A Marni Rave, a Ferragamo Reboot

MILAN, Italy — Men’s wear week in Milan doesn’t look much like it used to. Many of the city’s big names (Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Jil Sander among them) are sitting the season out. Some are lumping their men’s shows in with their women’s; others, like Jil Sander, are simply staying quietly out of the spotlight. And new designers have been installed in familiar houses: At Zegna, at Marni and at Salvatore Ferragamo.

Marni is tottering out on new legs for the first time. The label has always been synonymous with Consuelo Castiglioni: She founded it, designed it and steered it for more than 20 years. Then, last year, Renzo Rosso, whose Only the Brave group completed its acquisition of Marni in 2015, announced that she would depart. Francesco Risso, a longtime lieutenant of Miuccia Prada’s, would take over.

It is possible to miss Ms. Castiglioni while acknowledging that Mr. Risso made a strong debut on Saturday, clever in its zaniness. Brave in it, too. This was not a timid tiptoe out of the gate.

Mr. Risso’s rumpled Marni men tromped through passageways lit with digital videos, in which animated domestic scenes — the bathroom, the apartment hallway — suddenly melted into acid-trip swirls. The D.J. Mimi Xu, on hand to play the late-night after party, was musing before the show about turning it into a “cheeky little rave.” The collection, with its screeching colors, tufted-fur hats, belt-bags and hand-painted prints, did look ready to party.

“Rave Marni,” I said to Mr. Risso, a 34-year-old sprite with corkscrew curls.

“That’s what it needs to be,” he said.

Backstage after the show, Mr. Risso offered his own theory of the collection — “One plus one is one plus one” — which doesn’t sound unlike the kind of early-morning musings you might hear among the slightly fried in the chill room. “That’s it,” he insisted. On that, he said no more, though you wouldn’t be surprised to hear the phrase punctuated with “P.L.U.R.!”, the durable rave mantra. But when he said he hoped the collection would “announce vulnerability,” that made good club sense. “The vulnerability that you want to bring ahead into your adult life,” he added.

Its vulnerability was its strength, the brash openness of its raw, nervy weirdness. There were some clothes here that were silly and some that were frankly ugly (which, in design, is often taken as a measure of seriousness; Mrs. Prada has long known that, and Mr. Risso has evidently learned his Prada lessons well). But the show provided a jolt, Marni-ish in spirit, that zapped Milan’s opening days. It is only Mr. Risso’s first collection, but it left many in the grumpy crowd smiling. That’s a good way to start.

Not every debut can be a rebel yell, and not every label has Marni’s esoteric heritage. By necessity, Guillaume Meilland’s first collection as the men’s design director of Salvatore Ferragamo was statelier, quieter, less likely to spook the horses. Mr. Meilland, lately of Lanvin in Paris, tweaked the proportions of Ferragamo’s suits and coats to suit his particular fancy, offering an elongated, slim silhouette as well as a boxier, work-wear inspired one.

It was an elegant adjustment rather than a reboot. But there were fine pieces throughout that caught your eye, even those that a lesser designer might have considered throwaways, like the finely striped turtlenecks that peeked out from under shirts. Every detail was considered, down to the shoes — which is important, because, while runway shows are well and good, Ferragamo is a footwear company before anything else.

Mr. Meilland’s handsome, round-toed boots, with clunky, diamond-studded lug soles, were all right, but the sleek, hand-stitched Italian loafers were better. That bodes well for Mr. Meilland, and it bodes well for Ferragamo.

Guillaume Meilland, the newly appointed Salvatore Ferragamo men’s design director

Guillaume Meilland, the newly appointed Salvatore Ferragamo men’s design director, presented his first show today. To mark the occasion, he hit the refresh button, starting from a redesign of the show space, giving it a more open, industrial feel, which suited the collection’s streamlined, urban allure. It also set the tone for his attitude toward the Florentine house’s codes: respectful, but not reverential.
Meilland cut his teeth on menswear at Saint Laurent during Stefano Pilati’s tenure, before departing for Lanvin, where he worked with Lucas Ossendrijver for roughly eight years. It’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about French allure. Yet the Italian flair for elegance and the absolute excellence of its savoir faire fascinates him. “I’d like to bridge the Italian sartorial finesse with a modern sportswear edge, as well as blending traditional techniques with new technologies,” he said at a preview a few days before the show. He professed his admiration for Salvatore Ferragamo, the house’s maestro, whose curiosity and open spirit he found inspiring: “He was up to explore and experiment, finding new ways to inject his Italian sense of luxe with an international approach.”
Meilland worked on streamlining the silhouette, elongating coats, slimming and narrowing pants, and shortening jackets’ proportions. Volumes were given a light, supple feel, which didn’t detract from a dry architectural bent that revealed the designer’s penchant for a sharp, modern edge. He kept it in check, though, smoothing it with an emphasis on a precise yet subtle sensuality and the use of the finest fabrics, elements so ingrained in many Italian menswear companies, they’re even more sacred than the national anthem.
For all his fascination with Italian classy elegance, Meilland couldn’t help but put Serge Gainsbourg’s “New York USA” on the soundtrack. It underlined the urban feel that he favored, and the energy that he tried to inject into the collection. Outerwear had the lion’s share, with elongated city coats or more structured belted trenches. Suits were reworked, shortening the jackets and pairing them with narrow, cropped pants for décontracté tailoring. Knitwear was chunky, hand-knitted, and looked luxurious. The color palette was mainly kept dark, with occasional flashes of color. Overall, Meilland was off to a good, confident start; he got the house’s codes quite right.