MILAN (AP) — Milan menswear designers are sending clear signals for next fall and winter: Feminine touches are not only acceptable, they are necessary.
During three days of Milan Fashion Week previews focused on menswear, collections featured shiny and sheer textiles, sequined garments, lace and scoop necks.
The trend to feminize the male wardrobe could be interpreted as encouragement for getting in touch with a female side or as an explicit sign of solidarity after a year when the sexual harassment and assault of women became a global theme.
Some highlights from the final day of shows in Milan on Monday, featuring Emporio Armani, Fendi and N21:
EMPORIO ARMANI GOES PRIMITIVE
Emporio Armani tapped primitive instincts while maintaining a balance between formality and sport in the Armani group's line for younger fashion-forward men.
Designer Giorgio Armani wrapped men in shaggy synthetic fur and lined coats with warm lambskin, an interpretation of another era's animal fur capes he says was inspired by the natural world.
The collection was a display of richness, from big oversized furry sweaters and velvet coats over double-breasted suits to synthetic fur neck wraps. Stand-out pieces included shaggy overcoats and the similarly inspired shaggy fur boots that were paired with sportier attire.
Both formal and casual trousers were cinched at the ankle with either a snap or elastic. And when the occasion demands, the Emporio Armani man is not so primitive he won't wear a tie now and then - a rarity on Milan menswear runways.
A series of pure white activewear trousers with matching parkas glowed down the runway, eliciting a spontaneous round of applause mid-show
Beyond the classic black and winter white, the color palette was icy, recalling Nordic lands where the designer said one might live a more tranquil life.
"It is difficult to find a place to live well. Today, one lives badly everywhere. A bomb goes off, the yellow vests protest, there are armoured vehicles. Where can you live tranquilly?" the designer said backstage. Not even an island - that gets submerged by the sea, which is all a consequence of our activity and our way of influencing nature."
Armani skipped showing his main Giorgio Armani line at the January shows and instead plans to have a combined menswear and womenswear show next month at his Silos museum in Milan.
Fendi wants to entice younger adults into eschewing streetwear and dressing more formally. The brand's menswear collection designed with input from Karl Lagerfeld, featured suits in shiny materials, metallic accents on knitwear and sheer-collared shirts, and organza tuxedo jackets.
Dress shoes finished the looks, often with a lip on the sole in a contrasting color - a male version of the celebrated Fendi Baguette bag. Underlining the formal tone, there were even some ties.
A suit jacket with contrasting lapels - one shawl-style and one notched - already has been dubbed the "Karl jacket."
"There is nothing more subversive than a young man wearing a formal suit," Silvia Venturini Fendi told Italian reporters.
Chinese singer and rapper Jackson Wang performed his hit "Fendiman" for the fashion crowd at the end of the show.
Rapping in English from an archive balcony that was the runway backdrop, Wang intoned, "Call me Fendiman, welcome to my Fendi-land."
Outside, a crowd of over 100 Italian and Asian fans swooned and screamed when the rapper arrived. Wang, who is based in South Korea, took his time, stopping to wave to fans with smartphones flashing.
N21 EXPLORES EROTICISM, AMBIGUITY
Alessandro Dell'Acqua dresses men in sheer cable knits, plunging scoop necks and lace shirts for his latest N21 collection, exploring the themes of male eroticism and ambiguity through mariner motifs.
"I like the fragility of the sailor," Dell'Acqua said backstage. Rainier Werner Fassbinder's 1982 film "Querelle" provided references "to present a kind of camaraderie among men that isn't comprised only of muscularity but also a certain ambiguity, a certain eroticism."
The designer said in his show notes that challenging stereotypes of masculinity can help men better understand themselves as well as "the world around, including the major decisive change on the part of the female universe."
Dell'Acqua's sailor wears tight-fitting, scoop-necked ribbed T-shirts with glazed poplin trousers that mimic leather and slings a duffle bag over his shoulder.
A peach lace shirt was paired with tan trousers, a tuxedo jacket with a tank top. The designer maintained an edge with the silver detailing on duffle coats and the O-rings fastening a chain around the neck.
Regimented blue, black and gray with some tans guided the palette. The materials, a mix of classics with technical textiles, were used to create a clean and disciplined silhouette.
Slim trousers tapering at the ankle were worn with T-shirts or knits made of form-revealing, nearly sheer mohair or cashmere. Oversized duffle coats and bombers delivered contrast.