Giorgio Armani is a pragmatist at heart. “I’ve always maintained the idea that fashion belongs to the people and not to press, sorry to say, or to the designer…It’s most of all intended for an audience buying, going around, living life,” he said during his pre-show press conference on Saturday. Lo these many years into one of fashion’s most brilliant success stories, that has proven a salient philosophy, yet not one impervious to romantic musing. In his program notes, Armani referenced the classical nymph Echo, who became “immaterial,” and “all that remained…was her voice.”

Armani centered the collection on a base of gray, navy and brown lightened by a luminescent echo of gentle hues, pinks and blues that played hide-and-seek with the light throughout the impressive, controlled lineup. He worked a deft counterpoint between gentleness and sportif, the former in the demure palette, and the latter, in silhouettes often rooted in a sportswear approach while taking considerable liberties with its tropes. The purpose was clear. “You all want to be more modern than your grandmothers and mums,” he told the assembled journalists, mostly women, at the press conference.

Armani took a pants-first approach, opening with a pair of trim suits with lady-fied collarless jackets, one gray and one brown. From that spare base, he wended through various options, arguing successfully for opulence in one look (glimmering multistrand necklace atop a high-neck draped top and shiny pants) and minimalism in another (midnight tunic over brown opaque pants). He offered options galore — ethereal, utilitarian, modernist-snappy — while keeping it cohesive within that mesmerizing color palette. And if some of the pants proved too zippy (literally — those full-frontal vertical zippers), there were plenty more, sans hardware.

Evening was lovely. A master of presentation, Armani indulged in a few flights of runway-only fancy that flaunted mega ruffles and a ribbon-fringe cage seemingly designed to trip on. But mostly, he shone with new versions of his exquisite embroideries in intricately bejeweled tops over gossamer pants and mesmerizing, linear gowns. Intended for real women, living life and looking chic.

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