Habitually, Giorgio Armani takes his runway bows in Milan sporting navy—a sweater or a T-shirt. The hue was the linchpin of his Fall 2016 collection, as it has underpinned his career and the wardrobe of the Armani man. Why? Because navy is classic, unobtrusive, and universally appealing, all timeless hallmarks of the Armani aesthetic.
Time has little meaning for Signor Armani. As the Western world revolves around a Gregorian calendar, climates rising and falling, Armani operates on his own. He’s the rare designer with the power to do so; let’s call it the Giorg-orian calendar, which apparently moves at a much slower pace, standing outside of fashion. This show was once again an expression of Armani’s absolute singularity: He interspersed his male models with female, perfectly matching couples where, perhaps, velvet faced his lapels and was stroked in a thick lobe across a cocktail dress for her. It gave the impression of an Armani universe, one that runs parallel to our own, but entirely separate.
Of course, the clothes weren’t from a different planet. They were Armani classics, ideas that have gestated long and transformed slowly over time. So the cashmere, vicuña, and alpaca Armani showed today, seemingly similar to those from 20 years ago, revealed infinitesimal variations, subtly indicating the passage of the seasons other designers adhere to so rigidly. They were cut wider, shorter in the body, frequently double-breasted, and subjected to washing processes that broke down the surface of the fabrics, softening the whole. Another expression of time.
Is Armani interested in time? In 2015 he celebrated 40 years in the business, the year after his 80th birthday. As other designers discuss the reworking of historical styles to create modern garments, Armani essentially rediscovers his own history, season after season, refining his classics, creating the future from his own past. Armani stated that this collection, interspersed with motifs culled from northern Africa and the Mediterranean, and inspired by imagery of William S. Burroughs in a crumpled suit somewhere in Tangier, was about a journey. A voyage into Armani—a slow trek, a midnight (blue) train to Giorgio.
The subtle, slow-burning evolution evident in an Armani show—sometimes stuporous, but here more languorous—raises wider, larger questions. How much do people really want something ripped apart and entirely reengineered year after year? At what price novelty? I suspect Giorgio Armani considers each and every one of his collections entirely new, dreamed up from scratch. He recognises the difference in them all, even if we don’t.