The Relaxed Suit Rules Milan for Spring 2023

·20 min read

MILAN —  “It was terrific to be back in Milan.”

The comment from Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, echoed the general sentiment of retailers in the city, after the mainly digital menswear shows of recent seasons due to the pandemic. Pask said Milan Men’s Fashion Week, which closed on Tuesday, “really highlighted the best of Italian menswear. We saw the real strength of collections that epitomize the craftsmanship, creativity and supreme quality of the ‘made in Italy’ moniker. There was an assertion of brands here doing what they do best, representing tradition with great development and forward thinking. There was lightness and fluidity, a casual elegance to a lot of the collections we saw, and a real assertion of spring seasonality that was refreshing.”

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To be sure, while a return of tailoring was welcomed by retailers, designers opted for a more modern, nonchalant take on suits, often offered as separates. Soft fabrics and comfort were key, as was lightness and a sense of freedom and ease. “There’s an underlying message about having fun getting dressed again,” said Jian DeLeon, Nordstrom Inc. men’s fashion and editorial director.

Denim is back, washed and faded and in a new relaxed version — no sign of stretch or body-hugging styles anywhere. Refreshing color palettes and plenty of Bermuda shorts contributed to the summery feel of the looks. Trends included fuller proportions, light knitwear and innovative luxurious fabrics.

Retailers relished the experience of Zegna’s show at the company’s headquarters with a view of Oasi Zegna and Prada’s always innovative set, which added excitement to the events. The two brands — together with Fendi, Versace and Brioni — were also among the favorites of the season.

Here is a roundup of what buyers had to say:

Reginald Christian, men’s fashion market manager at Saks Fifth Avenue

Favorite collections: Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons presented a highly anticipated show that signified the importance of a timeless collection. There was a perfect balance of youthfulness and fundamental dressing. Suits were sharp and tailored, and overcoats were red-checkered and playful. Ms. Prada and Mr. Simons provided us with the best wardrobe choices for spring, from striped knitwear to denim shirting and shorts. The collection, walked against a backdrop famed by architect Rem Koolhaas, provided an environment that was equally as elegant and timeless. Versace showcased a collection filled with powerful and self-expressive pieces that signified Donatella’s return and commitment to menswear. The Zegna collection was a testament to the beauty, journey and interrelation of fashion and sustainability. Silvia Fendi’s collection for Fendi felt highly wearable with the incorporation of directional patterns and fabrications that honored familiar menswear silhouette codes.

Best presentation concept: Kiton, Canali and Santoni.

Trendspotting: We are seeing trends reflect the evolution of the post-pandemic wardrobe. The customer is looking to return to the art of dressing without losing the touch of comfort they have learned to appreciate, which was seen in key trends such as soft tailoring, deconstructed blazers, updated formalwear, silk shirting, denim wovens, open knitwear, relaxed denim pants, short suits, crochet, linen blends, technical and terry fabrications, rubber clogs, double bags and lanyard bags.

Santoni, spring 2023 - Credit: Courtesy image/Santoni
Santoni, spring 2023 - Credit: Courtesy image/Santoni

Courtesy image/Santoni

Must-have item: A relaxed linen blend double-breasted sport coat.

General comment on the season: Milan’s Men’s Fashion Week was a celebration of charisma, casual elegance, modern tailoring and sustainably-minded collections. With the heatwave in Milan, our team was even more attentive to seasonal fabrications and discovering the most relevant products. An overall sense of happiness, ease and lightness was seen throughout the collections, such as JW Anderson and Giorgio Armani. Linen blends, relaxed silhouettes, and sporty yet sophisticated, technical pieces took center stage with refreshing color palettes like powder blue, mellow-yellow, neon green and pink incorporated throughout. The week overall represented a positive return of men’s fashion and felt like a stamp of approval for a new era of menswear.

Bosse Myhr, Selfridges director of menswear and womenswear

Favorite collections: JW Anderson’s arrival in Milan was certainly a highlight. The collection featured a variety of abstract looks that looked fantastic against the disused factory backdrop.

Best presentation concept: The Prada show setup is always hard to beat. A giant supersized paper house provided an excellent and beautiful backdrop for the collection. Also, the Zegna presentation outside Milan. It was on the roof of the Zegna factory. Just at sunset models started to walk out and showed a beautiful elegant collection with sneakers looking exceptional.

