by Stephen Garner

Italian fashion brand N° 21 staged a socially-distant, in-person fashion show in Milan to showcase its new spring/summer 2021 men’s and women’s collection.

This season, feminine and masculine energies remain distinguishable even as shapes, volumes, and colors migrate from one sex to the other. Classic fabrics such as poplin come in layers, three at a time, to define raw cut double-breasted jackets; likewise for canvas styles with chiffon lining. Canvas shirts and pants are worn with chiffon cardigans that feature long, billowy feather extensions, the same adding movement to the backs of men’s sweaters.

There are also vinyl trench coats doubled in neoprene, for both him and her, in a palette of gray and nude shades; as well as jersey T-shirts, chiffon slip-dresses with feather applications and metal chain shoulder straps; and sartorially-cut poplin dresses in a double cocoon effect complete with bustier, and smart slinky black sheaths with surprising cuts and keyhole openings.

Mannish shirts, clearly for both genders, are seen in stripes and plaids, yet always have a black chiffon overlay. Raw cut canvas coats in black or in a natural off-white hue are sported over tube skirts originating from a mannish pant shape. Little black dresses and skirts are lavishly embroidered with metal snaps and safety pins. Earring embroideries dangle from the lapels of pure white coats, while hand-knit sweaters in cotton tubular ribbon yarn alternate with backless cashmere sweaters for men and women alike.

Accessories for her include high- and low-heel pumps with an array of micro buckles, otherwise with an overlay of chiffon. For him, pointy toe lace-ups, invariably with a chunky sole. New sizes of the Draft Bag and vinyl sack bags with tone on tone relief logo complete the range of N° 21 accessories for spring/summer 2021.

“More and more urgently I seem to feel the need to explore the possibility of establishing a new vision for the fashion industry: the timetables, the seasons, the trends must give way to the creation of a new type of storytelling,” said Alessandro Dell’Acqua, creative director of N° 21. “I used fabrics, shapes, and colors to attain clothes able to hold meanings which, as in the case of words, contribute in forming a language that women and men can share. I believe that just as jackets and pants, suits, and sweaters can find a place equally in male and female wardrobes all while maintaining specific distinctions, so the language of men must necessarily become inclusive, accepting of diversity. In this sense, clothes are words in a vocabulary that becomes increasingly more inclusive and communal in building a comprehensible language that both sexes can similarly use. I’m convinced that in today’s world this is the most urgent challenge for people in the fashion business. For me in particular, it is the starting point for any and every further welcome change.”