Across the globe, menswear is polarising into two categories - sportswear (or 'streetwear' as the fashion pack love to call it - think big baggy shorts, hoodies, sweaters and parkas) and traditional tailoring. These two separate camps are perhaps most evident on the London schedule, where presentations by young sweatshirt-mongers alternate with slick Savile Row suit showcases. But within the large labels, designers and money men alike seem to have cottoned on that the best strategy is to walk a middle line between the two ethoi - though that can be a hard mark to hit. That is, after all, how most men are dressing - it's just as rare to see a chap decked in a full three piece as it is a guy rocking head to toe baggy. The trainers with a suit or tailored trousers with a t-shirt mentality has spread, and even the most conservative and luxurious of European houses are keen to cash in on casual.
So Z Zegna's new strategy makes perfect sense. The brand choose Pitti Uomo, the Florence trade show that comes between LC:M and Milan, as the chance to unveil a new concept for the label, which sees Zegna Sport and Z Zegna merged into one, with designers Murray Scallon and Paul Surridge working together for the first time to unite these two polars of menswear. The new Z Zegna is all about bringing the technically advanced fabrics we see in sportswear garb into the world of tailoring to respond to the needs of hectic urban commuters on the go 24/7. So suits came in water-resistant Techmerino, perfect for a raining morning dash to work, while zero seam coats came in hard-working stretch fabric, ideal for cycling around town. The whole 'clothing for the urban jungle vibe' was hammered home by a post-show Traceur performance by agile boys from the Formainarte company, who ran and jumped like energetic monkeys around a scaffolding set while clad in Z Zegna - the message; these suits aren't just made for walking, but ducking, diving, squatting and leaping too. It's clear that the new Z Zegna is all about wearability and practicality rather than pushing the limits of design - functional excellence definitely came before fashion innovation. A great concept, if the man who shops it is after clothes that reward the wearer, rather than knock-out the viewer.