Gucci jockeys for pole position in Milan's race to sports style


A general consensus has been reached: Milanese designers want men kitted-out in high-tech, high definition, but above all high fashion sportswear for next summer.

An athletic ideal had cropped up insistently throughout the three days of shows. The latest protagonist is Frida Giannini, whose spring 2014 Gucci guy is dressed in waterproof macintoshes, nylon t-shirts and stretch leggings, his holdall strapped to his back or slung over the slim shoulder of streamlined, body-hugging tailoring.

Sport is a theme fashion alights on every now and again, pepping up jackets with zips, mesh panels and bonded finishes, and generally kitting rather basic clothing out with tricksy fuss to try and make them look 'techy' and new. Gucci at least has a tradition of sporting attire under its exquisitly-tooled belt: equestrianism. It started as a saddler way back in 1921, still sticking a horsebit on its loafers to remind us of the fact. So the skinny trews Giannini showed were derived from jodhpurs, topped with anything from a techno-stretch cotton suit jacket, to a hyper-luxe white calfskin cagoule, the inside glowing neon yellow. That's hardly practical for any kind of outdoor pursuit above a brisk walk in light drizzle. Then again, despite the sportif motif, the wearers of these clothes are unlikely ever to break a sweat in them.

Alongside the grooms were blooms - a Gucci floral print plastered across everything from billowing silk shirts to those buttock-cleaving second-skin riding trousers. Incongruous? Yes, but more appealing than all those supposedly high-performance  bells and whistles cluttering up your look. This collection was less a race to revolutionise fashion than a leisurely canter round the manège. Entertaining, but we never leapt out of the well-worn paddock to explore pastures fresh.

Giannini's jock may have been schlock, but it was one its more adroit appearances in Milan. Emporio Armani zipped the boys into double-breasted jackets, lasering perforations into wool and leather. Giorgio Armani dubbed the collection 'Digital', but with back-to-the-future touches like mirrored visors and slithery, shiny synthetics in a plasticised palette of beige, grey-blue and silver, Emporio's new clothes felt hopelessly analogue. Massimiliano Giornetti's plastered marathon man numbers across every block-coloured garment in his Salvatore Ferragamo collection, but like a poorly-prepared sprinter it felt thoroughly exhausted before it left the starting block. At Thom Browne's Moncler Gamme Bleu presentation, it was the audience who were fatigued, boiling in an airless warehouse as Browne assembled a cricket white-clad crew of male models on a fake Lords lawn for a quirky team photo. The quilted and cable-knit all-white collection was perfectly fine, playing with that kooky niche of shrunken suiting that Browne has made his own, and the down padding that is synonymous with Moncler. You can't help but feel that a niche can quickly develop into a rut, though, and it feels like we've seen all this before from Browne.

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