I look quite stern and am often perceived as academic, monastic even. I like that: frankly, it’s a protective way to navigate perilous fashion waters and maybe bypass the constant check on labels, items and body shapes.
I like the idea, probably just a fantasy, that by dressing like a monk I sidestep the things du moment and the silliness, or frivolity, that comes with them. Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against frivolity. Au contraire! I think frivolity is truly great and enjoyable; opting for clericality in appearance might, in fact, be the highest, most selfish expression of it. I just don’t like immediately evident manifestations of flippancy. It’s probably also a matter of age. I greatly enjoy writing about fashion, but I do not feel the urge to be utterly fashionable myself. I practise detachment. Stern dressing is all about that in the end.
As much as I feel protected in my monastic habitus, however, judgement is not avoidable. A colleague sarcastically commented on me wearing Homme Plissé Issey Miyake – where my monkish gear comes from – all the time: “You’re at risk of turning into Suzy Menkes.” The sentence was followed by a wicked smile. Menkes is a journalist I truly admire: the original fearless commentator with an encyclopedic knowledge and a sharp point of view, so I would love to turn into her, so to speak. But my friend was referring to the fact that Menkes, as the years passed, has traded her Christian Lacroix frocks for Miyake’s more practical, abstract and forgiving Pleats Please shapes. In other words, he was warning me about looking old. Do I? I am certainly ageing, but I have no problem with that. Also, Pleats Please and Homme Plissé are not the same thing: mixing them up upsets me a great deal.
Left: Angelo wears SS21 shirt-jacket and SS18 shorts by HOMME PLISSE ISSEY MIYAKE. Right: AW22 jacket and SS23 shorts by HOMME PLISSE ISSEY MIYAKE.
The comment, of course, left me unfazed, if with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. Fashionistas can be mean, you know, especially when they perform apparent friendliness. Never mind. I keep wearing and buying Issey. My clothes collection, which numbers a few hundred pieces, is divided between Milan and Ragusa, in Sicily, the cities where I reside, with some identical outfits in both wardrobes. I have replicas of my favourite items, an indulgence I truly luxuriate in. I do monthly additions – that’s the cycle of the Homme Plissé drops in the Milan shop. I get a WhatsApp message with pictures from the store manager as soon as items are unboxed. That’s a treat, honestly. Knowing the fit quite well, I select what I want from the images and ask them to put purchases aside for me. Weeks often pass before I actually go to the store, pick up my spoils and pay. I am slow in that sense. As a loyal customer, I am kindly allowed to be.
Like everyone else I guess, I have had many phases in my dressing life, but I have always had a fondness for uniforms. Not in the military sense. I strive for the visual clarity, efficiency and timelessness of wearing sharp clothing, and for the corroborating innuendo that comes with restricted choices and pervading severity. Uniforms are also very practical when performing the daily act of getting dressed. In my quest, I have been here, there and everywhere, from monochrome super basics to bespoke tailoring, never finding any lasting satisfaction until my encounter with Homme Plissé in 2015, which changed everything. The affair has been gradual, allowing me to shift, both mentally and in habit, into a whole new system. The phase feels somehow permanent, like I have reached my lifelong goal. It also coincides with my fifties: if it’s not wisdom – the unattainable holy grail – it’s something close.
A sidenote: my personal taste in dressing does not necessarily coincide with my taste as a commentator. I am acutely aware of my body frame and what works for it. As much as I like an extra skinny silhouette, for instance, I avoid it due to my sturdy build. Some designers I incessantly commend never make their way into my wardrobe, even though I love them fondly. Issey Miyake is different. I have been admiring his way of making things for as long as I can remember. I have always been in awe of his idea of creating pieces that seamlessly adapt to the needs of the wearer, thus making life easier. They do, in fact. I also admire Miyake’s fiercely progressive drive in an industry that can be so prone to nostalgia. He has shaped his futuristic vision by reconnecting fashion-making with shapes that are ancestral, almost primeval in their unremitting pureness, giving them a technological spin. His quest has been guided by the urge to create radical clothing solutions that respond to specific functions: forms that are inventive yet practical, things that make existence effortless. My daily life has improved because of him.
SS22 jacket and SS18 shorts by HOMME PLISSE ISSEY MIYAKE.