Trendspotting: It’s time to dust off those tailored jacket as there is definitely a more sophisticated and structured approach this season that we observed. Sharply tailored suits and mix-and-match jackets are probably the must have this season. The other trend we sensed was Venice Beach, Dsquared2 being a prime example.

Buying process: It was hot this season — temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius [104 degrees Fahrenheit] at some shows. However, after two years of mainly video presentations and remote buying, it for sure is great to be back in person.

General comment on the season: Milan put up a great show overall.

Jian DeLeon, Nordstrom men’s fashion and editorial director

Favorite collections: The electric brights at Versace were an early standout, as well as the use of the house’s signature ceramics as high-end accessories. Prada’s reimagining of menswear pieces like trenchcoats and Harrington jackets in Western-esque ginghams that were complemented by their new cowboy boots [stodd out]. Our Legacy’s relaxed take on tailoring and innovative interpretations of denim looked especially great this season. Zegna’s imaginative tailoring and new footwear collaboration with Mr. Bailey — shown in the heart of Oasi Zegna — showed why it’s one of the most exciting Italian brands we’re working with at the moment.

Backstage at Zegna Men’s Spring 2023 - Credit: Vanni Bassetti/WWD
Backstage at Zegna Men’s Spring 2023 - Credit: Vanni Bassetti/WWD

Vanni Bassetti/WWD

Best presentation concept: Prada’s paper runway built inside the Fondazione Prada was a sight to behold.

Trendspotting: Cobalt blue is definitely a statement color making a prominent comeback. The influence of the 1970s on louche tailoring, wovens and trousers is only reinforced by the recent announcement that Harry Styles will be working on a collection with Gucci inspired by the era’s rockers.

Must-have item: A New York Knicks-inspired check suit made from a recycled cotton blend from Angelo Urrutia’s 4SDesigns.

General comment on the season: Spring 2023 reflects a relaxed approach to tailoring and new ways for men to look as elegant as ever.

Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director of Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman

Favorite collections: Fendi’s fresh take on denim, with fringed jean shorts, tote bags, pullovers and fuller-legged five pockets was great. Breezy, fluid tailoring with center vents split right up the back worn with shorts gave the collection an easy sophistication. Brioni’s collection was the epitome of the quiet elegance we’ve seen this season, with an airiness to the impeccably soft tailoring and sportswear that was styled with such appealing personality. Kiton’s innovative, luxurious tailored fabrications, chic silhouettes and relaxed knit pairings were a highlight of their first fashion week evening celebration. I really enjoyed the bright saturated colors, soft fabrics and bold, wearable outfit combinations at Massimo Alba. Altea was also a favorite, with great easy sportswear pieces in soft cotton and linen in colorful dyes, prints and vivid solids.

Best presentation concept: Zegna’s runway show held atop the roof of the company’s lanificio in the heart of the Oasi Zegna nature preserve in the hills outside of Milan was truly an unforgettable experience. Alessandro Sartori continued his explorations of proportion and the ease of monochromatic uniform dressing in a properly monumental way, all as the sun just crested the hill. An honorable mention must go to Brioni for its tranquil garden setting at a theological university that was the perfect environment to highlight the lightness, comfort and craftsmanship of Norbert Stumpfl’s elegant collection. Beautifully styled mannequins were placed throughout the courtyard in small groups engaged with each other, heads tilted as if in conversation, with great personality. Drapery shading the walkways gently rippled in the breeze, adding to the airy feeling of the clothing.

Trendspotting: We’re seeing an emphasis on easier, fuller proportions with dropped shoulders and wider-legged pants, especially denim, often puddling over footwear, making a big statement. Linen, a warm weather staple, has been a dominant fabrication in a variety of weights and treatments, in most silhouettes in a wide color palette. Tailoring had a significant presence throughout the collections, especially in lightweight, deconstructed “barely there” jackets styled in relaxed, elegant ways and including a strong component of eveningwear. There has also been a welcome increase in the presence of neckties in dressed up sartorial looks. Bold, saturated color and strong patterns as well as contrasting softer pale, neutral shades, especially in tones of muted greens, were fresh and appealing. We’ve seen a growing presence of casual dress footwear especially in flexible loafers and varieties of slip-ons that will be perfect to add to our customers’ spring options.

Prada, men’s spring 2023 - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD
Prada, men’s spring 2023 - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Must-have item: A Prada checked trenchcoat, a boldly colored plaid sport jacket from Kiton, Fendi denim jeans and shorts, a pale linen suit or sport jacket from Brunello Cucinelli, Brioni’s unconstructed navy seersucker suit, a great jacquard evening jacket, and suede slip-ons.

