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Spring 2003

Casual Luxe

Menswear drops formalities but not the finer things in life

July 01, 2002|From Times Wire Reports

MILAN, Italy — The spring 2003 man is a relaxed and discerning dresser. After decades of dictated styles, the male customer is learning to pick and choose in the ever-growing menswear market and designers are letting him make up his mind.

The ideas offered during the five-day Italian menswear previews last week ran the gamut from three-piece, pinstriped suits to bikini beachwear. Overall, the look is casual rather than formal, with a touch of luxury and Asia in embroidered silks and satins.

Lucky is the man who is a faithful Giorgio Armani customer. This round he will rediscover the pleasure of ultra-light fabrics in soft grays and blues that have made the Armani suit the softest uniform on Earth.

He will also be able to indulge in exotic fashions, from Nehru shirts to jodhpur trousers, from kimono tops to wide fisherman pants. Floral printed shirts and trousers, which have made a big comeback this season, lend a holiday--but never touristy--feel to the collection. The latest Armani jacket has a wide lapel, a narrow waist, and follows the hips.

Ralph Lauren, who made his Italian debut in January, opts for a more formal approach. Staged here in his downtown palazzo decorated in the trademark "welcome to my home" style for which he is famous, the luxury Purple Label collection tells a tale of garden parties, crew races and nights in the Ivy League bar.

Superbly woven cotton tweed jackets are worn with lightweight gray slacks, a contrasting vest complete with watch chain, bold tie and striped shirt with white round collar. Class is a way of life to the Lauren boys who wear their hair in a wispy pageboy parted on the side and can afford to shed socks under formal footwear.

Calvin Klein continued his minimalist story with sleek suits in techno Japanese fabrics, or crumpled linen.

Dolce & Gabbana brought the whole family to the beach, setting up everything from sand to pails, beach balls to tables and umbrellas in the middle of the runway. The collection was based entirely on Americana sportswear: baseball jackets and caps, surfer shorts, extra-large cargo pants and the omnipresent distressed jeans.

Donatella Versace took a tougher view of fashion fun with her secondary Versus line, sending her boys down a dark runway for some black-leather and chain-gang entertainment. The lights dimmed as tough guys in chain-belted, tight black leather trousers, heavy-duty black leather bomber jackets over printed shirts and sharp studded boots marched down the runway to blaring heavy-metal music.

But the sexiest thing seen on the runways was Tom Ford's Gucci guy. He's rich, relaxed and even risque, but never rough nor raunchy. He wears his clothes with a casual nonchalance, as symbolized by the straw hat he sports with every outfit, tipped at a perfect cocky angle.

Ford's "California Dreamer" likes his pants tight at the waist but loose on the leg. His jacket is tapered with an extra-long sleeve, and although he prefers to be bare-chested he doesn't shun a shirt and tie. His mood is definitely Eastern, with silk bomber jackets embroidered with erotic scenes, sumptuous kimono robes, silk slippers and his hair tied in a tiny ponytail.

"My man is a rock star in love with Japan, a country both very relaxed and very sensual," Ford said after his much-applauded show.

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