Best of the Best 2007: Menswear Collections

  • William Kissel

For Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli (distributed by IMC Group, 212.750.2990, www.brunellocucinelli.it), the concept of sportif fashion refers more to a casual lifestyle than actual athletics. Indeed, his sportswear collection is constructed from cashmere and other fibers that are far too precious to wear when engaging in strenuous physical activities. But, according to Cucinelli, they are ideal for displaying a sophisticated sense of style in the stands. His double-breasted blazer, for example, is not bulky. It is made from a blend of cashmere and cotton corduroy and looks like a classic tailored jacket. “When I go to a football game, I want to wear something quilted that keeps me warm,” explains Cucinelli, “but I also want it to look luxurious, even from far away.”  To that end, the same tailors who make Cucinelli’s suits produce his quilted cashmere outerwear pieces, which are constructed with fitted waists, pick-stitched lapels, and other sartorial details. Cucinelli’s ski-influenced pullovers, jersey-knit sport shirts, and even baseball caps—all made of cashmere, of course—are similarly refined. He fabricates his new fall slacks from a lightweight wool flannel that is soft and spongy, like sweatpants material, and shapes them with double pleats and a narrow leg that gives them a casual yet elegant look. “I find technical is not very chic,” says Cucinelli. “Microfiber does not say luxury to me.”

Canali underscored its emphasis on quality and exclusivity this year when it debuted Canali Exclusive (212.767. 0205, www.canali.it), a made-to-order line of tailored clothing produced from the rarest superwools and topcoats made of cashmere/chinchilla and cashmere/vicuña blends. Also included among the fabric offerings is a cache of Esperidi, a limited-edition Super 220s wool cloth woven in Italy from Australian fiber measuring less than 12.8 microns. The company will produce only 100 suits worldwide from the Esperidi. Furthermore, each handmade suit, blazer, and topcoat in the Canali Exclusive collection integrates such details as functional sleeve buttons and boutonniere stays. Canali makes the garments using complex, bespoke-quality interior construction methods that render the delicate fabrics relatively stable and durable. Canali also instituted new production methods to improve the quality of its sportswear items, which include hand-finished cashmere polo shirts and reversible pullovers, as well as vests made of Super 140s wool. In its classic ready-to-wear collections, the 73-year-old Italian brand presented two new jacket models—the S and the Kei—that have introduced novel shapes to its impeccably color-coordinated suit and sportswear ranges. “It’s slimmer and shorter and extremely sexy, that’s why we call it the S jacket,” explains global communications director Elisabetta Canali, who represents the third generation of the family to manage the company. The Kei, contrastingly, is an entirely unlined and unconstructed blazer made from woven cashmere that emulates knitwear, hence the jacket’s name, which is pronounced like the letter K, the first letter in the word knitwear. Both jackets are designed to layer over the cashmere sweaters that Canali finishes with a délavée dying treatment to give them a well-worn, vintage-looking quality. Canali’s outerwear exhibits such details as suede undercollars, leather trims, detachable inner vests, and vertical zip pockets just inside the lapel, which enable you to access your belongings without having to completely unfasten your coat.

The new suits in the Ralph Lauren Purple Label (888.475.7674, www.polo.com) collection have the form-fitting shapes, high armholes, and narrow lapels of tailored clothing fashioned in Naples, Italy, though they are produced near Milan. Lauren also explored retro styles, designing wide-collar shirts and broad neckties like the ones he made in the 1960s. Though many fashion authorities would advise against combining such contrary elements, Lauren finds the unbalanced proportions compelling; he notes that the trim-cut suits make you appear leaner, and that the wider accessories direct attention to your face. In formal wear, Lauren’s double-breasted blazer features a softer shawl collar instead of traditional peaked lapels, and a single-button jacket with peaked, rather than notched, lapels tops off a three-piece tuxedo. The designer’s three-piece herringbone suits, four-button double-breasted jackets, and paddock topcoats with velvet collars recall past styles, but they appear contemporary when cut from superlightweight cashmere and rendered in the color combination of charcoal and chocolate. For this fall’s sporty Country Chic collection, Lauren has reduced the bulkiness of heathered cashmere turtlenecks, houndstooth jackets, and corduroy trousers with slim silhouettes and lightweight fabrics that look rugged but are still refined.

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