YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Spaghetti Western in Menswear: Italian Fashion Has U.S. Flavor

January 24, 1986|TIMOTHY HAWKINS

MILAN, Italy — Many traditional American men's looks have been reborn, Italian style, for fall, 1986.

In Milan showings and at the Pitti Uomo fashion fair in Florence, shapes and fabrics long familiar to American men have been translated, refined and combined--often in a baroque way--for an Italian look as rich and varied as an antipasto.

The basic checked or plaid sport jacket, for example, is woven in a more exaggerated scale and often artfully blended with a deep-tone, striped shirt and a richly patterned tie made even richer by a Jacquard texture in the weave. A vest in a paisley or tapestry pattern, trousers in a striped or textured weave and a pair of argyle socks add to the fashion menu.

And an overcoat in a big plaid or checked pattern often adds yet another layer to this bold blend of patterns and textures.

The emphasis on bolder patterning of suit and sport coat fabrics may be the designers' way of making traditional checks, plaids, tweeds and twills look new.

The Italians refer to these new treatments of old standards with terms such as "roughly woven, graphic, technological, 3-D or special effects."

Gianni Versace's intricate weaves and overscale checks and plaids in gradations of gray on voluminous suits are the boldest examples of this geometric progression in fabric.

Though this may all sound as overwhelming as a pizza with everything on it, men needn't fear they'll get fashion indigestion. The Italians combine these patterns and textures in a single outfit in such a way as to create a look that's refined rather than flamboyant.

Ermenegildo Zegna--who showed along with 237 other exhibitors at the Pitti Uomo menswear event--said his lush-yet-refined fall line was inspired by Italy's "Golden Age" at the turn of the century, exemplified by poet Gabriele D'Annunzio.

"It was a time in which details, refinement, sophistication and quality were important," Zegna said. "It's a very dapper look."

Zegna's tapestry vests with lapels, his paisley ties and patterned cashmere jackets have a quality of baroque splendor.

"We wanted to do something with a little class," said Keith Varty and Alan Cleaver, who design for the Milan-based Byblos firm. Their touches of class for fall include a bold houndstooth-checked sport jacket with natty Chesterfield collar. It's coupled with a contrasting, windowpane-plaid vest. His gray flannel jackets have embroidered lapels, and his shirts are in heroic crest prints.

Luxury of Layers

The Byblos design team advocates the luxury of layers with double overcoats of checked and solid fabric, sport jackets in camel with a double lapel of contrasting camel and black wool and a white Jacquard formal shirt with a white collar layered over a black satin collar.

The designers also inject some rich humor into their line with a group of Western looks they call "Paris, Texas."

This group includes bold Hermes-like print shirts bearing horses and six-guns and a blanket-wool vest with fringe at the bottom.

The Pitti Uomo show precedes the Milan designer shows by a few days and provides an opportunity to see the broad trends of the season before the big names, like Giorgio Armani and Versace, make their individual statements.

In addition to the mix/blend look, which was often shown in a basic palette of black, white and gray accented with deep-tone colors that might be found in a tapestry, the big color of the season to emerge was green in various shades.

At Mila Schon, loden green was the theme color and described as "Wagnerian" in inspiration, in keeping with the grand style now prevalent in Italian fashion.

Italian fabrics include silks, velvets, cashmeres, alpacas and lambs' wool. Silhouettes, in general, are traditional, although there's a softening of jacket construction and a slight rounding of jacket shoulders.

Shirts have a softer look, with collars that haven't been stiffened. Trousers are cut comfortably full. It's a continuation of the trend in recent seasons to the blending of sportswear and dress clothing into one look of casual elegance. The result is clothes that adapt to day-for-night and night-for-day dressing.

Luciano Soprani explains it this way: "There is no longer time to change three times a day, so I'm interested in one look--what I call neo-formalism. I'm giving more formality to my informal wear and taking the formality away from dressy clothes. There's really no more sportswear."

Soprani calls the turtleneck sweater--which is the one item that turned up in almost every Italian collection for fall--the operative look in his collection. It operates with or without a jacket and can be worn for day and into the night.

Though Soprani mixes fabrics, textures and patterns in his collection, he manages to make his outfits look clean and simple rather than baroque because of the subtle way in which he does it, and because of his earth-tone color palette. The kimono-sleeves on his overcoats also make a traditional item look modern.

Geometric Patterns

Los Angeles Times Articles