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Milan Fashion Week: Animal instincts at Etro and Moncler Gamme Bleu

January 19, 2011 |  6:30 am

The runways of the men's fall and winter collections are no stranger to animal hides -- fur, shearling and leather are a staple of cold-weather luxury.

But in recent seasons, the thick lapels of the shearling jackets have seemed to grow larger, the shaggy vests to bulk up a little more and the fur (or faux fur -- it's almost impossible to tell from the seats unless you've got show notes in hand) to be patched in just about everywhere imaginable -- in the hairy skirts and handbags at Neil Barrett as well as the mixed-fabrication cable-knit sweaters at Burberry.

But a couple of the Milan shows went whole hog on the animal theme -- well, "whole cow" in the case of Etro and the dog-and-pony (make that horse) show at Moncler Gamme Bleu.

Etro, which gave us an early hint with show invitations that made cow noises, used the bovine motif  as "a metaphor for mountain and central European culture." It could have been one of those all-hat, no-cattle collections (or is that all sizzle and no steak?), but mixed in with the over-the-top hairy cowhide that appeared on jackets, trousers and shoes were subtle Tyrolean touches, found in the Moncler gamme pockets shape of the hats, the braiding design patterns, shirt embroidery and the leather piping accents on jacket collars and pockets. 

In the end, it was these more delicate and subdued references to European mountain culture that kept Etro's mad cow of a collection from veering into the udderly (I couldn't resist) unwearable.

At Moncler Gamme Bleu, Thom Browne's penchant for showmanship nearly overshadowed a fall and winter collection inspired by the sports of hunting and horseback riding. Held at the Centro Ippico Lombardo (Lombardy Riding Center), it included a quintet of men on horseback -- nattily attired in full riding regalia -- followed by a bevy of barking beagles in the temporary stewardship of models in hunting-themed garb.

Although it's hard to see a place outside of the equestrian arena for the smart-looking red cutaway riding jackets with the white and blue diagonal stripe across the chest -- or the hats, boots and gloves that were part of the collection -- that wasn't the case with a hunt-inspired grouping that served up quilted vests, trousers, overalls and gloves, some in a black-and-white micro check and some in gray Prince of Wales check.

The hunting theme was actually an organic way to explore one of the oddest trends to appear on the Milan runways this week -- a seeming obsession with pockets. Moncler's exercises in pocket science included a simple, unadorned gray utility vest bristling with a four-pack of pockets, several multi-pocketed hunting jackets and a belted green three-quarter-length coat with narrow hip pockets deep enough to fit a forearm from fingertip to elbow.

Or, in this case, enough beagle treats to keep the canine contingent under control until the end of the show.

-- Adam Tschorn in Milan, Italy

More photos from the Moncler Gamme Bleu Fall and Winter 2011 runway show

More photos from the Etro Fall and Winter 2011 runway show

More All the Rage coverage of Milan Fashion Week

Photos: Top left, a look from Etro's cow-inspired Fall and Winter 2011 runway collection. Top right, Moncler Gamme Bleu's collection included riding gear. At bottom, an on-trend multi-pocket vest from Moncler Gamme Bleu. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson & Peter Stigter / For the Los Angeles Times