The monumental set of the Ermenegildo Zegna show this morning was inspired by something Stefano Pilati saw in Greece. He happened upon an unfinished house that, silhouetted against the sky, reminded him of a temple, and he was struck by how an empty, undefined space could be so evocative. It wasn't such a stretch to see how that insight shaped more than the set today. A lot of the clothes were deconstructed, elongated, oversize, undefined, if you like, but they left a forceful impression, perhaps because they were such an effective expression of the life and times of their creator.
Pilati was all over the collection. The languor of a half-belted coat as soft as a bathrobe, the looseness of a huge knit cardigan, the nonchalance of trousers turned up rather than hemmed—it was all him. There has always been an ambiguous, borderline decadent streak in Pilati's designs. No wonder he feels so at home in Berlin, where he now lives. And maybe because of that, the masculine/feminine loucheness of the clothes stood out a bit more. Nothing as overt as Zegna-does-Weimar, but still a delicate shiver of transgression.
At another extreme, the desert-sky darkness of the
palette—lustrous deep blues shading into blacks—was a reminder of the importance of North Africa in Pilati's past work, something he shared with Yves Saint Laurent. The rich, unusual color combinations—a sage green jacket over magenta trousers, and turquoise over coffee—at the finale also evoked YSL. After the show, Pilati acknowledged that his own design language has absorbed inflections from everything he's ever done, YSL being one significant way station. But if the stripes suggested desert nomads, they worked equally well for summer on the Côte d'Azur.
It came as a surprise to hear Pilati insisting that his transformation of Zegna is happening in gentle increments, because on the evidence of today's presentation, he's already come a long way in shifting the shape. Jackets were long, but they buttoned quite high, so the bottom flared a bit over full, slightly pegged pants. That silhouette already looked newer and more sophisticated than the body-conscious nip and tuck of the tailoring that dominated Pitti in Florence. Cooler, too, but maybe that impression was induced by James Murphy's remix of Pharoah Sanders on the soundtrack. The spiraling sax was an earworm supreme.