Velvet, stated the show notes, “is the protagonist of a collection that unfolds in different episodes.” Interesting that Giorgio Armani invoked the terminology of cinematic storytelling after his big night at the Oscars; he dressed numerous people including two nominees, Cate Blanchett and Charlotte Rampling; one winner, Leonardo DiCaprio, and a fashion guy of the future, nine–year-old Jacob Tremblay. They all looked great.


But then, Armani is a master of situational dressing, whether for the most rarified of red carpets or everyday life. And by his lights, real women dressing for real life don’t want trickery and excess. Hen announced his season’s platform in the collection’s title, “Black Velvet.”


“After the euphoria of color, the vanity fair seen over the past two years, I felt we should cleanse ourselves of this need to surprise through a palette of colors and a mix of fabrics,” Armani said after his show. “Velvet is decipherable in a clear way and is sophisticated. Customers don’t have a book with instructions. Italian fashion is envied by everybody, we shouldn’t try to overdo it.”


Thus, he ordered up black velvet bolts by the bushel and got to work. He made a bold case for the validity of velvet by day, most often in pants matched to pale tweed jackets, though he also showed snappy men’s wear-inspired suitings in taupe tweeds with just a touch of the soft stuff, on jacket pocket flaps. Perhaps because the fabric was the collection’s unifier, Armani felt free to diversify his silhouettes. His jackets ranged from loose and swingy to sleekly tailored, and pants, from classic trousers to a fluid shape cuffed at the ankle, to an experimental take: pants with colorful tweed tuxedo stripes running down the inner leg. Lest you wonder, these paired with matching jackets, the lineup’s strongest shot of color.


Evening proved equally subdued, to lovely effect. If two can be considered a trend, then a trend emerged from the Milanese couturiers. First, Donatella Versace all but eschewed eveningwear. Armani didn’t ignore it, but went decidedly low-key, leaving his grander pronouncements to the haute realm at Privé. Here, he again started with black velvet pants, with jackets, tunics or a cape. For those moments when tailored won’t do: velvet gowns, appealing in their simplicity, particularly a pair of full-skirted looks, a one-shoulder in solid fabric and the other, in black-on-nude cutout lace. No, they won’t ship with an instruction manual. The Armani woman has it down: zip up and look elegant.

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