At least one thing qualifies Italo Zucchelli as a natural heir to Calvin Klein's legacy, and that's his appreciation of the male form as Calvin defined it (with, of course, a whole lot of help from Bruce Weber). In much the same way that Balenciaga used to reassure his clients he'd give them a perfect body with the cut of his cloth, Zucchelli, in his latest collection, offered illusions of well-defined masculinity: a chunky white sweater with gridiron shoulders; trousers cut on the bias to emphasize the slender length of a leg; a monochromatic mélange of suit and shirt, which helped to elongate the silhouette. There has always been a futuristic sleekness to Zucchelli's work, but here his use of fabrics that responded to the body's heat crossed over to sci-fi realms. A vestigial rib cage developed like a photograph on one model's T-shirt as he passed. Later, a spine began to appear on the back of the same model's jacket. Yes, it reads like a gimmick, but the effect was haunting. As was Zucchelli's use of the kind of the webbing one usually associates with cheap plastic patio furniture, here mounted on mesh and offered as a blouson. It looked simultaneously medieval and futuristic, Kagemusha meets Gattaca.
Post-show, the designer had one word for his inspiration: "Industrial." That webbing was the clearest illustration of industrial production processes; the creative use of zippers was another. Then there were the fabrics, such as the camel hair coated with a transparent film, or the shimmering nylon mesh that was used in suits that left a silvery after-image on the retina when they'd gone. This combination of the traditional and the technical is Zucchelli's way of twisting the traditions of American sportswear, and it's working. Now we find out if the world is ready for it.