MILAN, Italy – By her own words, Miuccia Prada (search) has decided to take menswear seriously.
"It's time to put the avant-garde behind, and analyze what men really want from fashion," the designer said after her Monday preview presentation of a no-fuss, classical look for next winter.
Models just out of boyhood, with wispy hairstyles and de rigueur horn-rimmed glasses, walked the runway in traditional overcoats, tweed or leather blazers, patterned cashmere pullovers, and casual slacks.
Ties came in preppie wool or striped silk, but Master Prada actually prefers a thin woolen scarf tied like an ascot. The only funky items in the collection were the haphazard knit and leather caps.
"Let's face it, men are conservative at heart," Prada said.
The designer known for her womenswear minimalist look, which has become a way of life among the intellectual chic, says she intends to give more of herself to menswear in the future.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana take on a more daring male customer.
Their Sunday show got the current round of Italian menswear off to an eye-opening start with a new pair of jeans that make hipster pants look like overalls.
During the show, which inaugurated the five-day preview showings for the fall-winter 2005-2006, the fun-loving duo paraded Adonis models with perfect muscle tone and multiple tattoos, in jeans both distressed and bejeweled, but above all belted way below the belly button.
Only elegant footwear and multiple chains to adorn the ever-so-bare torso distracted attention from the new waistline of the trouser instantly dubbed the "pubic pants" by the amused fashion crowd.
The sexy jeans are the latest addition to the wardrobe of the contemporary male customer, who no longer buys according to a traditional dress code but enjoys picking and choosing, once a female prerogative.
The fact that Dolce and Gabbana (search) have understood the pulse of the moment both for men and women is no secret. Their sexy, trendsetting styles had their cash register ringing up sales of more than $916 million for last year, marking an increase of almost 30 percent at a moment when many are lamenting a stagnant fashion market.
"You have to listen to them and at times give in to them," said Domenico Dolce, referring to his male clients.
The new Dolce and Gabbana collection offers a 24-hour wardrobe, from the boxer sweatshorts for the pre-office workout to the impeccable three-piece pinstriped banker suit to the velvet silk, embroidered tuxedo jacket.
Later Sunday, Donatella Versace presented a man who likes life on the fast track. He prefers conquering the city on a powerful motorcycle, wearing a jet-black leather jacket with flexible padding at the elbow, matched with leather pants with the same padding at the knees. When he shows up at the office he can wear either a slick tight-fitting pinstriped suit or a velvet dinner jacket over pants with golden zipper pockets, proving that his clock doesn't tick conventional time.
The Jil Sander (search) collection — also presented Sunday — was neat and nice with proper suits and ultra-soft cashmere sweaters all in black, gray and classic camel. The collection was put together by the Sander's menswear designing team after the designer left the company for the second time in the fall of 2004.
The style seen most on the first day of showings was the trenchcoat, which for next winter comes in either woolen fabric or leather. Burberry (search), the most famous of trenchcoat manufacturers, presented a plastic version in its traditional plaid pattern.
The perennial tie debate seems to take a pause this season. Cropped ties peacefully share the runway limelight with luxurious woolens, more often than not sporting a cozy turtleneck.
The Milan fashion week, during which such prominent names in Italian fashion as Missoni, Gucci, Fendi and Ferre — more than 50 labels in all — present their winter wear in various venues of Italy's fashion capital, ends Thursday with designer Giorgio Armani (search)'s show in the theater of his Milan headquarters.