Last season, Miuccia Prada showed a practically all-black collection for men, punctuated only by a single disruptive checked coat. At Ermenegildo Zegna Couture today, for S/S 16, it felt like we were having déjà vu. After a run of black tailoring - all minimal and monochrome - a ray of optimism appeared in the form of a cheerful overcoat rendered in a multi-coloured, sun-kissed Madras check. Stefano Pilati’s amazing technicolour dream coat? Quite so. But Pilati is not one to copy or be behind the times. His use of black was a trick to accentuate the cut, drape and fit of his pieces. It set the tone for a collection that was about redefining male dressing, a mission Pilati’s been on for a while. To do that you need to start with a a palette cleanser, hence those minimal openers. Just as he'd gone for a simple monochrome opening palette, he'd also done away with the props, sets and filmic installations that have featured at his previous shows. An all white show space for a collection that was - as collections should be, but often aren’t - all about the clothes.
Pilati is a sensual designer - he knows a good drape, and his clothes hang and move, full of fluidity. The sense of lightness and relaxation that underpins his work was accentuated for S/S 16, pushed to the point where you weren't sure if the Zegna man was off to work or off to bed. As the collection moved from black into an explosion of varied checks and then to white, the models arrived in flowing pyjama coats, relaxed trousers, slouchy blousons and, in an unexpected addition, sweet moccasin slippers. Hues were soft, sleepy tones - blush pink, pale grey, dusty rose. Pilati’s notes talked of borrowing ‘elements dear to womenswear’ and before the show started one wondered if this, like so many other collections, would jump on the gender bandwagon, pushing ill-informed androgyny and a deliberately fey aesthetic just to feel current. Of course it didn’t. The beauty of Pilati’s Zegna is how he rolls the spirit of the times - the sexual fluidity, the changing nature of male identity, the obsession with comfort and slouch - into a collection that still feels like it’s leading the way, rather than following. Pilati’s Zegna is exactly right for the now, and right for his man. It doesn’t prioritise the vague notion of ‘fashion’ over the realities of the shopper, but it doesn’t rest on its laurels (aka its sales) either. Aptly the soundtrack crooned, 'I'll never let you down.’ Pilati never does.