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Menswear Fall 2002

Return to a Manly State of Grace

Eschewing all that's funky, designers go for the refined.


MILAN, Italy — Designers are calling their army of male fashion followers to order: No more haphazard style, no grunge, funk or other offbeat fashion statements.

The time has come for staid, elegant dressing. This is the fall-winter 2002-2003 message from designers who showed their menswear collections this week.

Starting from traditional oxfords and loafers for footwear, Prada shaped a silhouette based on the classic male wardrobe, where detail makes the modern difference. A camel-hair coat, for example, is turned inside-out to reveal the waterproof lining; classic slacks have a silk waistband; a zipper replaces buttons on a plain white shirt. At the same time, a tailored, three-piece tweed suit is worn with a baseball cap and multicolored running shoes.

Ralph Lauren made his European debut showing his elegant Purple Label collection. Some see the descent of the American designer on Milan as a challenge to Giorgio Armani, undisputed icon of the "made in Italy" tailored style. But Lauren denied it in an interview with the International Herald Tribune.

"I'm not taking on Armani; I'm not taking on anyone," he said. Lauren said his goal was simply to make an impact in Europe.

He had no reason to worry. His collection of three-piece tweed suits, lounge jackets in silk and velvet, tails coupled with rugged jeans and a heavy knit turtleneck received a standing ovation.

Also in the mood for ultra-elegance, Tom Ford for Gucci presented a series of tuxedos and coat and tails that are sure to be the hit of next year's gala events. Ford matched his exquisite outfits with jeweled buttons and stiff, colored evening shirts minus the traditional bow tie.

Gucci's daytime wear harkens back to the 1930s, with wide-lapeled, double-breasted jackets paired with oversized trousers, ostentatious, fur-lined trench coats and wide-brimmed fedoras covering slicked-back hair. A silk scarf is tied provocatively around the neck, but Ford prefers a simple V-neck T-shirt to the traditional shirt.

Armani is famous for producing perfectly balanced collections with just the right proportion of tradition, innovation and good taste, and this show was no exception.

Daytime was a perfect mixture of classic single-breasted suits to wear to the office, double-breasted for a more suave look, knit sweaters and casual slacks. Overcoats were mainly based on the trench coat, with oversized buttons, but no belt. Classic lace-ups were the favorite footwear.

Armani also embraced the return to formal evening wear with a series of minimalist tuxedos whose high black collar over a white shirt lent a priestly air to the collection.

Of late, he has been trashing the glitz of the fashion world with such statements as "luxury disgusts me" and "elegance should be available to all." His Emporio collection was dedicated to the working class.

As for how he will reconcile this new ethic with designer prices, Armani pointed out that a pair of his Emporio jeans costs less than $100, one-tenth the price of an upscale Armani suit.

Donatella Versace embraced the "real guy" look, featuring a casual West Coast style of jean vests and motorcycle jackets. But she couldn't let go of the rock 'n' roll glam that has become the trademark of her menswear, with elaborate Gothic designs adorning luxurious silk shirts and lavish brocade coats. For the first time she used a personalized logo, DV, that appeared on ties and almost everywhere else.

The Fendis, always quick to find new ways to carry money--witness the success of the "baguette" handbag--brought back the "borsello," the men's handbag popular in the 1960s.

Dolce & Gabbana came up with a melting pot of different types, from the boyish rascal to the refined gentleman. There is the jock in the parka with the fox fur-trimmed hood, the country farmer in his best Sunday suit, the university intellectual with hand-knit pullover and extra long scarf, and the dandy with his elegant blouse and velvet trousers.

To underline their theme, the duo used 54 models ranging in age from 19 to 57, accompanied by such runway queens as Naomi Campbell and Eva Herzigova.

Gabbana said, "It's all about finding your personality type."

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