Giorgio Armani showed his velvet touch on Monday as he brought down the curtain on a Milan fashion week heralded as marking a revival of the suit-based womenswear he pioneered in the 1980s. Velvet has always been one of the Milanese maestro's favourite materials and it is ubiquitous in his autumn-winter collection: black as the darkest night and, as he put it in his collection notes, dense, tactile and mysterious.
Having treated his fans to an unusually extravagant range of colours in his spring and summer collections six months ago, this marked a return to business as usual for Armani. The first two models to emerge from backstage set the tone: the first in a tightly-tailored three-quarter-length black velvet coat over predominately pink slacks, the second in a cropped, pink suit jacket worn atop black velvet trousers.
A geometric-patterned shawl was a rare break in the sea of black. Many coats were verging on the cape spectrum while a charcoal grey quilted jacket was given a hoodless parka cut. Floral print slacks had a pyjama feel about them while black cropped jackets were adorned by glittery sun dial-style back patches or bibs. There were also stylised flowers and black-tie detailing: a decorative lacquer collar with a long tie nonchalantly thrown over dresses and jackets, as well as nude fishnet ankle boots accented with black toecaps
Even a handful of beige and checked suits came with black velvet trimmings. Armani tends to eschew most catwalk trends but here he embraced the one that has seen male models appear increasingly in womenswear shows, sending out a posse that, with their chunky fur-style jackets, looked as if they were auditioning for a part alongside Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant" or in Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight."
At the age of 81, Armani is still trying to "look at reality with a new eye," the collection notes said, in this case a "dreamy and emotional" one.
Soft power suits
That Armani produced a suit-based collection will have come as no surprise to anyone, but influential commentators have detected a broader trend towards catering for the woman looking to push her way through a glass ceiling or two. So rich and recurring were the variations on the feminised two-piece theme that the New York Times suggested US Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton might finally be able to find something inspire her (much criticised) campaign wardrobe.
"The soft power suit is on the rise in Milan," the paper's fashion correspondent Vanessa Friedman noted. This is a trend with highly varied incarnations however. At Trussardi, it was reflected in a lapel-less fitted suit jacket being paired with matching mini shorts and knee-high riding boots.
At the other end of the scale, Marni opted for flowing capes or long-backed asymmetric tops which were deployed atop stirruped work trousers to create a more flamboyant vision of boardroom wear for the upcoming cooler months. Fashion's global circus now moves to Paris, leaving Milan's leaders to reflect on what was seen as a landmark week for Italy's style capital.
Matteo Renzi became the first Italian prime minister in living memory to attend a fashion week, the number of catwalk shows was the highest since 2008 and the emergence of a younger generation of designers suggested the industry's future is in good hands. (AFP)