ARMANI
SERIOUS BUSINESS

Byline:

Giorgio Armani is serious about fashion. Really serious. The collection he presented Thursday night was the least sporty and most formal he has ever done. Not to mention the longest. It was almost as if Giorgio were flexing his muscles and showing everybody just who the King of Milan is.
Instead of using his own house, he showed at a former aircraft factory on the outskirts of Milan, which cost him a fortune to redo for the evening. He invited 1,200 guests for the show and dinner, and he spent a second fortune producing this 400-plus-exit collection. You could probably run a good-sized Third World country on his beading bill alone.
The audience included everybody from Eric Clapton and Christopher Lambert to Ronald Perelman and Hilary Weston. What they saw was Armani at his most abundant. There were severe pantsuits, but there were also fluid pantsuits. There were Forties belted dresses, but there were tribal tunics over pants. There were simple black velvet evening dresses, but there were also some of the most elaborate embroideries and damasks this town has ever seen.
Amid this point-counterpoint, Giorgio introduced new high-collared jackets and the longest skirts in Milan. Even with their thigh-high slits, the calf-length skirts didn’t look quite right, and retailers will probably have problems selling them. This serious and at times intellectual Armani collection — especially with its heavy emphasis on evening looks — stood in stark contrast to the light and sporty Emporio collection he showed only three days ago. It’s as if the designer has decided to divide his huge fashion realm into two parts — one for the donna, the other for the prima donna — and only a king can do that.
The gala after the show was suitably majestic, celebrating not only the collection but the introduction of Armani’s new fragrance, Acqua di Gio. Huge projections transformed the space into an Art Deco wonder. The champagne flowed and the scent of lilies — the evening’s flower of choice — was everywhere. Giorgio himself made a quick change from the T-shirt and sneakers he wore on the runway into full black tie before greeting his guests, who sat down to a dinner of salmon salad, gnocchi and chicken. “I was nervous,” he told them. “Not so much about the collection, but about how to greet all of you in such a large space.”