week's two strongest shows. This year, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana mark the 20th anniversary of their menswear, and, for winter 2010 their collection pitched the funk of the farmer against the elegance of the aristocrat – archetypes they'd lifted from the films of Luchino Visconti, their original inspiration. And, just in case anyone missed the cinematic connection, the designers back-projected scenes from Baaria, Giuseppe Tornatore's new Sicilian epic.

Christopher Bailey, now Burberry's chief creative officer, also looked back to go forward by manipulating every permutation of the military wear that built Thomas Burberry's business a century ago. The blanket wool of an officer's coat felt utterly authentic, but so, surprisingly, was its fantail back. Still, Bailey was never so literal that he wouldn't turn a shearling-lined aviator jacket inside out to create a gentler version of the same. His up- lifting words for the season – protect, explore and inspire – felt like an exhortation you could carry away with you from Milan. Maybe even apply them to Paris, the next stop on the tour.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
newsJohn Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
i100
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    BI Manager - £50,000

    £49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

    £48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

    VB.Net Developer

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

    SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?

    Some couples are allowed emergency hospital weddings, others are denied the right. Kate Hilpern reports on the growing case for a compassionate cutting of the red tape
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit