“Obsession is the best name ever for a perfume,” Italo Zucchelli declared today as he revealed the secret in his new collection for Calvin Klein. He’d been thinking about the way artist Ed Ruscha uses words in his work, and he felt it was a good moment to do something similar. Presto! Sweatshirts appliquéd with Obsession, Escape, and Eternity, words Zucchelli loves, which just happen to be the monikers of Calvin’s best-selling perfumes.
It could have come across as cheesy cross-promotion, but in the context of the show Zucchelli presented, the words took on some interesting personal shadings. Obsession, for instance: The collection was testament to Zucchelli’s obsessive pursuit of a masculine ideal. Square of jaw and shoulder, his models were streamlined in head-to-toe black or charcoal or camel, the outfits layered—two bombers, three shirts—to lend them a monumental quality. Escape? Well, Zucchelli’s men seemed slightly unreal, an elite squadron engineered for perfection somewhere in the future. Maybe that was because of the military feel in some of the massive outerwear, but it was also down to the deliberate modernism of the fabrics and treatments that Zucchelli is drawn to.
And Eternity? The designer modestly described his new collection as urban workwear, but it was also a consummate expression of the eternal verities luxe, calme et volupté.
One thing this season has already clarified is how fundamental the fine art of tailoring is to menswear. It’s a core value, and core values have gained a lot of weight in the past few years. Italo Zucchelli has proved himself a master tailor, but, as the helmsman of Calvin Klein men’s collection, he is also attuned to the label’s iconic status in the world of body-con masculinity. Which is why his new collection revolved around the idea of formal sportswear, the kind of classico-con-twist, just-dressed-up-enough tailoring he imagined modern guys relating to.
Except that Zucchelli is also a futurist at heart, so he took herringbone and houndstooth, staples of the trad gent’s wardrobe, and zapped them to eternity and beyond. His alchemy was most obvious in the dissected herringbone he embossed on a peacoat. The chevrons quivered like scales on snakeskin. The same flying Vs were blown up to 3-D effect on knitwear. And they covered a blouson whose sleeves were grooved with a similarly treated houndstooth. Zucchelli also layered the patterns over each other. The result was as solid-looking as samurai armor, and yet, through the wonders of modern fabric technology, irresistibly light.
Zucchelli was seduced by those wonders a dog’s age ago. That means he can take something as familiar as a sweatshirt, a utility jacket, or a pair of combats, and switch it into a sci-fi fashion statement, bonding the fabric, overlaying it with mesh, injecting alien textures. That also meant his models occasionally looked like they were starship troopers on cosmic shore
leave, which is practically a Zucchelli signature at this point in his career. It’s appropriately unique, because there is no one else who makes dystopia look so good. He suits the future.