On the subject of menswear, Miyake once said that he had to be more realistic, while in womenswear he felt more free. Limitations, however, are a push towards invention, and he used the menswear ones as a genre to build a singular grammar that essentially revolves around movement and comfort. As a dedicated user, I can testify to all of this. There is a richness and nuance to every piece that stems from Miyake himself being adamant that his creative heirs, most notably his head designer Satoshi Kondo, brilliantly push forward, to put the wearer, not the ego of the designer, at the centre. The possibilities of use are manifold, while the abstract and the extremely grounded merge. True to his Japanese ethos, shapes are often purely geometric when laid flat, only to reveal their volume when worn. There are pieces that I bought just because of how beautifully pure they looked and never wore, without feeling guilty about it. I like how everything flows and deliberately ignore the washing and tumble dryer instructions so the pleats can open and the pieces gain further volume.
My Homme Plissé epiphany goes back to 2015. To begin with, I read an interview with Issey-san revolving around the project, which had just been launched in Japan. It immediately sounded like something I could wear. Then, in September of the same year, while on a business trip to Tokyo, a shopping spree at the Miyake Marunouchi shop led me to purchase my first Homme Plissé suit, the shade of blue of a Mao uniform. I tested the buy in every possible way, from the trenches of fashion week to long intercontinental flights. The sturdy yet lightweight pleated thing proved faithful to what it promised, coming across as low maintenance yet impeccably proper. The merging of practicality of use and exactitude of design won me over. The Miyake boutique opened in Milan shortly after. Kismet!
SS20 blazer and SS23 shorts by HOMME PLISSE ISSEY MIYAKE.
Practical is a dangerous adjective in fashion. It can stand for boring, dull or unstylish. Practicality, however, is great, and Homme Plissé has plenty of it. Everything, even the coat, is machine-washable, but that’s not the issue, even though it is a splendid bonus; a second positive is that it’s crease-resistant, which makes packing for any trip a joy. The fact is that these items keep their sharpness even at the peak of use, changing dramatically according to the way one chooses to wear them, or the size one decides to buy. I go oversize, for instance: I like a lot of space between my clothes and my body. Furthermore, Homme Plissé has no season. It might be a bit heavy in the Italian summer and a tad light in the winter, but it’s nothing some astute layering and heavy sweating cannot solve.
As my Homme Plissé closet keeps growing, the ways I can wear and mix it keep expanding. Each piece is a new addend that changes the total sum. Combinations are virtually infinite, in fact: everything goes with everything and the fact that in my case most of it is black or white further increases the pairings. There is also the odd patterned item that spices up the play. Every now and then I delve into crazy colour, too. Such modularity, for me, is a wish come true. This is uniform dressing at its most free and playful, with opportunities augmented to the nth degree. In the end, I see my Miyake pieces, essentially, as modules that allow me to face social living without feeling like I am wearing a mask or, worse, I am being worn by my clothes. There is psychological subtleness in the design but also a junction of cultures and styles, of East and West, past and future, that is captivating and keeps me engaged, day by day.
In the end, my dedication to Homme Plissé, however I justify it by making it a form of asceticism, is probably just another affirmation of frivolity. As such, it gets me noticed, and raises comments. Sarcastic ones, or enjoyable ones. In the Vogue Runway review of the Homme Plissé SS22 collection, which was presented as a lookbook with models of different ages and sizes, my colleague Luke Leitch wrote some flattering lines. “That casting seemed to cry out for the inclusion of Miyake super-influencer and my Vogue Italia colleague Angelo Flaccavento, who wowed Milan’s street style cognoscenti this week with his dreamy flamingo pink pleated jacket and matching hosiery game. Flaccavento is fast becoming to Miyake what Audrey Hepburn was to Hubert de Givenchy, and showcasing the intellectual allure of this label as compellingly as any show.” Monastic I am. I belong to the cult of vanity, pleats and stuff.
Taken from Issue 58 of 10 Men – ELEGANCE, GRACE, BEAUTY – out NOW. Purchase here.
AW21 jacket and SS22 shorts by HOMME PLISSE ISSEY MIYAKE.
CALL ME THE HEPBURN OF PLEATS
Text and Talent ANGELO FLACCAVENTO
Photographer CHRISTINA FRAGKOU
T-shirts throughout by UNIQLO, shoes throughout by ALEXANDER MCQUEEN