MILAN — There was a heat wave in Milan during the recent menswear collections for spring 1989, not only on the street where temperatures hovered in the 90s but at the Fiera di Milano where the Byblos boys, Keith Varty and Alan Cleaver, showed their hot, hot, "heat wave"-themed collection.
Taking their inspiration from the South Seas, the Caribbean and South of the Border, the team stole the 30-odd shows held over a three-day period with their steamy tropical shirts, lightweight washed silks (washed silk continues to be a hot commodity for Southern California retailers), tan-striped ensembles (the sport jacket, shirt, vest, tie and trousers in an outfit are each styled in different gauge stripes) and embroidered shirts and jackets.
They were presented in an elaborately designed still life staged by Italy's super-stylist, Nando Miglio.
Models lounged around a pool with floating palm trees, and a cantina was the focal point of one end of the show space where more models moved to Latin beats or sipped tequila.
Also hot for next spring were the soft suits seen everywhere, in unconstructed, roomy silhouettes that are so lightweight and easy they seem to float on the body. They're fashioned in supple fabrics, such as rayon or viscose blended with natural fibers, and the colors for next season are as cool as this casual look, including pale shades of green (the hot color this season from celadon to celery to sage, though retailers will tell you green is traditionally a no-go at the cash register), icy blues, pinks and lots of ecru.
It's not surprising that Giorgio Armani does the quintessential soft suit, because he has been developing the look for several seasons now. He couples them with equally casual sport shirts with oversize buttons.
Armani also is long on the new short suits--Bermudas with a matching sport jacket--that may send men to the surgeon for a knee lift. The newest look in shorts is longer (to the knee or below), roomy and cut in linen.
The vest has also evolved from a tailored clothing item to a sporty accessory worn to dress down suits or sport jackets or to add some elegant dash to shorts ensembles. Krizia Uomo does a nifty suede version with striped knit collar and waistband that's kin to a baseball jacket.
The most modern approach to clothing next spring is the three-button sport jacket that has roots in Edwardian attire, but looks new after what seems like an eternity of two-button models.