For the first time in fashion memory, there were no show notes on the chairs for the Giorgio Armani collection.
The designer was perhaps too busy preparing his 40th fashion anniversary celebrations. This includes a retrospective show on 30 April – the eve of Milan Expo — that will commemorate his commanding presence in Italian fashion; and the simultaneous opening of the Armani “Silos” project, in an empty building that was once a Nestlé factory, but will now be filled with the history of Giorgio Armani, including an educational area and cultural centre.
All of the above, from show planning to architecture and content, will be executed by the 80-year-old Armani himself.
At the show I expected to see a run-through of the familiar. Instead, from the trousers decorated with brushstrokes at the opening, through to the pared down, painterly evening gowns, there was barely a repeat from the last four decades.
“Not a retrospective,” said Armani with a shudder. “Nothing old. Moving away from men’s-style tailoring. And no notes because I want people to make up their own minds and see what they want to see.”
I saw slim trousers, lots of them, most with a wrap round from hip to thigh like a modest swimsuit. They looked much more credible than I make them sound. And they had a purpose: to cover up where a radically new cut — for Armani — produced short, shapely jackets rising up the derrière. Peter Pan collars added to a prim, but pretty, femininity.
I looked across the runway at phalanxes of American buyers, and wondered if the new shape might seduce those women whose closets are already dedicated to Armani — and maybe some newer customers, too.
Around three quarters of the looks in an 80-piece collection were based on pants. So Armani was not shying away from the androgynous Eighties, but rather elaborating on the freedom he gave women in that period.
The designer also had other ideas: knitted jackets, fringing and feathers used to look like the fluff of fur. Without show notes, I was not sure whether a royal-blue Mongolian lamb jacket was, in fact, made from some techno fabric.
The relatively few evening clothes were quiet and gentle, in spite of the colourful beaded patterns. As the models lined up, they became like a living curtain behind the maestro of Milan, who received what will surely be the first of many salutations to come.