Walking out after the Ermenegildo Zegna show on Saturday morning, one phrase could be heard falling from the lips of a number of menswear editors: "what a great way to start Milan."
It was another pitch perfect offering from designer Stefano Pilati, who left behind the big production mise-en-scène of his previous shows for an all white — almost puritanical — setting this season. With all the artifice swept away, there was nothing to distract from a collection that started out strong and kept getting stronger.
The visual impact of the all black ensembles that opened the show made the point that the shade looks just as cool in summer as it does in any winter collection. However, Pilati lightened the mood of those dark pieces via his choice of breathable, fluid fabrics that he crafted into roomy pants, easy blouson jackets, and expertly cut blazers.
The arrival of boxy car coats in outsized madras checks, sometimes slightly cinched with a half belt or featuring three-dimensional pockets, were decisively softened thanks to the designer cutting them in muted pastel shades. The pattern looked just as appealing when used simply at the back of a jacket or as a scarf caressing the neck and flowing down one side of a model's body. These pieces were smartly finished off with tightly wrapped paisley silk scarfs at the wrists and some comfy slip-on fringe moccasins.
But the true breath of fresh air in this collection was the final series of all white looks. It was almost as if Pilati had ripped out the semi-sheer lining of a few of Zegna's famed suits and reworked them to stand on their own two feet. These beautifully constructed ensembles, which blended in seamlessly with their equally lightweight shoulder bag accessories, were finally kept from flying directly up into fashion heaven by some sturdy urbane black footwear.