Ferragamo, Westwood leave their gaucho marks
Reporting from Milan -- Two back-to-back shows on Sunday served up wildly different takes on the gaucho.
It's not surprising in and of itself; it's one of those instantly recognizable silhouettes -- kind of like riffing on the cowboy. The most interesting part was how the vastly different labels go to the same place.
The Ferragamo show started to the sound of clip-clopping of horse shoes and explicitly referenced the "adventure loving gaucho" roaming the grassy plains of the South American pampas in poncho-sized cardigan sweaters, shearling jackets and toggle-button blanket coats, accessorized with sturdy leather riding boots, high-crown hats and scarves -- some voluminous knits, others in lightweight silk with fringed edges.
Jackets in paisley printed velvet and tartan, as well as wide-striped trousers lent some looks a dandy flair, almost as if the gauchos had been on a Carnaby Street holiday and brought some of the flair back home.
The Westwood show began with a homeless man crawling out of a cardboard box at the top of the runway, with a blue silk sleeping bag around his shoulders and baggy pants tucked into thick woolen mid-calf socks. Other ponchos were cobbled together from cast-off windowpane check hoodies and what looked for all the world like repurposed animal skin rugs. Models sported high-crown hats so crumpled and worn they could have been sourced from the Dumpster behind the "Bonanza" set.
Drawing on a famous UK cold snap from the winter of 1978-79 (part of Westwood's global warning call to arms, a theme that ran through the collection), it wasn't the romantic vision of the high-plains cowboy that inspired Westwood, but rather what she called "the roving vagrant whose daily get-up is a battle gear for the harsh weather conditions." In short, homeless people.
Westwood's vagrants, with their "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" ingenuity had an almost noble air to them. One model channeled Jimi Hendrix wearing nothing more than a sheepskin, a pair of dark jeans and a headband, another looked rakish by cinching a pair of oversized Prince of Wales check trousers into a paperbag waist.
Given the sheer amount of shearling that's been sent down the runway this season, it's likely we'll see more of this rugged, high-plains drifter on catwalks to come, but the wildly divergent takes on the same iconic male silhouette illustrate just how much open space there is on the Patagonian grasslands of style.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: Gaucho-inspired looks from the Salvatore Ferragamo, left, and Vivienne Westwood, right, Fall/Winter 2010 men's runway collections. Photo credit: Peter Stigter / For the Los Angeles Times