Damien Paul, head of menswear at Matchesfashion

Favorite collections: Prada was an absolute standout. From the Koolhaas paper set to the outerwear and the boots, it was Raf and Ms. Prada at their strongest. Etro’s sensual approach with transparency, perforations and breezy fabrics was a memorable swan song.

Best presentation concept: They’ve worked together for 18 years, but Koolhaas’ “resistance to luxury” set at Prada was thought-provoking and the pair continue to push concepts together each season.

Trendspotting: Fantastic outerwear and leather shorts at Prada, louche shirting at Etro.

Etro Men’s Spring 2023 - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD
Etro Men’s Spring 2023 - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Must-have item: Wales Bonner belted trench, Wales Bonner denim, basically everything from Wales Bonner and the Prada boot. Oh, and Wales Bonner’s shoes!

General comment on the season: As we felt with Pitti where Wales Bonner stepped it up, there’s a feeling of renaissance this season — looking forward to seeing what we have to come in Paris. We love the elevated mood so far, this will talk directly to the Matchesfashion man.

Justin Berkowitz, men’s fashion director at Bloomingdale’s

Favorite collections: This is our first season back in Milan for the men’s shows, and we could not be more thrilled to be here. Broadly, what I have found interesting is the way each brand has responded to the pandemic, each focusing on their individual approach to meet customer needs. For example, one of the key parts of the conversation is the power of choice; men have more opportunity for individual expression and personal styling than ever before. This was the focus at Prada, where they offered up a little something for everyone — slick tailoring, beautifully washed denim, a wider range of outerwear, and a very cool new sneaker. While perhaps stylistically best known for celebratory apparel that’s ready for the party (and ready everyone is, now) Versace’s bold and brash Saturday evening show was a riotous blast of energy that quirkily brought homewares to the runway. Given the success of the category over the past couple of years, and the brand’s unique presence in the market, it was savvy reminder of their breadth of offer. And finally, with the trip up to the Oasi Zegna, the brand reminded attendees that they have long been focused on environmental causes — their founder began acquiring and preserving the land around his mills more than 100 years ago. Of course, the collection itself also addressed many of the new ideas that intersect tailoring and workwear that are coming to the forefront as people return to the office.

Best presentation concept: Zegna’s runway show on top of their fabric mills offered incredible views alongside a stunning collection; it was an experience that I am sure many will not soon forget.

Trendspotting: The prevalence of tailoring on the runway speaks to the customer’s need for a great suit right now; whether he’s going back to the office, attending a wedding, or simply just wants to dress up for a night on the town, he’s on the hunt. Denim was another consistent theme of the week with great variations at Fendi, Prada and Dolce [& Gabbana]. Shades of the sunset and the desert (rusty oranges, ochre, mustard) were also quite prevalent in resortwear, as was terry cloth. And finally in footwear, we saw the return of more formal styles, skate-inspired sneaker shapes, and the mule.

Must-have item: Prada’s outerwear offer was absolutely incredible this season, with many great options in both solids and checks. I also personally loved Massimo Alba’s double-breasted jackets — rendered in stunning and light linen blends.

General comment on the season: More than anything, it is truly so wonderful to be back in Milan and to see the city exploding with new ideas and energy. Both the legacy tailoring brands and the fashion houses stepped up to the plate with robust collections that we’re excited to offer the Bloomingdale’s customer this season.

Joseph Tang, fashion director at Holt Renfrew

Favorite collections: Prada’s return to simplicity with the slim-cut suit and classic iterations of the Macintosh jacket proved to offer a variety of choices to the customer for this spring. With denim, leathers and hits of gingham, the collection was a standout. Versace’s exciting collection of iconic silk prints paired with fluid tailored trousers and jackets is what everyone will want to wear come spring — with a Versace Casa vase in arm, natch. Brunello Cucinelli’s strong showing of the new suit signaled the return of suiting up again — but this time, your way. Whether styled with a sneaker or a suede espadrille, tailoring has been updated for today’s modern man.

Best presentation concept: Traveling to Oasi Zegna outside of Milan to celebrate the direction of the collection with Alessandro Sartori was an immersive experience into the world of Zegna. The backdrop of the collection truly exemplified the power of the brand.

