Unlike so many brands whose customers remain a phantasmagorical enigma (and, one suspects, often a fictional one), you can see the Gucci man everywhere. At least, you can in Milan. He's the Latin lothario with the snake-hips, wearing skinny leather trouser in July, plunge-neck shirts in December, and without a single pair of socks in his entire extensive wardrobe. And the particular success of the Gucci brand over the past half-decade stems from the fact that Frida Giannini delivers exactly what he wants, albeit with a seasonal tweak to chime with the rest of the fash pack.
Hence for Spring/Summer 2011 Giannini latched on to next reason's key palette dominated by classic navy and neutrals, and packed her collection with relaxed suiting. Maybe that should be in hefty inverted commas as 'relaxed' for Gucci may mean louche but doesn't mean loose: trousers and jackets cleaved close, sleeves pushed up Miami Vice style for a casual feel. If those were casual, the chunky knitwear in yeasty beige worn with slender chinos or cuffed suede shorts was positively sloppy - again, maybe only for Gucci. We've been seeing an odd surge of knuckle-deep cableknit here in Milan, but the Gucci guy is the only one you can imagine sweating it out to quite this degree in the name of style.
That's not to say this show lacked identity - the bit and buckle scarf-print shirts screamed Gucci, as did the ostentation of materials. Fancy a drawstring pouch in electric-blue python, or a hold-all in cognac croc? Only at Gucci. It's always interesting to compare the menswear offerings of Gucci and Prada, both five-letter fashion institutions helmed by strong Italian women and creating instantly identifiable clothes for their countrymen. Just as you couldn't mistake Miuccia's touch for anyone else's, so Giannini is a dab hand at the Guccification game, twisting anything and everything just so, until it could only come from this house. Rather than innovation or experimentation, that's her enviable talent, and the Milanese will no doubt continue to beat a path to Gucci's door for it.