How Now Brown Cow

After a couple of seasons of ubiquitous black, it seems that brown will definitely be back for AW11. At least if Etro’s menswear collection sent down the catwalk in Milan is anything to go by.


Brown was very much in evidence in all its varied varieties, as was cowhide. But, if our associations with the latter often automatically turn to cowboys and the Wild West, it unfolds that what connects the two in Etro’s AW11 collection is the cow itself and its place in Central European culture with its unique mountainous landscape. Taking this starting point, the collection is one that takes us on a lyrical journey inspired by romantic figures of all types ranging from artists and mountaineers to such lofty figures as Frederic II of Svevia, King of Italy and the Ludwig II, the mad ruler of Bavaria. Etro’s AW11 collection has a distinctly Alpine feel running through it.

The anchor colour of brown –so characteristic of many traditional Alpine garments- is complemented with another traditional Tyrolean shade, that of a natural deep green. Into the mix are thrown shades of blue, beige and cream. Together they are meant as a reference to the mountainous landscape of central Europe; the backdrop against which the cow lives out it docile existence. But for those who cannot live without black, there are some black options, though often detailed in colours such as red that give them a strongly folksy feel.

Quite aside from the more metaphoric intentions of Kean Etro’s palette, there are lots of recognisable elements to the garments that we associate with the traditional styles of Alpine regional and folk costume; details of cuffs, martingales, edgings and patches. Local floral motifs and traditional paisleys crop up in a number of different ways from subtle details on the pockets of suits or blouson fronts to large-scale prints on trousers for some of the more dramatic looks.  Fur and hide are also used throughout, both for the looks that reference traditional work garments and as flamboyant details to evening suits, for example, fur detailing on tuxedo collars.

The silhouette remains slim, though not perhaps as tightly fitted to the upper body as we have seen during previous seasons. Similarly, there is no singular length to coats or jackets. The former range from short pea coats to knee-length, while the latter include a range of jacket lengths ranging from the traditional upper-thigh length for a suit jacket to cropped garments sitting somewhat higher than usual, though not as short as matador jackets. The same is true of buttons: both single and double-breasted abound.

This gives the collection an interesting feeling at times. For example, a number of the brown suits in corduroy or traditional Tyrolean wool, matched with patterned textile cardigans or knitwear and natty little ties, have the distinct nostalgic air of gentlemen ramblers on a trip to the mountains during the 1920’s or 1930’s. Yet, the slim silhouette reminds us more of the Milanese suit of the 1960’s. Together, the look is both practical and very contemporary.



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