Trendspotting: The suit is back. A key trend of the week was tailored fluidity in washed silks and summer-weight wool fabrics. From Etro, Giorgio Armani and Brioni, the silhouette for spring is loose and relaxed with an effortless nonchalant ease. Structured denim from Prada and Fendi proves to be a staple for summer. The sustainable iterations from Prada were standouts. The reedition releases of iconic silhouettes and styles from the late ‘90s and early 2000s. As shown by Dolce & Gabbana, the success of archive collections are reinterpreted for today.

Brioni MenÕs Spring 2023 - Credit: Courtesy of Brioni
Brioni MenÕs Spring 2023 - Credit: Courtesy of Brioni

Courtesy of Brioni

Must-have item: The fringed raffia tote from Fendi. A gingham coat from Prada. A linen suit from Brunello Cucinelli. A suede espadrille loafer from Tod’s.

Buying process: Our teams are working through a hybrid buying schedule, but we have prioritized the key European market dates for in-person appointments.

General comment on the season: We are leaving Milan invigorated and energized for what’s to come for the men’s customer this upcoming spring. Throughout the week, designers showcased a strong product offering that will empower a life of self-expression for everyone, which we believe will translate through our own buys.

Raphael Deray, buyer men ready-to-wear luxury and designers for retail and e-commerce at Printemps

Favorite collections: Prada and JW Anderson were my favorites. The first one had a strong nostalgic vibe with very short-shorts, slim tailoring, leather and denim full outfits. It all looked very simple but the details and colors were amazing! JW Anderson was more of an art performance rather than a clothes presentation, and it was great. Also loved the Our Legacy look book.

Best presentation concept: JW Anderson, no doubts. We got to see some looks before the show even started with models as statues at the entrance in a theatrical way. The show was also amazing with art pieces rather than clothes to, in my opinion, address modern subjects. Jonathan looked at the influence of youth culture with the BMX and skateboarding, overconsumption with the bar codes, COVID-19 over the last years with the QR code knit and more.

Trendspotting: Definitely a big trend on pieces that expose the body. Almost every collection had several see-through pieces or cutouts making the hips/chest visible. Versace, 1017 Alyx 9SM, JW Anderson, Etro, Dolce & Gabbana…all of them. Leather was also trendy with loads of full looks, trousers, jackets. Finally, pop colors with some touches of neon yellow, sky blue, deep pink.

Must-have item: Feet jewelry (thanks Etro) for this summer and Santiags (thanks Prada)!

Budgets: Up! Not only because we are optimistic after COVID-19, but because cost and prices went up as well.

Simon Longland, head of menswear at Harrods

Favorite collections: Fendi’s denim hues laid the base for an impactful color story throughout and only enhanced the sporty and relaxed feel. This aesthetic extended into touches of tailoring, textured fabrics and accessories and head-to-toe coordinated looks ensured this collection was a roaring success. A monumental Etro show to celebrate the final collection of Kean Etro as creative director, after a triumphant 30 years at the helm. A celebration of print, embroidery and fabrication that epitomizes Etro, and makes you long to be on a sun-soaked holiday in the Mediterranean — the coastal holiday wardrobe perfected! Zegna, a real standout for me in in the schedule; a collection full of modern sophistication and clean style, from pared-back tailoring in rich fabrics to more casual, athletic aesthetics.

Best presentation concept: The location and the collection played equal parts in ensuring Zegna had the standout presentation of the week. The rooftop of their historic headquarters and picturesque mountain-scape surroundings set the scene for a truly elevated and elegant collection.

Trendspotting: Washed and faded denim was seen in almost every collection, Fendi and Prada were the masters of the trend and I expect to be the go-to denim for next season. Leather: from Prada’s micro shorts to JW Anderson’s basketball shorts and trenchcoats at Fendi — leather has solidified itself as a true staple and is here to stay. From bold colors to muted tones, tailoring reigned supreme this week. The trend was largely seen in loose and fluid silhouettes, from masters such as Zegna and Brioni. Of course, there was a presence of sharp and fitted styles, Prada’s show was proof — if it were ever needed — that the suit is here to stay, where pared-back, clean black tailoring completely dominated the collection. The warm Milanese weather paired with a wash of linens, light knits and sheer fabrics gave the week a strong holiday vibe; a return to the coastal capsule wardrobe. Etro and Emporio Armani displayed this perfectly and it will be a huge success come summer next year.

