Rogues and Romance in Milan
by James Tuttle @TuttleMode
It was only a matter of time before I finally happened upon the tantalizingly titled Storage Wars on A&E and, despite that it’s about people bidding on the contents of abandoned storage lockers, I was looking forward to something sophisticated and informative. A&E stands for “Arts and Entertainment,” after all, and is the home of Downton Abbey and Masterpiece Theater. Oh, wait, that’s PBS! A&E has Dog The Bounty Hunter and Hoarders, which is an entirely different thing. Still, it couldn’t be too bad, right?
Well, the opening titles are pretty hokey and, when they introduce the regulars on the show, it’s obvious that not one of them arrived in time for hair and makeup. I especially remember Jarrod and Brandi (their real names!), a young couple acquiring merchandise for their shop. There is also an older guy, Barry, who has a voice like Charlie Sheen but seems like a charming, cultivated gentleman who could keep you entertained for hours with stories of the escapades of his wild youth. Charlie Sheen might be able to do that some day, too, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
In this episode, the buyers descend upon the wealthy southern California retirement community of Laguna Hills and, as tactfully as they may state their ambitions, they’re really hoping that some rich old person will have kicked it while all their cash and jewels lie forgotten in a generic storage locker with a cheap ass padlock on the door. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. On the contrary, the first locker is full of broken, dirty old furniture but, after pulling a few things out, the buyer finds a carved stone Fu Dog sculpture back in the corner. He’s thinking this possibly priceless jade lion-dog might be his ticket to prosperity but a fabulous old Chinese art dealer sets him straight with her sing-song accent. “The Fu Dog would be in front of big houses in old China. Very important,” she tells him, “but this one from 1980s or 90s. Too bad.”
The next locker is full of cardboard boxes, which all the buyers love because they could possibly contain all that cash and jewels that the old people forgot about, so Darrell bids $2,100 on it. Those boxes, as it turns out, are full of vinyl records, an awesome turntable in its original packaging and some great old speakers so he does end up making a small profit. I guess it would have been better if they were stocked with rubies and Aubusson tapestries but that doesn’t happen every day even in Laguna Hills, the rich retirement community I never heard of.
What stayed with me most was how, at these auctions, buyers and onlookers alike have cultivated a look that looks like American tourists in Tijuana with a layer of “gang member” and some Mad Max nostalgia thrown in. And those are just the ladies. Many of these people are wearing sleeveless shirts when they really shouldn’t be, though I’ll give them points for wearing shirts at all, and there are lots of T-shirts with ironic sayings that I don’t think the wearers thought were ironic. At least now we know who drives those Monster Trucks.
Something the Storage Warriors and Monster Truckers probably won’t be wearing as they rummage through dusty boxes are the amazing pieces shown during Milan Men’s Fashion Week for Fall/Winter 2012-13 over the last few days. Over fifty collections hit the runways since Friday night but I’m just going to touch upon a few of my favorites because that’s a shitload of clothes.
First off, Saturday morning’s Ermengildo Zegna brought a Sixties luxury that would look right at home in a mid-century Swiss ski lodge. There was more sportswear than we’re used to seeing from Zegna, but the suits still killed it. The schoolboy jackets, skinny pants and great shearling coats made me think of the Richard Burton-Liz Taylor 1963 film “The V.I.P.s,” which is pretty damn fabulous.
The Dolce and Gabbana show was an abrupt shift into the operatic, with Pavarotti blaring over the sound system and models walking out from the gilded opulence of an opera’s backstage. This is the show that really got Milan rolling and started the fashion crowd whispering about the Nineteenth Century inspirations that we began to see popping up everywhere as the shows went on. The dropped crotch pants that we would also see again in various guises somewhat modernized the Victorian-era ensembles that wouldn’t have seemed out of place on King Ludwig of Bavaria or Burt Lancaster’s aging Sicilian prince in Visconti’s film, “The Leopard.” The heavy gold embroidery, though beautiful, might be a bit hard to pull off but the printed silk pajamas are dope.
The day finished out with hunting whips, umbrellas and skinny, skinny pants at Burberry Prorsum. The Savile Row fabrics and chunky knits attempted to marry City and Country, according to Christopher Bailey, and the result was distinctly British. And it might just be those slim silhouettes, but I got a Sixties feel from this show, too.
The Ferragamo show on Sunday was dark and sexy. Against a backdrop of moonlit clouds, the trend of luxury continued in deep-hued velvets and peaked lapels. I usually think of Salvatore Ferragamo as being rather traditional but this collection was right on trend with strong, sharp lines in black, gray, purple, navy and burgundy.
The Prada show later that day was easily the highlight of Milan fashion week and it wasn’t just La Miuccia’s stunt casting of well-known actors that, by the way, caused some male models to cry out for an Occupy Prada movement against replacing their struggling selves with highly paid celebrities. The stars here were the fantastically original clothes with a Victorian-meets-Cold War vibe: long frock coats, high-waisted pants, tight waistcoats and high starched collars accented with medals or brooches and mad-scientist shades. A less confident designer would have thought twice before setting this in motion on the massive patterned red carpet stretched across the ballroom but that fucking rug almost faded into the background.
At Gucci on Monday, designer Frida Giannini noted—here it comes again—the Nineteenth Century, tragic poets and dreamy German actor Helmut Berger among her inspirations, but Frida’s Helmut Berger was definitely closer to the groovy “Dorian Gray” Helmut Berger of 1970 than crazy 1860s “Ludwig” Helmut Berger.
The super skinny, (again) dropped-crotch pants had undeniable rock-and-roll chic appeal and the colors of camel, green and merlot really played well together. I wasn’t a fan of the patterned-velvet evening looks but you’ll be seeing them on red carpets and rock concert stages anyway. Versace later that evening was so weird that I can’t imagine anyone seriously wearing it but, alas, someone will.
Finally, DSquared2 shows are always fun bits of theatre and yesterday’s unruly high-school classroom stage was no exception, though I’d advise the models that, with those great clothes and amazing bone structures, self-consciously smoking cigarettes down the runway doesn’t add any points to their cool quotient. This season, the Caten twins revisited their signature fitted biker jackets, slim low-rise jeans and college sweatshirts so it was nothing groundbreaking. The pieces were just unique enough, though, and the expertly layered styling was so on the mark that this was the collection I could most see myself wearing day-to-day.
Aside from Nineteenth Century dandies and those dropped-crotch pants that a friend tactfully referred to as “long zippers,” other trends I noticed in Milan were multi-colored shoes—oxfords and loafers in color-block or ombré like the ones at Prada and Ferragamo—and a big focus on overcoats. Okay, I know you’re rolling your eyes and thinking, “Coats for winter? How original!” or maybe that’s just me, but there really is an amazing outerwear selection of slim coats, big shearlings, pea coats and evening coats on the horizon. Check it out in eight or nine months.