Last things first. While a sun rose on the video screens and the idealist's anthem, "Let the Sun Shine In," soundtracked the finale of his show, Kean Etro ran out on his earth-packed catwalk in pinstriped combats and a purple velvet jacket, picked a sprig of rosemary from a bush sprouting among the many kinds of vegetables rooted in said earth, and chewed it. He's a born educator, and he knew how to make his point about the necessity of nature in fashion. As he said in his press notes, "The soup of life is cooked in the brasserie of style."
In the days leading up to his show, select out-of-towners got an Etro box prettily wrapped in ribbon and containing a potato, nestled in a bed of dirt. So much for glamorous fashion freebies. But Kean wanted us to know that the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization has declared 2008 the year of the potato, because it's such a valuable weapon against world hunger. The potato didn't make it as a print in his collection, but leaves, fronds, seeds, beans, and bark did. If the parade of gorgeously toned plaids, velvets, and jacquards felt like the Etro we know in excelsis, there was news in a Thom Browne-like proportion that raised trouser hems and hiked the waist of coats and jackets, as well as shortening them. There was also an edginess in an item like a washed-leather trench. But its color was the result of vegetal dyeing, which brought one back to Kean's desire to highlight fashion's environmental obligations.
Post-show, he insisted such an issue has been a concern of his for at least 15 years and now the rest of the industry is catching up. Consider the ambassadors he has created this season for his causethe velvet jacket in a rich shade of pumpkin trimmed in green, the silk suit in a black so liquid it could be cursed crude oil, the cabled cardigan in a lime greenand it's easy to believe that Kean will have his way.