MILAN, Italy — Giorgio Armani called his show MEN. His invitation arrived in a buttoned velvet pocket. So obviously, it was a particular kind of man he had in mind. Not a huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ type. More a sensualist, a dreamer. Soft focus, no hard edge. Armani has always dressed this man very effectively, probably because he connects so intimately with the designer’s own fantasies, nurtured by the movies he watched when he was a kid, seeking escape from the rigours of war. Why else would his models be carrying leather aviator helmets? Celluloid heroes!
Armani’s take on male glamour was in full effect in his show on Monday morning. The comfortable, confident volumes, the deep-pleated pants with cargo pockets, jackets tailored at the waist, soft but definite: these shaped the wardrobe that Armani was offering. And it was a wardrobe, a morning, noon and night situation which is rare in modern menswear – and which is maybe why Armani strikes so many fashion cognoscenti as someone who exists outside time, a designer to be given his drily respectful due rather than garlanded with praise.
But there was plenty to enjoy in the collection he showed on Monday. He upended menswear four decades ago by unstuffing it. Now he’s showing jackets as soft as cardigans and suit trousers as casual as track pants, with ribbed cuffs and a crotch slightly dropped for additional ease. But what always elevates the look is the fabrics. They practically beg to be stroked. And they come in colours that are the stuff of poetry, rich, elusive, with a tinge of decadence. Greige used to be the Armani cliché. It surrendered to navy a few years ago. But Monday’s top tone was brown, in a dozen chocolate-y shades. Particularly tasty in a crushed velvet coat. Only right — velvet was, after all, the star of this show, and it climaxed appropriately in tuxes of Stygian plush, with exaggerated lapels of black silk to frame the faces of Armani’s dreamers.