It was 30 minutes (and 96 looks) in a 12-minute world, and worth every second of viewing.
On Tuesday evening in the gilded salons of the Italian Embassy, splendid in their intimacy, Giorgio Armani awed with his Armani Privé collection. It may have been his best ever. In his program notes, Armani said that he sought to capture “couture…as it once was: the authentic essence of luxury and perfection, the notion intended as instructional for ‘the young generation’ and the style of presentation, ‘almost regal.’”
If that sounds pedantic, it wasn’t at all. Rather, Armani presented an array of alluring, exquisitely crafted clothes that were elevated as befits the haute genre and diverse enough to satiate the desires of a range of couture clients.
Of course, Armani focused on high evening. He pioneered the red-carpet phenomenon as it exists today, and time and again he uses his Privé runway to remind that he’s not seceding a smidgen of his hard-earned turf to anyone. But first the daywear — lovely! And utterly controlled: sensible shoulder options on smart, shapely jackets; pants sans tricks (and mostly pants for day); the occasional well-placed flourish in a contrasting collar or graphic piping on a sleeve.
That all-neutral opening, mostly black and shades of white, led into an exploration of a similar palette at night, no less engrossing for its extensive length. Perhaps the preponderance of black and the dearth of the sheerness that Armani often goes for reflected consciousness of the #MeToo movement and its impact on the last Hollywood awards season. Whatever the designer’s motivation, elegance ran deep and wore many guises, from sweet champagne-and-black point d’esprit tiers to a surrealist moment with folded arms embroidered onto the front of a black velvet gown. And he offered countless takes on the black column, each detailed for chic distinction — pale lame sleeve treatment; bold striped bow at the neck; plunging sweatheart neckline.
Just past the midpoint came a teaser of color — a black-and-beige gown with a single turquoise strap and handbag. That ignited an explosion of vibrance, mostly flamboyant combinations of turquoise, fuchsia and black, as well joyful pink, pink, pink, rendered variously with the relative calm of a long velvet skirt under a black jacket or the euphoria of a frenzy of ombred feathers. Yes, one or two looks went over the top, but not the lone delightfully wacky hat.
After the first show, guests were welcomed to the embassy’s glorious garden for cocktails and conversation, with Armani’s second show less than an hour away. “How civilized,” one guest observed, between sips of Champagne. Beautiful dresses and haute hospitality — regal indeed.