GUCCI: Most designers long to put their fingers on the pulse of the moment. But directional designers have to anticipate that pulse. According to Gucci’s Tom Ford, that means total immersion in pop culture “so you get bored before everybody else.”
Well, Tom must be one bored guy, because he is certainly moving on. The collection Ford showed Tuesday night bordered on brilliance for a very simple reason: It crossed all the hype, glory and editorial madness of last season with a new-found respect for the bottom line. Sure, the stylists were in a tizzy, but so were the retailers. And they didn’t leave grousing about viewing the real clothes back in the showroom.
“Last season I was walking on the edge. I couldn’t go any further,” Ford said after the show. “This time I wanted to do something modern, simple, easy to wear. Good taste/bad taste isn’t shocking anymore.” And he succeeded, with an evolved homage to the Seventies.
Instead of hippies, this time think Karen Graham and Lauren Hutton — the Christy and Linda of the Watergate era. Think Halston and Stephen Burrows. Think sleek, brazen hair and makeup. And most of all, think decadence. Manageable decadence. The silhouette here is a long, skinny drink of water, based on a handful of pieces: a lean coat or jacket over a silk shirt, unbuttoned to the waist (the editorial touch) and tucked into natural-waist flared pants.
Except for a killer red velvet tuxedo, Ford’s given color the heave-ho. Instead he opted for a “uniform palette” of navy, brown, camel and white — along with other military touches. And he even digressed into the Eighties, making the ultimate in tacky — stirrup pants — look chic clinging to those mile-high platform shoes. At night, he created a latter day Mount Olympus: a chorus clad in drop-dead white jersey cut to show skin — and major flashes of Gucci gold. And, in the end, it wasn’t really about Eighties or Seventies retro. It was all about the Nineties — and the hottest fashion house in Milan.

EMPORIO ARMANI: Anyone who wants to know why Giorgio Armani is the world’s most successful designer should have been at his Emporio Armani show on Tuesday. There it all was: cool, calm clothes that won’t appeal to slaves of fashion but will appeal to women who want to look great in the real world. It was a long show — probably the longest Emporio show ever — and there was some repetition. But in the end, Armani overwhelmed his audience with his precision, professionalism and good taste.
The Emporio customer is no hipster on the make. She’s a woman with a mission — usually professional in nature — and Armani has fine-tuned this less expensive collection to meet her every sartorial need, from the sexy boardroom suit to the casual bomber jacket to the drop-dead velvet evening column.
Over the years, Emporio has evolved from a slightly schizophrenic secondary line into a full-fledged designer collection. Armani will only allow it to be sold in his own boutiques, and there are now 125 around the world, with another 15 expected to open this year. The importance Armani is placing on Emporio is evident to anyone who visits Milan. There are men’s and women’s billboards plastered throughout the city, and, at Linate Airport, there’s a gigantic illuminated sign heralding Emporio Armani. It’s the first thing visitors to Milan see. And probably the last. What more could a designer want?

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