TALES OF MILANO
MAESTRO OF UNDERSTATEMENT GIORGIO ARMANI TOOK THE ELEGANT, SUBTLE APPROACH, WITH A DASH OF SEX APPEAL, WHILE GIANFRANCO FERRE, FOR HIS PART, WENT FOR ROMANCE, GLAMOUR AND THE GRAND GESTURE.

GIORGIO ARMANI: Giorgio Armani has always been one to keep his wits about him, and in the collection he showed on Wednesday, he was at his most cool and collected. He was also at his most casual. In his program notes, Armani said he was addressing a woman who wants to “rediscover a civilized, relaxed approach to fashion.” Maybe that’s what Demi Moore, who showed up unexpectedly at his late show, was looking for. She’s been working the collections like a pro and, by now, she just might need a little fashion sanity.
Giorgio certainly has plenty to offer. Just about everything he showed was easy and understated, with an airy feeling. Nothing looked forced or contrived. Armani went subtle all the way, even erasing the spots of bright color he’s tinkered with in recent collections, the oranges and bright blues. He’s now sticking to a mostly dark palette, especially combinations of navy and black.
Armani said before his show that he wanted to play with “sex and gentle androgyny,” and he did it with utter refinement — at least with his shapes and fabrics. At this point, however, showing all those jackets opened over exposed breasts has become a little too familiar.
For day, the freshest looks were jackets that fell with ease from a natural shoulder, worn over fluid pants. There were also leaner, more structured suits, as well as second-skin tanks with belted skirts in shades of gray. Armani’s accessories looked better than ever, from the newly hip handbags to his chic stilettos and comfy slippers.
At night, he was both restrained and opulent: restrained in his choice of shapes, opulent in an explosion of the exquisite beaded embroidery he loves. There were beaded jackets and little cardigans over pants and skirts, and a host of dresses that looked just a bit bohemian cut to midcalf, including some fabulous nude silks.
True, a surprise would have enriched the collection — and there was none to be found. But then, hijinks are not the Armani way. He prefers, he said in his program notes, to address “a pressing need to rediscover real elegance.”
GIANFRANCO FERRE: Gianfranco Ferre is focusing on expansion. Since last year, he has launched three younger apparel lines under licensing agreements, along with innerwear and a golf line. He has also formed a new U.S. company and is in the process of opening several new stores and renovating others. “It is essential to keep looking to the future,” he said recently. “I never feel as though I have arrived.”
Unfortunately, the collection Ferre showed on Wednesday simply did not reflect this progressive attitude. He obviously wanted to infuse the show with a casual mood, even powdering his runway with white sand to recall a romantic European beach. And amidst all the glam proportions and sweeping statements, some of the pieces did achieve an aura of nonchalance — the organza shirts, the long pleated skirts. White dominated the collection, with plenty of lived-in-looking fabrics such as unlined linens, washed organzas and raw canvas.
For evening, all attempts at toning down disappeared. Clearly, Ferre was drawing on his couture background for lavish Lilly Langtry dresses and rustling taffeta skirts, some of which were appealing.
Ferre just can’t resist those grand gestures, and they do have their place. But it’s not a place with a growing population.

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