Twenty minutes before the scheduled start of his Armani Privé show on Tuesday, Giorgio Armani was doing what he typically does 20 minutes before show time: waiting for his audience, which would eventually include the likes of Uma Thurman and Hilary Swank, among others. His girls were tressed, dressed, lined up and ready to walk. Whatever last-minute instructions he may have had for them already dispensed, Armani was warm and talkative during a backstage preview. “You won’t find any more the Armani who does the male jacket,” he said. “Having courage means turning a page.”
Perhaps so, but that doesn’t mean turning one’s back on a lifetime of beloved stimuli. Armani has long been drawn to far-flung locales and cultures, and countless of their reference points have infiltrated his work. This collection, he said, would display “an echo of different cultures. As if you’re touring the world and taking different references from different cultures and you obviously make them more for today’s world.”
That translated into a lineup of mostly streamlined looks in high-intensity, high-shine fabrics, the exotica rendered via a moody palette shot with red, nonspecific tribal-esque patterns and bold accessories, including the ubiquitous fez. (The man loves a hat.)
Despite opening with a pair of lovely full-skirted dresses worn under waistcoats and over pants, Armani’s primary focus for day was pants sans dress, cut lean under short, crisp jackets or waistcoats. He varied these with details of cut such as curved closures, plisséd edges, geometric hems and short, puffed sleeves. He carried the motif into evening with casual elan in a waistcoat embellished lavishly in black beads over Mikado satin pants. For grander moments, he ranged from the simplicity of a lovely long black satin dress with a hint of vibrant embroidery to the sleek intricacy of a graphic, red-and-black, jewel-encrusted peplum top over a black mermaid skirt.
Enough? Not for Armani, who made a big push with accessories. While his fez heads were clearly just for show, he expects his other ideas — bags and shoes in matching prints and big bar broaches demonstrative at times to the point of confusion — to find some serious traction at the couture level, with perhaps a soupcon of trickle-down. But his primary motivation remained creative. “The jewelry,” he said, “makes this more courageous.”