Italy is home to many under-the-radar brands that have gained quite a reputation as the go-to labels for wardrobe staples and luxurious casual pieces to mix and match with more fashion-forward items.
Fashion consumers may be into romper suits à la Prada or cropped blazers as seen on the Fendi catwalk, but there’s also a more quotidian need to satisfy: getting dressed with in fashion that makes the wearer look and feel good, with the added value of Made in Italy quality.
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Among those brands responding to this need is Slowear, which has set an international expansion and is opening stores even during the pandemic — the brand is gearing up to unveil a second unit in Manhattan to flank its current New York locations in SoHo and Brooklyn. Slowear is more of an incubator for affordable luxury brands under its umbrella that span from pants-maker Incotex and Zanone for knitwear, to shirtmaker Glanshirt and the Montedoro outerwear brand.
“Formalwear as we used to know it is probably gone for good and replaced with more technical and performance-driven items,” said the company’s chief executive officer Roberto Compagno at the brand’s showroom. Cue a range of suits with drawstring pants worn with simple white T-shirts and lightweight duster coats bearing a tartan pattern and crafted from a technical fabric that is stretch and wrinkle-free.
Zanone’s knitwear expertise — a strong category in men’s wear for several seasons — was highlighted in the jersey knits crafted from high-quality Ice Cotton offered in a wide-ranging color palette, while chino and Bermuda pants came relaxed, with the brand almost entirely foregoing slim fits in favor of roomier silhouettes. The mix built a casual and refined wardrobe for contemporary men, who might not want to wear a suit and tie anytime soon and would probably trade it with a piece from the recently launched Incotex Blue Division, a range of luxury denim launched under license with Giada SpA.
Making the opposite trip from the U.S. to Italy seeking premium fabrics and the quality of Italian manufacturing, Brett Johnson presented his luxurious collection at the brand’s showroom in central Via Manzoni, opened in 2019. The attention to details and knowledge of the yarns and materials stood out in a spring lineup that was all about the quintessentially Milanese relaxed and easy attitude.
Inspired by the cobblestone streets of Portofino, Johnson worked a diamond-shaped quilted effect on butter soft cashmere suede varsity jackets, while T-shirts in a range of neutral tones and aquamarine greens were elevated basics crafted from sea island cotton. The brand’s luxurious casualwear — at times injected with sportswear references — was in full display on silk seersucker blazers paired with denim pants featuring real horn buttons and on solaro field jackets treated with a honey wax.
After letting the lease for his Manhattan store expire as the pandemic was spreading, Johnson is now gearing up to open his first international store in Dubai by the end of the year. While admitting that his business was hit by the pandemic, he offered that “luxury has already had a sharp rebound.” To be sure, his laid-back luxe collection has plenty to offer for high-spending customers.
At Eleventy, Marco Baldassari, the brand’s founder and men’s wear creative director, also said he was “optimistic, confident and positive and, after long seasons of sportswear and activewear, we are [returning] to pure rediscovered elegance.”
“The pleasure of a new freedom and the desire for self care brings the blazer back to the center of our wardrobe,” he added. For spring, the men’s wear staple was made ultra-light as intended to be worn even outside the office, for occasions such as summer weekends’ gateways or to go to the gym.
Blazer jackets in lightweight seersucker fabric were layered over denim shirts and paired with chino pants or even comfy fleece shorts, while double-breasted options had a relaxed flair, ideal for returning to take an “aperitivo” in style.