If the launch of Stefano Pilati's first collection for Agnona was somewhat unconventional, his intentions for the label are nothing less. He is making a stab at genuinely season-less dressing, and, to underscore that, the launch took place in a pop-up shop where people could immediately buy the clothes and see prototypes of upcoming pieces. Pilati decided to stay away because he wanted the focus to fall firmly on the clothes, but his presence still filled the room. For one thing, the collection was dominated by a checkered motif called Palaka, taken from a Japanese fabric that was originally used for surfers' shirts and shirts in Hawaii, where Pilati came across it in a vintage shop. It took us back to the surfboard that was propped in the corner of his office at YSL. Surfing in Hawaii was always his escape.
Another signature Pilati flourish: He labeled his debut ZERO, after Group ZERO, an affiliation of avant-garde artists that came together in Düsseldorf during the late fifties. Their manifesto called for creativity unfettered by tradition. Given that Agnona turns 60 this year, it would be a wonder if Pilati didn't have tradition on his mind, with a little unfettering not far behind. Revolution at Zegna, evolution at Agnona: That was how one insider defined the designer's approach to his new role with the Zegna Group. But evolution wasn't quite it. It was more like reinvention.
Agnona is best-known for its double-faced cashmere. Pilati kept that bit of the past, by double-facing not just cashmere but everything else from kid mohair to stretch cotton. Otherwise, the play with proportions was purest Pilati: the short jacket sleeve over the long shirt sleeve; the bigger, softer jacket shoulder; the culotte; the shirttail coat; the long jacket over short shorts. The languor and the occasional masc/fem ambiguity of the clothes were familiar. One khaki coat could have come straight from Pilati's own closet. Then there was the Palaka, as a woven or a print, fused with florals, on a leather coat, and even printed on a short-sleeved jacket in crocodile. The casual extravagance of such a gesture—only you know it's croc—also felt like a welcome blast from Pilati's past.