MIXED METAPHORS
WHILE GIORGIO ARMANI WENT FOR RELAXED PERFECTION AND JILL SANDER’S MILAN VUKMIROVIC PLAYED IT SIMPLE AND SAFE, GIANFRANCO FERRE TOOK A WILD, FUTURISTIC RIDE THROUGH INDIA.

Giorgio Armani: Who’s the richest of them all, not to mention the most powerful? Giorgio Armani, of course. While almost everyone else is engaged in serious cost-cutting, Armani flexed major muscle on Monday when he opened the doors to his gargantuan new commercial and administrative headquarters that also house his new show theater. Designed by Tadao Ando, the space is a monument to the spectacular success and longevity of the Armani message. And with such a dramatic project finished, it’s no wonder he’d like to get involved in the hotel business — time will tell.
“I have to admit that moving out of Via Borgonouvo has been painful+but times change and I really wanted a more functional space,” Armani said before the show. “The new theater will allow me to not only stage shows, but to host performances and other events. It’s my little contribution to the city of Milan.”
In reality, of course, there is nothing little about Armani’s contribution to the city of Milan, or to fashion. Now his look is one of fashion’s great classics — honed, refined, but appropriately constant each season. For spring, he clearly wanted the clothes to play against the imposing concrete presence of the structure. That meant keeping everything soft, at times even girlish.
The big news: the slouch. Armani played into spring’s relaxed mood with loose, graceful tops and sweaters that fall off the body, usually over wide soft pants. These were appealing except when one leg was shorter than the other. Then it looked as if somebody scared the tailor and his scissor slipped. There was no such issue with Armani’s jackets. Here, he kept his men’s wear looks lean, yet with newly softened lapels and shoulders. But the best items were short and racy, sometimes in pale printed suede.
Armani loves subtle touches of exotica, and he introduced them in simple jersey tank dresses with asymmetrical trains that the models carried casually. When it came time for high evening, however, subtlety waned. Armani’s exquisite embroideries drip with luxury, approaching the level of couture. Yet sometimes one wished for more, as in more clothes: Armani’s red-on-nude parade was just a bit too risque. On the other hand, when his layers of pastel beading on black over pale silk or tulle created a cloud-like effect, the results were heavenly.

Gianfranco Ferre: For some designers, India means one thing: the sari. Not so for Gianfranco Ferre, who unleashed his far-out and futuristic vision of that land on Sunday afternoon. Due to current events, others might have felt touchy about approaching even that friendly region’s fashion. But Ferre had nothing to fear. Though his inspiration was India, the collection could have clothed the characters in David Lynch’s “Dune.” As the show began, a traditionally clad woman, perched above the crowd and playing a stringed instrument, created a tranquil mood that ushered in Ferre’s first looks — a white-and-silver homage to traditional Indian draping. Then the music took a thundering techno turn.
This designer’s freaky fantasy wasn’t of the yoga-and-yogurt sort. Indian or not, Ferre’s muse has always been one tough babe. And in her honor, he sent out bodysuits of black mesh and silver chain mail, a grommeted leather dress decorated with scrolling black mendhi patterns and skintight leather lace pants, some festooned with fringe and others that covered the essentials with mere triangles of suede. Ferre wielded embroideries and crochets, laced the backs of his coats and spread silver beads the size of BBs over his clothes with abandon. Black chiffon dresses came out with their bronze coin trimmings a-jingling and a-jangling. It was all like a magic carpet ride that spiraled out of control.
Most of the looks might only find a limited clientele — wealthy belly dancers, maybe — but he did send out some beautiful gypsy skirts. The gypsy mood wasn’t the only trend Ferre picked up on this season. Looking for a goddess dress? Sure, there were those of the billowing chiffon variety floating by, but how about one of his finale numbers? The runway lit only with black light, Ferre stunned the crowd with a set of stretchy gowns all aglow with embroidered tattoos. After all, his goddess dresses were made for a modern-day Durga, the demon slayer.

Jil Sander: They’re quiet, easygoing and correct, but is it too cruel to say that Milan Vukmirovic’s clothes play like Muzak? To be sure, his wrap-front shirts and leather-belted cropped jackets fell just gently enough, and his embroidered blouses transmitted a cool Moroccan vibe without knocking anyone over the head with it. The slight collar of his white shirt was a study in correct crumpling. But maybe there was something just a little too soothing about it all. These clothes are discreet and then some, leaving one to wonder whether the perpetually somber lighting scheme on Vukmirovic’s runway hides their distinction or whether there is any there to be found.
Of course, some of his best looks popped: a black skirt and blouse casually dotted with pearls, a stark white top pulled just so with a drawstring and worn with skinny white jeans, or a zippered white dress made up in an unusual basketweave. As with the rest of the collection, they were just fine. Solid stuff, not mindbenders. These are the workhorses of the wardrobe, the kind of clothes that get worn again and again. So what’s not to like? Now the question is, what is there to love?