Without a great deal of fanfare, Ports 1961 launched men's last season. That quiet introduction doesn't imply a lack of ambition, though. The label—now guided by Fiona Cibani, after the departure of her sister Tia from the helm—opted to debut its menswear in Milan, rather than New York, where the women's collections walk. And it has stuck by the Italian city for its sophomore outing. No accident, that. Milan is of course one of the ancestral homes of menswear—suiting in particular—and the label is clearly hoping to align itself with that tradition.
There were hits and misses in this Spring 2012 collection, designed under Cibani's direction by Ian Hylton, a Canadian designer who was formerly fashion director at Holt Renfrew as well as an editor at Canada's Flare. The emphasis fell on suiting, in single- and double-breasted varieties, here with slightly seventies, oversized lapels. (Those in the show were swaggeringly peaked; the sales floor will offer notched versions, too.) The suits are all made in Italy, kitted out with hand stitching, working buttonholes, and all the status symbols the status seeker wants. They were a little too sleek to be traditional, but they had a lean, mean chic nonetheless.
On more directional pieces, the label stumbled. Knits may have been in ultra-high-gauge cashmere knit ("cloud cashmere," said a brand rep), but given the prices that kind of fabrication will likely command, it's hard to imagine their dapper customer taking a gamble on swooshing, radial stripes. Showpieces like sleeveless trenches and nylon layering shirts will be left on the catwalk, and no one's likely to mind.
Balancing its trad side with its mad and bad side will be the label's challenge going forward. One thing, at least, is clear: If Cibani and co. are putting their money where their sartorial mouth is by showing in Milan, they're throwing just as much weight behind the high-style side, too. The label's first menswear ad campaign breaks in the likes of L'Uomo Vogue and Fantastic Man this fall, shot by Inez and Vinoodh.