The wispy suggestion of sixties London that's hung like fog over the Milan collections (in addition to the actual fog that's hung over the Milan collections) condensed and hit the catwalk at Z Zegna for the tail end of the week. In their trim suits and matching Beatle wigs, Paul Surridge's lads put the mod in modeling. Backstage, the designer admitted that, yes, a Christmas holiday spent paging through Mod: A Very British Phenomenon had been the collection's jumping-off point. "It was about the moment when the suit became a uniform of choice," Surridge said. "And for me, Zegna is about tailoring and manufacturing." When the suitmaker addresses the suit era, the results are likely to be good.
Here, they were. Surridge's suits were truer to mod dressing in their finicky precision than in specific period detail. The mods might've recognized the slim jackets, but likely not with four buttons, and certainly not pants cuffed inches above the ankle. The clothes looked recognizably mod-ish but weren't slavish historical reenactments, a point which, lest you missed it, Surridge made plain on his soundtrack, which included Soft Cell's "Memorabilia" ("I collect, I reject memorabilia").
The designer professed to be more interested in the spirit that animated sixties London, the anger of a generation champing at the bit for change. He pointed out with amusement that the driving fury of the mods wasn't so different from that which later burned up the punks, but that the mods channeled it into an aesthetic of strict conformity, while the punks chose anarchy. There has always been something of wild energy made orderly about Surridge's designs, but the expression has rarely been as literal as it was here. Those tightly buttoned suits, the fussy arm garters: They're almost literally holding it all in.
All of which makes the collection sound more abstract than it was. In point of fact, it was Surridge's most approachable to date. That's part of what appeals to him about the mods. They were so much about style for style's sake that the point of entrance wasn't restricted by anything but the outfits. "It's very inclusive," he said. "You don't need a ticket in. All you do is buy a Crombie, buy a jacket, and you've got the look." There'll be plenty for their latter-day inheritors to buy here, from great, big coats in tonal striped and solid versions, those striped and checked suits and separates, all the way down to the monk-strap brogues.