The Museo del Risorgimento is a Milanese institution dedicated to the history of Italian unification in the nineteenth century, which was kicked off by Napoleon's invasion. There are understandably a lot of images of him among the museum's artworks. So it came as no surprise, with so much imperial ambition in the air (or, at least, on the walls), to hear Massimo Piombo proclaiming that his little brand was "the best in the world." He's clearly got some kind of pull: The Risorgimento was, said Piombo, open for maybe six days a year, and he had snagged one of them to present the new MP collection. That suggestion of inaccessibility tied in neatly with the designer's description of his label as "a secret brand."
That, it most definitely still is. As for being the best? It was enthusiasm rather than arrogance that inspired Piombo's declaration, and it was easy to see why he should be pleased with his product, as he walked and excitedly talked visitors through his presentation. The designer could add "geographer" to his job description. He's always been able to reel off a detailed provenance for every item: wool for coats from Austria, alpaca for jackets from Hungary, cashmere for suits from Scotland, silk from Holland, velvet from Lyon, scarves woven from wool and silk after original designs from a maharaja. He has the obsessive spirit of the born dandy, and his new collection was as steeped in it as the images in the accompanying lookbook, styled and modeled by L'Uomo Vogue's fashion editor Robert Rabensteiner, who has long functioned as a kind of style guru for Piombo.
That style may look a little formidable in the photos (Rabensteiner is giving nothing away), but in reality it was light, easy, and irresistibly touchable. Like a micro-checked coat woven from a blend of wool and chinchilla, or an unstructured cashmere topcoat that was as comfortable as a cardigan, or a subtly printed jacket in a sumptuous navy velvet, with lapels from a silk so pure it costs £300 a meter. Piombo's eveningwear might have been the best summation of the brand ethos. The way a shawl-collared velvet jacket was paired with a sweater and tone-on-tone blue-striped shirt seemed practically heretical, but it was actually purest tradition. The designer pointed out that the true aristocrat in Italy would only wear such a shirt, or one in ecru. Never white.
On the way out of the presentation, there was a preview of Piombo's womenswear. It was a surprisingly successful extension of the men's collection. And it left visitors wondering how long it can possibly be before the brand is secret no more.