Large swathes of us have become accustomed to the comfort of loungewear for the better part of the past two years. Now, with re-emergence in sight, the urge to dress up has also returned. Some designers have been championing the comeback of full-on glamour, but the most alluring propositions have actually come from designers who have taken into consideration this new-found penchant for ease and elevated it with a dressier, more polished sensibility. The look takes on different forms at different brands, but the common thread seems to be reinterpretations and reconfigurations of the suit—creating a new sweet spot between suits and sweats with pieces that look as good off-duty as they do going out into the world. 

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Leading the charge is Alessandro Sartori at Ermenegildo Zegna. The House has always been known for the faultless elegance of its menswear, but for the past couple of seasons, Sartori has taken the impeccable work that Zegna does with its fabrications, and reworked it into a new, more languid and laid-back look. “My aim at Zegna is to create an accord between the essence of tailoring, which is our reason for being, and the rhythm of the modern world. What I’ve done is a rewiring of luxury crafting, following a flow that frees the man while keeping the distinctiveness, offering pieces that are as  easy to wear as they are inventive,” says Sartori.

For spring/summer 2022, that meant distilling the suit into its purest essence. Many of the silhouettes borrow from suiting but are actually composed of pieces that read casual—crisply tailored oversize shirts and paper-thin leather jackets tucked into roomy pants, and blazers and trousers as lightweight and louche as pyjamas. Almost every look is presented in tonal monochrome, further heightening the easy throw-on-and-go attitude of the collection.

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That same ethos is mirrored at Hermès, where Véronique Nichanian has been championing an unfussy, unpretentious take on luxurious wardrobe pieces for more than two decades now. According to her show notes, the spring/summer 2022 collection is “about a sense of lightness, relaxation and freedom”. She also calls it “an invention and reinvention of a wardrobe”. Standout looks include a collarless jacket in butter-soft suede worn over a similarly collarless shirt in cotton poplin and knit polo shirts worn over knit crew-neck tees in the same fabrications— both alluding to the classic shirt-and-jacket combo but looking so much more relaxed. As Nichanian puts it, “this hybrid approach ushers in a renewed elegance synonymous with energised and flexible shapes—the seemingly casual style belies a structured sophistication.”

Soft, casual sophistication is also the name of the game at Lemaire and The Row. The latter showed a navy collarless jacket that has all the ease of a cardigan but the put-togetherness of a tailored blazer, while at the former, there was a lightweight windbreaker treated like tailoring and tucked into high-waisted, pleated trousers. Both were not exactly suits, but would not look out of place at an occasion that calls for a little more formality.

From left: Lemaire S/S 2022 and The Row S/S 2022

Where Lemaire and The Row worked with a serene neutral palette, Sacai and Dries Van Noten added more colour to their offerings while maintaining that same soft sensibility. Sacai’s cobalt two-piece probably comes closest to the traditional suit, but its gently oversize silhouette with sloping shoulders, and drawstrings on the cuffs and collars lend the look a compelling casualness. Dries Van Noten presented his own take on the shirt-over-shirt look— double the sophistication, none of the stuffiness. While each of these designers approached their message of the season in distinct enough ways, the through line was clear—and it’s one that Sartori sums up best: “Effortlessness is the key.” 

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Dries Van Noten S/S 2022