Backstage at Giorgio Armani Cruise 2020

TOKYOIn his first runway show for a cruise collection, Giorgio Armani touched down in the Asian island nation of Japan, and brought with him a Mediterranean island vibe.

“The collection is a condensed version of my style, which has remained consistent over the years — like an island in the fashion system,” the designer said. “The burnt, neutral colors and tactile, raw textures reference characteristic island landscapes.”

Even the runway itself resembled water flowing over sand, with clear Plexiglass panels covering beige carpet and throwing ripple-like reflections onto the surrounding walls. The show began with looks in neutral shades, eventually moving on to more vibrant reds and blues. But each look was relaxed and easy, with lots of fluid shapes.

Armani also made ample use of soft, natural textures. Linen, silk and satin were accented with leather trim and sumptuous knits. Lightweight fabrics were often used in voluminous pieces, from oversized women’s blouses and flowing ponchos to pleated men’s trousers that gathered at the ankle like jogging pants.

The accessories were also big and bold. Wide belts with exaggerated buckles defined the waist of coats and pants, tortoiseshell necklaces were chunky and layered, and brooches and earrings packed a punch with their sheer size and bright, shiny colors.

For cruise, Armani’s men’s suits were more casual than usual, but just as expertly tailored. In soft fabrications, they were styled more for the harbor than the city, accented with suspenders and often paired with neckerchiefs instead of neckties.

The women’s offering featured some slimmer silhouettes, but placed the same importance on comfort, with far more flat shoes than heels, plenty of soft knits and many loose, billowing shapes. One standout piece was a sheer black dress, gathered into pleats from the neck to the waist and secured at the collarbone with a cord. Complete with pockets, it was a picture of effortless elegance.

The final series of women’s looks consisted of slightly more formal pieces, many of which were intricately beaded or embroidered. Deep blue velvet contrasted with red sequins in botanical patterns, and a long, roomy red skirt looked modern and cool with a relaxed pullover in sheer horizontal stripes. Homegrown model Ai Tominaga closed out the show in a floor-length, beaded seafoam green gown that buttoned up to a shirt collar.

Armani said he deliberately chose Tokyo to host his first cruise show for several important reasons.

“I resisted the idea for a few years, but in the end, I decided this season to include the cruise collection on the runway for a very special occasion: the reopening of the Armani Ginza Tower,” the designer said. “I liked the idea of paying homage to Japan and its people, who have always supported me, in offering something brand new. It is an organic project that may not happen again; I will see in time.”

Japan is a significant market for Armani, with some 90 points of sale across the country, including 34 in Tokyo alone. The country and the brand also share a love for certain aesthetic elements, including neutral colors and clean lines.

“What Armani and Japan have in common is an insularity that does not mean isolation, but rather knowing one’s worth and nurturing consistency in letting it grow,” said the show notes for the cruise collection.

Armani said he admires Japanese people for their composure and discretion, and that the event was his way of offering a sign of gratitude to them. The last time Armani was in Japan was in 2007, when he held a One Night Only show in Tokyo to celebrate the opening of the Armani Ginza Tower.

“The reopening of the Ginza concept store was the opportunity to return to a country that I hold dear after 12 years, a country whose aesthetics and culture have always influenced my work,” he said. “Tokyo is fascinating, as it is a city of incredible contrasts. While looking toward the future, it does not forget its past, as is seen in its customs and a profound sense of politeness. It is the ideal place to present the cruise collections as a special event.”

As his show venue, Armani chose an annex building of the Tokyo National Museum, Japan’s largest art museum. The structure’s imposing facade features an entrance staircase flanked by two lions, while inside is an impressive domed ceiling, sweeping staircases and dozens of columns.

“I wanted a symbolic and sleek location that is representative of Japanese culture and aesthetics, a place that would be surprising as the set of a fashion show,” the designer said. “The Tokyo National Museum is a magical building that offers absolute calm and balance.”

On Wednesday, Armani appeared briefly at a small event hosted by the Italian embassy in Japan. Executives from Japan’s top department stores all gathered to watch as the Japan Department Stores Association presented him with an award and a gift of fine Japanese lacquerware; a gesture of the retailers’ appreciation for a decades-long relationship. The chair of the organization is Ken Akamatsu, who is also chairman of Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, Japan’s largest department store company. In a speech, the executive said Armani had changed the face of fashion in Japan — particularly men’s fashion — when the brand entered the market in the Eighties.

Prior to arriving in Tokyo to prep for Friday’s cruise show, Armani spent a few days in Kyoto, acclimating to the time difference and taking in the scenery.

“I visited extraordinary places like the Kiyomizu-dera temple and the incredible bamboo forest in Arashiyama,” he said. “I was also captivated by watching artisans making kimonos, and their exquisite fabrics.”

In Tokyo as well, Armani enjoys the contrast of quiet pockets amid the buzz of an urban landscape.

“I like to visit the gardens of the Imperial Palace; I find them poetic and truly sublime,” he said. “I also love hunting for objects of design in different areas, from Shibuya to Ginza, immersing myself in city life.”

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