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Milan Fashion Week: Zegna makes a Chinese resolution

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Fresh off a year-long centennial celebration, Ermenegildo Zegna wasted no time letting the world know where it is focusing at the beginning of its second century -- China.

On the business side, China has been on the Zegna radar for the last two decades, which is how long the label has had a presence in that country, and the last couple of years it's been a big part of the brand's expansion efforts. So a Fall and Winter 2011 collection titled in the show notes as "In the Mood For China" doesn't come as much of a surprise.

What did come as a surprise was the way the usually subtle-to-the-point-of-stealth collection invoked that Chinese mood: borrowing liberally from the looks of uniforms from the Chinese Revolution, rendering a piece of classical Chinese art in woven silk fabric that appears throughout the collection and going heavy on lacquered red and bronze accents.

Upon close look, even the most subtle pieces payed homage to the season's theme -- the stripes of a wool pinstripe suit resemble -- ever so slightly --- the distinctive shape of bamboo cane.

Along with the military luxe look of the belted soldiers came lots of dangling exterior leather holsters hanging from those belts (not a good look -- unless you're a Boy Scout) and some seriously oversized fur hats (fuzzy headgear was all over the runway on Day 1 in Milan).

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Zegna also opened the first chapter of its second century with a little bit of high-tech runway wizardry which it calls "Live-D" -- essentially sending the models past a green screen en route to the actual runway and adding a background, with the  image being displayed on a giant screen at the top of th runway.

The resulting effect is that the audience sees a model trudge along the Great Wall of China for a few yards before emerging onto the catwalk in Milan.

The effect was impressive for the first few looks, and I'm sure it won't be the last time it's used, but the magic dissipates quickly with repetition.

But I have to give Zegna its due -- for a brand that often seems to sacrifice style for safety, the Fall and Winter 2011 collection was a great leap forward.

-- Adam Tschorn, reporting from Milan

Photos: At top, Ermenegildo Zegna's "Live-D" fashion show used a green screen to make models look like they were hiking along the Great Wall of China, among other locations. At bottom, looks from the Ermenegildo Zegna Fall and Winter 2011 men's runway collection shown in Milan during men's fashion week on Saturday. Credit: Peter Stigter and Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times.

 
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