MILAN, JANUARY 16, 2016
by ALEXANDER FURY
Space camp. That was the theme of Donatella Versace’s Fall 2016 collection. At least it seemed that way, because it was undoubtedly spaced-out, and undeniably camp. The former was intentional. “Sports and space,” said Ms. Versace, explaining why half a dozen models did Running Man–style sprints in fiber optic–threaded sports gear to open the show. They had batteries inside, she said. It wasn’t clear if they come included.
As for the camp? It’s hard to be sure how much nudge-nudge, wink-wink is going on when Donatella is designing; how much she’s knowingly provoking her audience. For many men, Versace is an acquired taste. That’s putting it mildly. There’s a great tranche of them who’d rather be shot into space than put it on their back. But—and, as anyone who’s ever tried to wriggle into a pair of the house’s pants will tell you, the “but” is all important at Versace—there are plenty of guys who wouldn’t dream of wearing anything else. Versace’s menswear business forms approximately half of its turnover, and it’s only going up.
Perhaps those skyrocketing figures inspired Donatella Versace’s intergalactic trip. “I’m thinking of the future,” said the peroxided one. “This is the ultimate expression of the future: space.” For many, it’s the final frontier; for Donatella, it’s just another wardrobe option. It’s filled with flight jackets strapped and zippered like space suits; with suctioned leggings; buckled scuba sneakers; with square-jawed, heroic Himbos taking their giant leap for mankind onto the runway in jackets festooned with NASA-Versace space badges featuring the house’s Medusa head in stars and Bruce Weber hunkologies. The cosmos was a loose influence, triggered by zodiac-inspired prints in the archives. And in a four-day period where fashion lost two key space-race style inspirations—not only Bowie, but André Courrèges—Versace’s sky-gazing felt prescient.
It didn’t feel especially futuristic though, mired as it was, heavily, in both the boulder-shoulder silhouette and sci-fi fantasies of Thierry Mugler. The former isn’t a galaxy far far away from what the Versace man would want to wear, especially when the cosmonaut effect was given by a simple Perfecto with broad chest in silvered leather or snowy sheepskin. A sequence of models in all-white looked like stray extras from a nineties boy-band video and the arcane accessories—metallic badges, plastic-coated bags and belts—were Trekkie, techy, and a little bit tacky.
The color palette was bold and futuristic—futuristic in that a time has yet to come when the majority of guys will feel entirely comfortable clad in various macaroon hues of pastel. Still Versace’s customers are amongst the bravest of men, sartorially speaking, and would probably give a lavender cashmere coat, a baby blue rip-cord nylon trouser, or a sweater in that oddly identifiable prophylactic shade of pink a go.
The trouble with Versace menswear is that it’s alienating—no pun on the outer-space stuff. The show’s styling, which is frequently so heavy-handed it suggests the gravitational pull of a different planet, does little to highlight the fact that plenty of men can wear plenty of it. Even this time, next to light-up sweatpants and lift-and-separate leggings, there was stuff there for mere mortals, too: skinny, sensible tailoring; the season’s favorite MA1 bombers (often inlaid with archive Versace astrology print silk); a great sequence of mackintosh coats that looked flipped to the reverse side, revealing perfectly taped graphic seams (incidentally, wearing your jackets and coats inside out is a trend in Milan equaled in oddness by its ubiquity). That all sounds like reason enough to head to the Medusa head come Fall. After all, what man didn’t dream of being an astronaut when he was a little boy?