Giorgio Armani at his Spring/Summer 2016 Haute Couture show finale
"It is elegant — the colour mauve and all its variations; it's for a young woman of class," said Giorgio Armani, who ended his Privé show standing against the palest of purple backdrops, with his black suit the only departure from the all-mauve outfits of the models. "Lilac in springtime" has a certain tenderness — the idea of a new season growing out of barren land.
But the Armani Privé version was more full-on summer: organza wrapped in an airy cloud around the body; and rippling, ruffled dresses in floaty chiffon. And all but a dozen of the 60-piece show looks came with a short, rather than a long hemline. That silhouette included shorts themselves - soft, light and high in a leg that led down to sparkly socks and those little flat boots invented by the late André Courrèges.
Armani's strength is that he makes everything he absorbs intrinsically his own — even the black wigs with a 1940s Hollywood look. "They are meant to look like wigs - this is Merle Oberon," announced Armani, although only half of the audience would know that name, but vaguely. Front row clients of a certain age would certainly get the reference, while others, young at heart, would get the elegant soft tailoring. Charlotte Rampling, up for an Oscar for her role in new film 45 Years, and looking chic in a tailored jacket and pants, knows that one of the dozen long dresses in the Privé show could be adapted to her desires.
Dare we suggest that she could even change the colour? I was impressed by the delicacy of the Privé workmanship: the shimmering surfaces, stripes worked in waves, bias-cut frills. Armani's work is infinitely softer and more natural against the body than when he started the Privé collection 11 years ago. Why the addiction to one single shade? "I wanted a female colour, something soft, not bright - and I wanted to repeat the success of my 'nude' collection," the designer said, referring to his shades-of-beige Privé collection for Autumn/Winter 2013.
I didn't ask if all these pretty pants rippling down the legs could be straightened up a bit; or if a silken wave could be extended to lengthen the hem; or if shorts could be swapped for a skirt. Because I knew that this is the sweet spot of couture, and what makes the "Privé" collection private.