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New beginning in Milan includes wool at centre stage

13 September 2016

As technology continues to change at a rapid pace, wool is well-placed to keep up with the ultra-modern demands surrounding it, as Janet Prescott explores at Milano Unica's September 2016 edition.

Wool featured strongly as Milano Unica, full of enthusiasm and confidence, made its cyber mark with #newbeginning. Having moved to the highly futuristic setting of the airy Rho exhibition centre, with moving walkways and large airy atriums, the main Milano Unica trends presented for Autumn/Winter 2017/18 indicate that wool is firmly at the heart of the new winter season.

Wool sits easily in this ultra-modern world and ticks the boxes as a bankable, versatile and sustainable product with both aesthetic and technical benefits, all of which are increasingly demanded. The main impetus was clear: to make collections as individual as possible, to give a unique pull. Growing customer demand for quality and originality came through strongly as an incentive to major players. Speciality wool such as Luxury Fibres' Escorial, special Welsh wool at Drago and undyed British wool at Marling and Evans joined the versatile Merino fabrics found at the core of the luxury offer, including Botto Giuseppe's Slowool, Australian superfine quality.

Speciality wool such as Luxury Fibres' Escorial. Photo: Andrea Erdna Barletta

There were many more heavyweight or double twist wools for overcoats and jackets, stark urban statements in dark shadow checks, classic British sporting cloths in gun checks, Prince of Wales, tiny bird's eyes, herringbones and pied de poule. Classics enlivened with a barely visible colour element such as brick or purple, others boldly tweedy and bright with big overchecks. Blends of Merino wool with other luxury fibres of silk, cashmere, bamboo and linen, with a range of colours and weights gave designers scope for many complex developments and effects.

Designers were confident in their approaches, conscious that a new generation, including the youngest customers, the millennials as they are identified, determinedly reinvent for themselves their own ways of wearing coats, jackets and knitwear, cutting through the protocol which used to govern correct dress codes. They are not afraid to dress more flamboyantly, so that colours are brighter, decoration bolder and design more varied even for suit jackets, now often teamed with jeans or non-matching trousers. Small meticulously symmetrical graph effects, micro-patterns and spaced-out motifs were offset in interesting configurations in cream on grey, or brown on a dark background for a look which was positively Japanese. Bright elements such as purple and green, orange, or brick red and pink in the weave are a feature of what seem at first glance classic suiting designs. Some are overpainted with artistic brush strokes for a large canvas for coats. Clothier Dashing Tweeds' designer Guy Hill offered just that, bold and confident, with bright unexpected colours and large, unabashed designs. Other trends included the return of stripes, felted or embroidered wool and decorated with splits and unexpected surface effects.

Bold, confident, bright colours by Dashing Tweeds. PHOTO: Guy Hills

For suitings, the influence was brighter, with the vogue for blue losing none of its appeal, as seen with blue and black stripes at Alfred Brown, and bright blue luxury wool fabric with performance aspects at Dormeuil.

Pure wool suitings and jacketings with membrane constructions, or high-tech linings came at Loro Piana and Vitale Barberis Canonico, while stretch is often achieved by high-twist yarns as shown by Supertwist at Botto Giuseppe.

Attractive colourful hunting cloths and also salt and pepper grainy designs distinguished the many jacketings on show: regular gingham checks on coloured grounds contrasted with large-scale versions. Fox Brothers injected verve into attractive pure wool checks in green shades. Knitted wool fabrics developed for jackets add to the relaxed, casual style which is taking shape for the new winter offer.