5 Brands to Watch at Milan Men’s Fashion Week

Alessandra Turra, Sandra Salibian and Martino Carrera
·11 min read

With the digital edition of Milan Men’s Fashion Week kicking off today, WWD selected five new names to watch this season. Will be they be able to bring excitement to a schedule missing some big names, including Gucci, Versace and Bottega Veneta?

FEDERICO CINA

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Born and raised in the countryside, in Italy’s northwestern Romagna region, Federico Cina studied at Polimoda in Florence, got a fashion design master’s degree in Osaka, Japan, worked at Brooks Brothers between Italy and New York and then at Emilio Pucci in Milan. However, he quickly realized he was not cut out for the big city and in 2018 went back home, to Cesena.

“I missed the healthy lifestyle, that well-being of the place I belong to way too much,” said Cina. However, that didn’t mean setting aside his fashion dreams. On the contrary, in January 2019 he showed his first collection at Alta Roma, paying tribute to the traditions and cultural heritage of the Romagna region.

Cina, who scooped the Who’s On Next talent scouting award in July 2019, made the celebration of local Italian patterns and techniques the signature trait of his namesake brand, which last September launched its online store.

Cina last spring also collaborated with MSGM on a capsule collection. “[MSGM founder and creative director] Massimo [Giorgetti] and I are from the same area, but he was born by the sea, I in the countryside,” said Cina. “I reached out because I thought that it would be interesting to combine MSGM’s iconic pop spirit with my more nostalgic and traditional view of Romagna’s heritage. Massimo liked the idea and he gave me the chance to work together on some pieces for his spring 2021 lineup.”

At Milan Men’s Fashion Week, Cina will digitally present a fall 2021 collection, called “A Emilia,” inspired by pioneering Italian photographer Guido Guidi’s “On the Road,” a book that collects a range of images Guidi shot between 1980 and 1994 on the Via Aemilia, which was originally created during the second-century B.C. and now connects Rimini to Milan. “This has a symbolic value since this season I wanted to connect references to the tradition of Romagna’s countryside to a more urban, contemporary attitude perfectly embodied by the city of Milan,” Cina said.

According to the designer, while a range of prints and patterns will reference the 17th-century hand-printing techniques traditionally used to decorate tablecloths in the Romagna region, silhouettes will anchor the collection to a metropolitan, contemporary lifestyle.

“The lineup will offer a very realistic, gender-fluid wardrobe, spanning from sartorial pieces to sweatshirts,” said the designer, who highlighted that his collections are entirely made in Italy.

Positioned in the advanced contemporary segment, Federico Cina retails from 110 euros for T-shirts to 1,100 euros for outerwear.

The fall 2021 collection will be unveiled through a fashion film that Cina conceived “as a novel, where objects, which evoke memories and feelings, become the characters of a story.” — Alessandra Turra

TOKYO JAMES

Savile Row tailoring and traditional African techniques and textiles converge in the work of Nigerian-British designer Iniye Tokyo James, who established his namesake brand four years ago with the goal of bridging the gap between the two continents.

His beginnings didn’t follow the traditional route of a fashion education, as James started his creative career as a stylist for music videos and magazines while studying mathematics in London. “I had always wanted to see the clothing I now create: men’s wear with an African-British flair, and this made a yearning to start my own brand,” recalled the designer.

The label’s aesthetic mirrors the duality of his roots in its combination of sartorial elements with a streetwear sensibility, delivered through deconstructed silhouettes crafted from bold fabrics and colorful patterns. Retailing at prices ranging from 175 pounds to 1,800 pounds, the brand’s collections are available online at Browns Fashion, Farfetch and The Folklore, among others.

Operating between London and Lagos, Nigeria, this season the label will decamp from London Fashion Week to show its fall 2021 collection as part of the Milan schedule, in a debut that James defined as “a great opportunity” and “a chance to introduce the brand and our offering to a new set of people, editors, stylists and buyers.”

Dubbed “Ogidi Okunrin,” which translates into “‘The Strong Man” in English, the collection will nod to the ’60s images of famed Malian photographer Malick Sidibé and his subjects to revisit the traditional British Dandy aesthetic. Cut-outs, vivid colors and textures ranging from sequins and embossed leather to nylon and fine knits, as well as details such as chained hardware, will combine to offer a different take on masculinity, James observed.

“This season we played with woven raffia fabric, which is new for us and was made by a group of local artisans here in Nigeria,” said James, explaining that the fabric was used to give structure to suits and biker jackets. Also new, the brand will launch the “Ata Rodo” bag, a scotch bonnet pepper-shaped accessory inspired by a food staple of some African cultures.

Recalling the process of readying the collection, James said that the brand had to make quick adjustments to accommodate the changes caused by COVID-19. “Main challenges have been around budgets, mobility, fabric sourcing, and managing situations with staff who can’t make it to the studio due to the virus or state limitations. Like many brands, we are just trying to keep our heads above water and get past these troublesome times,” he said.

The label will unveil the collection on Jan. 17 through a video that will reference the Yoruba heritage of the designer and will nod to the “the Celestial Church, a form of Christianity and the ‘Eyo Masquerade’ festival that takes place once a year in Lagos,” concluded James. — Sandra Salibian

LAGOS SPACE PROGRAMME

In today’s tumultuous fashion landscape, the value of identity is increasingly becoming a key aspect of designers’ approach.

Nigeria-born, nonbinary Adeju Thompson, who goes by the pronouns they/them, have been embracing their cultural background since they established Lagos Space Programme in 2018.