Emporio Armani Men’s Spring 2023 - Credit: giovanni_giannoni_photo
Emporio Armani Men’s Spring 2023 - Credit: giovanni_giannoni_photo

giovanni_giannoni_photo

Must-have item: Double, triple and even quadruple denim.

General comment on the season: Milan menswear returns to strength: from the headline shows to the static presentations, the brands showcased strong collections that were founded in the brands’ unique DNAs. From luxury fashion to sartorial tour de force.

Federica Montelli, head of fashion at Rinascente

Favorite collections: Fendi, Prada, JW Anderson, Zegna, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, MSGM, Emporio Armani, Dsquared2 and Marcelo Burlon. Among the younger brands: Magliano and JordanLuca.

Best presentation concept: Zegna treated us to a visit to Oasi Zegna, which was a spectacular way to end the week. The show took place on the company’s original wool mill rooftop. A master of the color palette, Sartori made us appreciate Zegna’s precious fabrics in the flourishing natural background of Oasi Zegna.

Trendspotting: The collections showed many references to a sophisticated man, with a marked returned to tailoring, which we saw mainly in relaxed cuts up to Prada’s more formal slim suits. The heat in Milan was the main topic of small talk, and was the perfect background for the many beach/vacation ensembles that we saw on the catwalk, from shirt and boxer sets to flowy caftans, to open-work knits, proposed in the ever-present muted neutrals. The more directional brands went for an acid-techno infused inspiration, where music and events in town played a big part in the narration. Strong colors like acid yellow, bubblegum pink, Klein blue, purple, psychedelic prints were all over the collections and spoke to a younger clientele in search of fun, positive energy and aggregation. Lots of denim, also in sets, and tough black versus strong white for genderless looks.

Must-have item: Prada’s car coat in one of the many gingham iterations will be next fashion week’s uniform for the street-style crowd. For shoes, Fendi offered plenty from which to choose, from the suede summer moccasins to the logo-embossed rubber slides. For the beach-inspired looks the must-have piece is the sarong, as seen at Dsquared2, or a shirt and boxer poplin set, as seen at MSGM. The hat will be a styling essential, from wide-brim straw explorer hats to fun crochet caps. With reference to tailoring, the best seen were Prada’s crispy suits and Fendi’s tailoring separates, continuing the cropped proportion (I loved the cropped sleeves blazer and Bermuda ensemble). The prize for the most fun styling prop goes to Versace’s homeware porcelain pieces perfectly complementing the rich colorful looks.

Versace, men’s spring 2023 - Credit: Aïtor Rosas Suñe / WWD
Versace, men’s spring 2023 - Credit: Aïtor Rosas Suñe / WWD

Aïtor Rosas Suñe / WWD

Budgets: We have been recording a very positive summer season in all of our stores thanks to a tourism boost. We expect a strong growth in the 2023 spring season and are investing accordingly.

Buying process: Since the beginning of the sales campaign we are back to buying in the showroom, even though we have kept a mix of digital and physical appointments that is quite efficient in terms of time management and traveling.

General comment on the season: Starting with Milan Design Week, followed by Pitti Uomo and Milan Fashion Week, we have seen a very positive energy in the city and in brands and buyers around town. The same energy could be seen in cheerful collections that speak to a younger client and make us forget for a moment about war or the never-ending pandemic.

Riccardo Tortato, head of buying departments and men’s fashion director, Tsum, Moscow and DLT, St. Petersburg

Favorite collections: Brunello Cucinelli, Zegna, Dolce & Gabbana and Kiton.

Best presentation concept: Zegna. It was really interesting to bring all the guests to the roots of the brand and at the same time see the evolution that Alessandro Sartori brought to the brand. I also liked a lot Dolce & Gabbana’s fashion show, which brought back the memories of all their previous collections and it was a great trip through the iconic styles of the brand.

Trendspotting: Suit, suit, suit. Let’s go back to the well-dressed man. It can be really advanced in style as Prada or more iconic as Kiton, but for sure the suit is back. Brunello Cucinelli has been pushing for already two seasons the desire of men to get back to the suit and even this presentation was all focused on that.

Must-have item: Santoni’s colorful shoes. I can’t complete the look without having a masterpiece of Italian craftsmanship — a pair of Santoni shoes.

General comment on the season: I think [it was a] breath of fresh air out of any COVID-19 memory. The excitement around the fashion week is back and I am really happy about that.

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