Let there be light! That seemed to be the edict from Giorgio Armani, who shunned his signature darkened venues this season to showcase his fall Privé haute couture collection in a sun-drenched gallery at the soaring Petit Palais museum.
It made for a perfect foil to his dazzling outfits, which were covered in enough crystals to give Elsa a case of fashion frostbite. Armani used them by the fistful, as a sparkly dusting on barely there mesh tops, in orderly rows on his signature pagoda-shouldered jackets, and as droplets of light on the sheerest of tulle skirts.
“The impression is that of a clear water surface reflecting a ray of moonlight or sunlight,” his show notes explained.
The designer said the collection, dubbed Armani Code, was inspired by the “folk” style of the late Eighties and early Nineties. At first it was hard to see what he meant, so far removed were his liquid fabrics and iridescent textures from the rootsy appeal of boho chic.
He opened with those razor-sharp jackets in evanescent shades of pink and blue, paired with silver velvet pants overlaid with a whisper of tulle. The first hint of a folkloric touch came in the polka-dot motifs, though Armani homed in on their graphic potential, magnifying them into saucer-sized discs on a glossy black jacket.
Outfits combining black velvet and polka-dot tulle harked back to more familiar takes on so-called peasant chic, as did the maxiskirts in myriad variations, from the jade green tiered dress overlaid with frosted tulle to a cloudlike black bustier gown glittering with a constellation of crystals and pearls.
There was an Old Hollywood vibe to his satiny pajama pants and marabou feather stoles in watery pastel hues. New Hollywood — including front-row guest Nicole Kidman — will probably lap up his red-carpet designs, like the black velvet column dress with a crossover neckline winking with crystals that bounced off colored light.
Armani’s mastery of surface effects was so complete, it was easy to forget he broke the mold with his masculine pantsuits in the power-dressing Eighties. There was a little reminder of that iconoclastic edge with a sharp black velvet suit worn over nothing but a crystal scarf tucked into the waistband.
At 82 looks, the show could have done with an edit, though there was something profoundly satisfying about witnessing a designer at the top of his craft, in this first Paris Couture Week without hometown hero Karl Lagerfeld. With this masterful display, Armani fully flexed his creative muscle. At 84, the Maestro still shines.