Europe might be in the midst of the worst financial crisis in a half century, but most of the clothes in the current Italian menswear season in Milan are essentially designed to be worn on a vacation, not to work in the corporate world.
None more so than in an upbeat and sunny spring 2013 collection from the house of Gucci, where the tailoring was strict but the atmospheric almost entirely self-indulgent. The jolly beach-chair canvas colors in which this collection were made were echoed in great new carpetbagger totes and weekend bags.
"I wanted this idea of vacation, more fun and freedom. Times are complicated in Italy, in many countries, so I think we need a sense of joy; these, maybe a little eccentric, colors have that," Frida Giannini, Gucci's creative director, said backstage on Monday, June 25.
Practically every model wore loafers, from impeccable white calfskin to pigeon egg blue crocodile. Nobody wore socks; most pants were rolled up. Everyone looked destined for the beach, never the office.
For evening, Giannini struck a perfect note with sleek shantung tuxedos and for cruising hour cocktail hour charmed with patent leather sixties playboy cabans and mini jackets.
This might be the era of Mad Men in dark-suited America, but in Europe, the response to the crisis is saturated color, in Gucci's case the two most dominant - tangerine and blood orange. However, while the mood throughout was Mediterranean sunset, the tailoring was strictly British - four button double-breasted jackets, nipped at the waist and shown with lots of broad stripes and polka dots.
Giannini also sent out the archive Baiadera print, whose painterly paisley style was smoothly incorporated into soft knits and sleek silk party shirts. The collection was perhaps not terribly revolutionary, but somehow it felt just right for the contemporary mood. Clean, cool and collected clothes that would make most guys look, and feel, real fine and dandy. That seems an admirable goal in the current Continental gloom.