On the night before the Oscars, where Armani’s star always shines bright on the red carpet, the designer staged a cinematic work of his own in Milan: his first coed runway show at his Silos museum. It was a most elegant affair, a “Rhapsody in Blue” as he called it after the Gershwin song, in an intimate, couture-like setting that amplified the house’s signature refrain of fluid tailoring with some jazzy new flourishes.
“It’s time for elegance again,” Armani told WWD backstage, before offering a remembrance of Marella Agnelli Caracciolo, the Italian style icon who died Saturday in Turin: “It’s a great loss.”
The last swan may be gone, but Armani is still here to carry the tune of Italian elegance. This season, he dispensed with most of his avant-garde fashion follies — who can forget the balloon pants and flying saucer hats? — and returned to his soulful refrain of perfectly measured sophistication and ease.
Maybe it was seeing the men and women on the runway together, united in 1,000 tones of blue and black, but there was a certain romantic lyricism to the way the collection unfolded, underscored by the smaller scale of the runway, which gave everyone orchestra seats to just what a hell of a cutter, draper and tailor the maestro still is.
For women, liquid-like jodhpurs, velvet pants, and diagonal pleated silk trousers, some cinched with satin belts, were the baselines for a symphony of stylish top notes rising in pitch as the show progressed, among them short jackets, cut close to the body, with a single blue satin lapel curving into a painterly stroke at the neckline, or swirling with allover beaded embroidery; abstract watery-blue photo print blouses; shiny satin draped blousons; and a slim evening coat edged in curling black velvet ribbon.
Later, the designer’s gestures became even more grand. A single-sleeve glittery, sheer squiggle-embroidered top with a blue flower bloom at the structured shoulder, worn over jodphurs; and a stunning jet tile-embroidered, cap-sleeve bustier over velvet pants were the eveningwear crescendos before the final gowns, as stick-thin as musical notes, with playful sheer bodices, disc and tile embroideries.
Men’s looks had an even wider range, from an uber luxe Armani take on a weekend warrior’s fleece worn under a graphic gray-and-blue patterned overcoat, to a matinee idol’s shadow blue plaid velvet suit with black piping that had the softness and ease of pajamas. Several classic gray suits, one in windowpane check, were sculpted to models’ muscled perfection, while boxy, double-breasted checked jackets with shorter pants, worn with subtle printed shirts and brainy horn-rim glasses were tailored to the creative class.
At the end, the 84-year-designer, dressed in a blue double-breasted suit, took to the runway himself, walking hand-in-hand with a model in a glittering black gown. The Oscars red carpet has nothing on them.