- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

MILAN, Italy

The latest fashion dilemma had to do with weather as designers offered new ways to fight the elements for their fall-winter 2007-08 menswear collections, shown recently on the Milan catwalk.

With ski resorts pining for snow in the warmest winter in more than a century and outdoor city cafes bulging with tourists in shirt sleeves, the barometer has had its effect on the fashion industry.

The unseasonable weather could just be a fluke, but designers aren’t taking any chances and are focusing on indoor looks.

At Dolce & Gabbana, which opened the five-day preview showings recently, models sauntered down the runway in shimmering silver snowsuits, but underneath, they wore classic black suits, white shirts and thin ties.

The new Dolce & Gabbana suit has a close fit, a thin-lapeled jacket and tapered trousers. Whether with a two- or four-buttoned jacket, the suit exudes simple elegance.

Next season, the daring duo fights the elements with a new take on fashion for them the English schoolboy. The Dolce lad wears tailored jeans, classic sweaters and posh cashmere-wool overcoats. Footwear comes in hip patent leather lace-ups with exaggeratedly pointed toes. Hefty winter boots are absent from the collection.

Donatella Versace for both men and women has made a slow but persistent move from sexy to sophisticated. Her latest collection, presented Sunday, takes a giant step in this direction, with the accent on sobriety.

“It’s more about spirit than muscle,” she said before the much-applauded show in the brand-new Versace venue in downtown Milan.

By the designer’s own admission, her muse for the austere collection defined by slim black suits worn with pristine clerical-collared white shirts was Pope Benedict XVI’s private secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein.

The handsome priest has become quite a heartthrob in the Eternal City, and much to the prelate’s displeasure, his disarming good looks have been the brunt of Italian television comedy.

“I find him absolutely fascinating,” Miss Versace said.

The accent at Versace also was on indoors, with outerwear limited to belted leather jackets and elegant overcoats. Evening wear was top of the line, featuring not only tuxedo jackets, but yesteryear coat and tails. Oversized bow ties completed the look.

There was little of the usual eccentricity in the Gianfranco Ferre collection presented recently. Far from the bold, brash styles of past seasons, the collection was chock-full of cozy cashmere sweaters, sporty blazers and casual slacks. Far from winter, the look and the colors were perfect for an autumn weekend in the countryside.

Roberto Cavalli finds it hard to resist overkill, but this season, he, too, tones down his fashion passion. Built on the mod cigarette pant in a range of fabrics from velvet to snakeskin, the collection presented here included heavy-textured sweaters and belted jackets, all in uncharacteristic black and gray.

The only extravagance came at night in the ruffled evening shirts with a bird painted on the back and in a spattering of sequins on shirts and sweaters.

Giorgio Armani showed his second line Emporio collection. The menswear maestro, never afraid to dare the elements, ended his show with a glittering parade of snowboarders in shiny silver snowsuits with matching silver boards.

Overall, though, the show had the same downplayed feel that characterized the first days of the preview collections.

Mostly black, the show featured suits with comfortable jackets and tapered trousers, sweaters with elbow padding, and quilted sport jackets.

Although the collection was designed for cold weather, the techno fabrics are thermo-regulated, offering a wide temperature range and an extra-light look.

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