For all its trimly tailored, classically fabric-ed, soberly toned salute to tradition, Frida Giannini's latest collection for men was missing one critical component of the gentleman's wardrobe: the necktie. Not a one on the Gucci catwalk, not counting the bow ties at night (but they're something else). Instead, Giannini paired her herringbones, houndstooths, and flannels with mohair sweaters, or knit polos open at the neck. It was one of the most seductive expressions of the casual flourish with which Milanese designers have attempted to defuse their stampede to formality and tradition this week. And, even when the neck was restrained (a bow tie at night remains an inviolable principle of nocturnal elegance), Giannini delivered the accompanying "tuxedo" in tweed.
Given that the collection was shaped around sartorial disciplines as strict as military tailoring and its Savile Row progeny, Giannini managed to shake some dandy monkeys out of the trees. Black and charcoal gray were the somber canvas against which she threw a jacket in blazing red tweed, or a suit, rather more subtle but still shot with color, in a tweedy houndstooth, or a peacoat in an appropriate pea green. The military academies of Mitteleuropäische myth have provided her with some of her finest moments in the past, and they didn't let her down today, with cadets' jackets in powder blue and winter white, and voluminous officers' coats that were well in tune with Milan's big-is-best message this season. The footwear also took a subtle cue from the solidity of a soldier's shoe.
It wasn't just tie-less ease that set Giannini apart from her peers. Yes, there were dark shadows in her show, but there was also a thread of almost cartoonish color running through the whole thing. Even more so in fuzzy mohair. The interplay of proper and playful made this collection one of the designer's best menswear shows to date.