“It was important to tell an alternate story of Nigeria and Africa from a vulnerable perspective, to create clothing informed by the intersections of my lived experience — [as a] queer, Yoruba and Black [designer]. Breaking myths around African design,” they said.

For fall 2021 they will decamp to Milan taking part in the upcoming Milan Men’s Fashion Week, with a collection to be presented digitally on Jan. 15 at 4 p.m. CET that’s about breaking the rules of normative fashion.

They describe their approach as experimental, ruptured and “informed by my identity as nonbinary. It really starts with me creating clothes I want to wear. It’s also very important for me to do this via the cultural lens,” they offered.

Instead of going by the traditional seasonal model, Lagos Space Programme is a project-based fashion brand. “This allows us to really expand our ideas in a slow, well-researched and deliberate manner,” Thompson said. That approach is fitting when it comes to involving local artisans including female dyers from Osogbo, Nigeria, and bronze casters to make jewelry, hardware and sculptural accessories. The pandemic has even accelerated that approach, increasing the importance of the slow and ethical framework within which the brand operates.

The upcoming collection, or Project 5, is “informed by clothing as spiritual objects through the lens of queer archetypes within Yoruba society,” the designer explained. Titled “Aṣọ Lànkí, Kí Ató Ki Ènìyàn” which translates into “we greet dress before we greet its wearer,” it adheres to the gender-bending ritual known as Gélédé, through which the Yoruba people, an ethnic group that inhabits Western Africa, especially Nigeria, celebrate female ancestors, deities and the community’s elderly women — all embodied by men.

To wit, silhouettes are languid in draped tank tops and slipdresses, or voluminous in folded gowns. In keeping with one of the brand’s signature codes, prints are the result of an ongoing exploration of the natural indigo dyeing technique. To reflect the handiwork that goes into every piece, including homeware, the collection is priced between $300 and $5,000.

Despite their aspirational approach, Thompson has also more mundane goals for Lagos Space Programme, including dressing singer Arca from Venezuela and Naira Marley, a rapper from their native country of Nigeria. — Martino Carrera

SOLID HOMME

 

While being well-established in South Korea, where it was founded by creative director and chief executive officer Woo Young Mi 30 years ago and where it’s sold in 30 stores, Solid Homme is still almost unknown to international consumers. For this reason, Young Mi decided to show her fall 2021 collection during Milan Men’s Fashion Week.

“Solid Homme has a long history in Seoul — a city full of fashion-forward young people — and it has always been the leader of the Korean men’s wear market for the whole time,” said the designer. “In terms of the brand’s identity as well as its history, I believe Solid Homme has been fully ready to expand to the global market. Before it is too late, we want to introduce Solid Homme to the global market through the official fashion channel of Milan Fashion Week.”

For the fall 2021 lineup, Young Mi said she was inspired by the “New Olds: Design Between Tradition and Innovation” exhibition organized in Guangzhou by IFA, Germany’s oldest intermediary organization for international cultural relations. “These days, ‘sustainability’ has become a hot topic, and the phrase ‘design between tradition and innovation’ brought me ideas on this collection,” she explained. “I tried to use vintage fabrics such as corduroy and herringbone to reinterpret a modern viewpoint, just like ‘new olds’.”

The designer also focused on clean, essential silhouettes, as well as on fitted, but never too slim volumes, while the color palette featured shades of butter, jade, salmon, cornflower blue and teal green.

The Solid Homme fall 2021 collection, which will retail from 150 euros for T-shirts to 1,000 euros for coats, will be presented through a digital event.

“I believe the coolest way to introduce fashion brands and the only way to focus on looks is the catwalk. However, the traditional catwalk could not present every details of each look. In other words, runway shows are only able to show the overall mood of the season,” said the designer. “Solid Homme might look minimal and clean, however, it has its own iconic and unique details, which differentiate Solid Homme from other brands. The digital runway will help enhance its strength point through close-up details of looks.” — A.T.

GALL

Protective gear has been all the rage throughout 2020 as the pandemic was spiraling globally but Rome-based brand Gall has been offering goth-tinged and at times dystopian fashion since cofounders Justin Gall and Chiara Nardelli established the label in 2013.

Gall said he has always wanted to challenge that nostalgic feeling he sees as too often spreading in the fashion world and replace it with unconventional ideas, equipping his customers with functional attire to face tough moments.

The couple, who lacked formal design training, launched the men’s fashion brand out of a desire to push the boundaries of the modern men’s wardrobes, drawing references from the military and utilitarian worlds.

After a few seasons taking part in Rome-based showcase Altaroma, they felt ready to make a jump and debut on a more international stage, holding their fall 2021 show during Milan Fashion Week with a fashion film. The latter will center on a single character, played by model Luca Filippi, in pursuit of his different personalities. Gall described it as an “introspective quest,” and a new chapter to follow the spring 2021 presentation called “Schism.”

“This collection will be a continuation of our previous efforts, with elements that are kind of an evolution of styles we explored in the past,” said Gall, hinting at the consistency of the brand’s lexicon refreshed with new experiments with high-tech fabrics and dyeing techniques.

A modular and multilayered approach runs through each of the brand’s collections and fall 2021 is no exception. Hooded puffer jackets mingle with rubberized raincoats and matching pants with drawstrings around the knees, while a subtle camouflage motif adorns pocketed jackets with a military feel.

With a varied price tag that spans from 60 euros for smaller accessories up to 1,200 euros for outerwear, Gall is available internationally at Berlin’s Orimono, Politix in Los Angeles and Feuille in Vancouver, Canada, among others. — M.C.

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