At Pitti Uomo, Three Guest Designers Celebrated Ambivalence And A Gentler Vision Of Masculinity
What could Luke & Lucie Meier, Telfar Clemens and Stefano Pilati possibly have in common? Their vision of masculinity at Pitti Uomo, which in our post #MeToo world emphasized the ambiguity -and pleasures- of a softer, more sensitive man.
Luke & Lucie Meier understand the quiet luxury of Jil Sander and the importance of textile within the brand’s DNA. Their last menswear collection, presented in the heart of the stunning Complesso di Santa Maria Novella -a Gothic-Renaissance gem located close to the station- exuded calm and confidence, emphasizing their vision of a Renaissance man navigating through turbulent times. There was nothing raw of aggressive about the show, which seemed as pared-down as the clothes themselves.
Focusing on substantial outerwear, the Meiers offered generous tailoring and protective coats, whether double-breasted, military-inspired or monk-like, as well as capes and fringed shawls worn across the shoulders. The effect was strangely monastic, as if their men were on a spiritual mission towards redemption. Was this a symbolic message that macho men had, in fact, become a dying breed? While models carried structured handbags on their shoulder -an overtly feminine gesture- and Björk’s voice added soulfulness to the soundtrack, it became clear that the designers were offering their own version of gender-bending, albeit in their own subtle way.
The color palette used by the Meiers echoed this feeling of a tender, more caring man, from delicate pastels to foundation beige and chic grays. A model wearing an oversize suede safari suit with a small bucket bag demonstrated that cute accessories were no longer the privileged realm of women. Now, that’s a major step towards equality.
Telfar Clemens has been dressing his friends and community for years, and there’s a reality to his work which is hard to resist. The brand is affordable, too, and the designer proved that democratic doesn’t have to mean dull. That’s already a key achievement.
In a press preview given to selected journalists the morning of his show at Palazzo Corsini, Telfar Clemens surprised everyone with his blunt honesty and unpretentious air. Being invited by Pitti Uomo as a Guest Designer is a true honor, but Telfar was not going to change just to adapt to new surroundings. There’s something very satisfactory about a designer who relies solely on his own instincts, and it feels like it’s the rightmoment for the brand. The industry has finally caught-up with the self-made designer who is now in his mid-30s. With some of his production taking place in Europe, Clemens has been flying back and forth between the North of Italy and New York, and it seems that Italian decadence may have lured him in.
The collection he showed at Pitti was irreverent, dynamic and sensual, exposing new body parts and playing with gender bending. During the press preview, Clemens explained how he had always been into women’s clothes as a teenager, because they were more streamlined and fitted him better. His key silhouette for the show was long and lean, inspired by the body conscious pieces worn by bikers. Fitted flared jeans were back, as well as pussy bow sleeveless blouses and skinny leather pants. The designer did make reference to Renaissance costumes and his ruched velvet “gypsy” pants -as he described them himself- felt rathermedieval. It was wonderful to see him experiment with hybrid garments once again, mixing cable knit with leather or sweat jersey with puffer nylon.
The designer’s ambivalent approach towards masculinity took us back to Berlin’s atmosphere in the 1920s, a city Pilati is still based in. The decadence of the local clubbing scene and all its excesses must have inspired his vision, and although it felt contemporary, was it really transgressive? It takes more than a few men in high heels to achieve the thrill of sexual frisson.
This was the return of cherished Italian designer Stefano Pilati on the runway, and expectations were running high among the crowd standing at Stazione Leopolda. Was Pilati going to deliver and give us a new menswear direction? This was a fine collection, which in many ways felt self-referential. Pilati closed the show himself and it was amusing to see incarnations of the designer walking down the runway. Pilati’s key message was sharp tailoring, which he wanted to subvert with a gender-bending casting and heels for guys, whether properly stacked ones or cozier platform styles.
Pilati does cut a mean pantsuit and his versions looked great on men and women alike. Often belted and paired with kinky accessories, such as a leather neck brace that was pure Helmut Newton, to silver chain mail used for bags and bras, as well as a bizarre take on the loincloth. Those styling touches felt gimmicky and unnecessary at times because they distracted you from the beauty and pure lines of the tailoring