‘Shocking.’ The word appeared as the headline for Giorgio Armani’s show notes. It was written in bold, spidery handwriting – the introduction to the designer’s Privé collection.
Was this a reference to Elsa Schiaparelli — and the legendary designer’s perfume? Although she died over forty years ago, her name and brand have been revived — not least with a new designer at this Paris haute couture week.
At Armani Privé, out came shocking pink. It engulfed the lighting and ran as a line of colourful runway carpet. The same juicy shades glowed from casual tops and pants, or more decorative clothes where the intensity was heightened by Lurex threads and Swarovski crystals.
It took time for me to realise — maybe not even until I was backstage and Armani was greeting Naomi Watts and hugging Italian film legend Claudia Cardinale — that there was nothing ironic about Giorgio channelling Schiap.
“I wanted provocative colour,” said the designer, when I asked him about the ‘shocking’ link. And it seemed that this display of vividness and elaborate embellishment was an aesthetic turnaround from last season’s Privé collection, an exercise in serenity, built on images and textures of bamboo.
For this new season, the pink, from catwalk carpet to clothes, seemed like sensual overload. Yet in individual cases the garments literally glowed. Lurex shimmered through the surfaces, with pinks, blues and purples melded into dresses that were further enhanced by layers of wafting feathers or rich embellishment.
The show opened with some cuddly daywear: a pink chenille jacket — soft, shapely and teamed with black pants. The rest of that outfit – from earrings through to lips, fingernails and shoes – was pink.
The lean daywear silhouettes soon filled out, with pointillist patterns on a soft bottom half. And then came a fluff of pink feathers. As an intense blue infiltrated the rosy hues, the palette became a mix of turquoise, royal blue and — pink.
This ‘one trick’ idea is unusual for Armani, but the range of special effects was impressive: for example three-dimensional silken flowers or blue and green streaks on a feather coat.
It has been many years since Armani was described as ‘Il Signor Beige’ — long before Privé was even ‘born’ as a made-to-order couture line a decade ago. Perhaps because of the designer’s early focus on neutrals, the powerful colours for this Autumn/Winter couture collection seemed constantly surprising, right up to the end of the show.
But, in his fashion, Armani made his pink passion convincing. He seemed, at the cusp of age 81, a designer with something still to say.