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Turn Up the Heat – Giorgio Armani, D&G, Salvatore Ferragamo

Designers raised the temperature in more ways than one for fall, showing tailored looks that had a steamy undercurrent or cozy knits just right for a snow day.

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Designers raised the temperature in more ways than one for fall, showing tailored looks that had a steamy undercurrent or cozy knits just right for a snow day.

Giorgio Armani: Sex sells. It’s an age-old adage proven true again and again. Fold into the mix a certain refinement — not to mention some divinely cut jackets — and you’ve got a recipe for chic a lot of women will love. That’s the notion Giorgio Armani is banking on for fall — and his banking seldom goes awry.

The collection Armani showed on Monday afternoon centered around a single daytime concept — the sexy suit. It came skintight with a short, flirtatious jacket and fanny-hugging skirt — delivered with an unmistakable Forties woman-of-mystery attitude. Thus the satellite dish hats tilted just so on the forehead and ankle-strap platforms punctuating the hourglass shape.

Though the silhouette was constant, Armani kept it interesting with assorted flourishes — hip drape here, hem flounce there — and a wealth of fabric combinations worked in an upbeat palette of warm grays and blues shot with brights. Men’s wear patterns played against solids with relative discretion — glen plaid over dove gray silk — or against gussied up fabrics to wild effect — engineered pinstripes over mitered purple and green velvet stripes. Either way, the results were high on steam while maintaining at least a surface propriety. On the down side, at times the designer tinkered too much with details: peculiar spills of ruffles down the front that overwhelmed the skinny-minnie rear view; an overblown black and white checked number only a NASCAR wife could love.

Evening, too had its bloopers — awkward bubble skirts, anyone? But these were countered by plenty of graceful alternatives for which Armani dropped the hourglass in favor of a new take on glam — lavishly embroidered gowns with small bodices and skirts that fanned outward gently, stopping well above the ankles. A daring Oscar night proposal for Ziyi Zhang, who sat in the front row, leading the applause? Time will tell.

D&G: Surely in the D&G showroom this week there’ll be no business like snow business. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana buried their runway in a virtual avalanche of cozy knits, all done up in a tasteful shades of ivory and white and shown against a wintery backdrop of frosted evergreens and heaped white powder. An oversized cardigan twinkling with icy sparkles perfectly set the mood, though the flurries of mohair, angora and cashmere never let up, with cableknit bodysuits, legwarmers and knit-trimmed skating skirts as well as sweaters that came out in every imaginable shape and size.

This story first appeared in the February 21, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

On the lighter side, a series of dresses layered with crocheted lace and sheer organza played to a girlish mood. Meanwhile, cropped parkas and Fair Isle sweaters glazed with sequins kept faith with the brand’s clubby roots, as did T-shirts printed with an image taken from Madonna’s “Sorry” video. Never a pair to shy away from a little fashion-fueled camp, in keeping with their theme, the designers topped things off by sending out Santa Claus himself, accompanied by a troupe of snow bunnies dressed in Merry Christmas T-shirts. While the timing of such holiday cheer might seem a little odd, the designers’ joyful sentiments are certainly in the right place.

Salvatore Ferragamo: What happened to pretty and polished? While it may be interesting for a midcareer designer like Salvatore Ferragamo’s Graeme Black to venture forth and try on a different mood, that kind of experimentation doesn’t always work on the runway. For fall, Black took a sharp turn, veering away from last season’s fine-honed subtlety with a look that was vaguely retro. However, his hints at modishness — including a slew of oddball evening frocks — came across as studiously cumbersome and fairly drained of any fun.

In fact, what looked just right were charming ruffled knits, slim pencil skirts and pleated party dresses, especially one in inky blue, which served as delicate reminders of some of the designer’s previous success at the house. As his fans know, Black has a talent for refinement — and he should let it shine.

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