Full-throttle design is why people buy high fashion. If you're laying out a considerable chunk of money for a garment, it has to be imbued with identity and created with integrity. It has to propose something new. That's a challenge to many designers, especially in menswear and particularly in Italy, where a reverence for the country's tailoring heritage can often conceal a lack of fresh ideas.
Stefano Pilati is full of those, Which is why his autumn/winter 2014 collection for Ermenegildo Zegna was so infuriating. Pilati had hare-brained notions about a trio of international metropolises (New York, Shanghai, Milan), the universe and "city vs country".
He pointed his seating away from his catwalk and projected a film ricocheting through said cities across a gargantuan screen as models scurried up and down a catwalk jutting through the centre. They resembled ushers at an Imax fruitlessly attempting to find seats. And no one paid them very much attention. More's the pity, because what Pilati is doing is very clever, twisting traditional tailoring archetypes like the double-breasted suit and camel coat to create something different, challenging but eminently wearable. Ultimately, Pilati's onanistic multimedia excursions should serve as the backdrop to his design, not drown it out entirely.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana don't do things by halves. This season, their mining of the traditions of Sicily reached new levels of tenuous. Did you know the Normans invaded in 1061? That was a rough justification for Dolce & Gabbana going medieval.
Oddly, this was a satisfying performance, translating Middle Age garb relatively effectively to the modern-day wardrobe. The prevalent silhouette was macho and swaggering, a tabard-length sweater or oversized overcoat thrown over slender jeans. It finds an easy reflection in contemporary streetwear.
Dolce's creations were bedazzled with giant paste jewels or printed with soaring Gothic architecture or plate armour, but still looked good. Even a chain-mail coif can work for the 21st century, as a cable-knit hoodie. It slid into am-dram at times: patchwork suits looked too court jester to have life outside of a Robin Hood remake. But it had enthusiasm, and emotion, behind it. We can forgive excesses in both.
This season, the clothes at Jil Sander were designed by an in-house team – an interim measure until a replacement for the eponymous founder is named. This collection was, in effect, a stop-gap. And felt like it. Hatched with quilting and in a muted palette of purple, green and grey, the collection had unity. What it missed was anything unique.