Day one of the Milan shows opened and closed with interpretations of masculinity, and what different version they were. Kicking off the shows, Jil Sander pursued ‘epic masculinity’ with her clean lines and long proportions, and to close them off Donatella Versace too sought to explore what it is that makes a man – her press release stated, ‘Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain.’ Unsurprisingly, given the Versace penchant for pizazz, Donatella’s vision of the male was somewhat different to Sanders. Her suits came bulky and retro in a flashy Prince of Wales check rather than crisp and colour blocked, and her runway featured butch half-naked man in black lace – something unlikely ever to appear at one of Sander’s tasteful showcases.
This was about Milanese machismo. The Baroque tracksuits, shoulder-enhancing leather jackets and shouty suiting screamed of bravado. At first glance these men were rappers, sportsmen and crude, flashy gangsters. But look a little closer and there was something striking about this collection. Despite enchaining the male form, the clothes paradoxically also seemed to mock masculinity by pushing the boundaries of taste and acceptance. So power suits came with short, cartoon size animal skin ties, while suits came scrawled with scribbled graffiti. Donatella’s man is her canvas – she loves to truss him up and dress him down like an oversized Ken doll. But, it’s hard to tell if this bad taste was intentional - was she just giving us peacock clothes for the posing playboy? - or was this Versace show about something far more complex; questioning men’s views on power, appearance and sexuality by pushing the boundaries of what can be ‘male’ into a new arena, where only the most daring will tread?