MILAN (Reuters) - Inspired by Batman, cowboys and Norman conquerors, fashion designers in Milan showed casual and vibrant outfits alongside sharp tailoring for male shoppers who are looking beyond the classic suit.
Italy's fashion capital on Saturday kicked off events on 39 catwalks spanning four days for a men's fashion market which consultancy Bain & Co says is growing faster than womenswear globally.
At Iceberg, designer Federico Curradi drew on the sporty brand's history of using cartoon images to create clothes intended to be as suitable at the office as at a party.
"The focus for me was to think about one fantastic cartoon and I thought about Bruce Wayne," Curradi told Reuters after showing long tunic tops under mohair sweaters, blazers and bomber jackets, mostly in black and grey with flashes of red.
"In the day he was like a really traditional man, wearing a beautiful English style, but at night when he became a hero he changed totally," Curradi said.
Men now represent 40 percent of the luxury goods market, according to a Bain report published in October and trendy sportswear and denim are growing in importance alongside classic made-to-measure tailoring.
"There's certainly a gentleman that likes to be suited up and that's his lifestyle but I think we're also seeing an entirely new generation of people that have a bit of a relaxed lifestyle," Ken Downing, fashion director at U.S. luxury department store Neiman Marcus, told Reuters.
Italian label Versace sent models down the runway in leather chaps, shirts fastened with bootlace ties, thick-heeled cowboy boots and motorbike helmets emblazoned with Versace's Medusa-head logo.
"There is a young man who is buying us," Donatella Versace was quoted as saying after the show by Britain's Guardian newspaper. "Young men use fashion as a weapon now."
Masculinity was also palpable at Dolce & Gabbana, where models wore crowns in homage to Norman kings who ruled Dolce's native Sicily a thousand years ago.
The design duo evoked armor with tight-fitting suits in metallic tones, woollen hoods reminiscent of chainmail, and gloves and shoes covered in glittering studs.
The more casual options included boxy sweaters bearing portraits of kings, worn with slim trousers, and multi-colored training shoes.
"I thought it was too beautiful," Vogue Japan editor Anna dello Russo said as she left the show venue, which was decked out with flickering chandeliers and suits of armor.
Italian label Bottega Veneta, whose more restrained style was characterized in the logo-crazy 1970s with the catchphrase "When your own initials are enough", presented plaid blazers dip-dyed in bright blues and greens at the edges, and sporty trousers tapering to a ribbed cuff at the ankle.
"It's really about modern-traditional, it's kind of the classic goes cool," Downing said.
Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli