Entitled “Earth” this Armani collection began on the designer’s most expertly cultivated and manicured territory—suits, two of them, in greige then brown—before adventuring towards a climax packed with references both mineral and vegetable (but not animal—this house has been fur free since 2016). Prior to this collection’s bracing upstream rapids, it began with a placid cruise through some luxuriously utilitarian daywear including a navy silk zippered parachute pant teamed with a brown leather fronted, blue shouldered jacket. There was also a section of appealingly textured squidgy handbags.
Long strapless silk dresses were layered over opaque pants with necklaces of cascading woven beads. Another parachute pant, this one smokey gray, was worn with a pale green bow, ruffle-edged vest and a necklace of long looping metallic cord. The earthiest we got for around 20 looks were the brown accents and the pragmatic wearability of much of it. Then a sleeveless nehru collared shirt and long skirt in brown with green abstract foliage curls signaled a shift that led via double-legged black pinafore culottes to an increasingly lush series of diffuse tropical leaf prints, metallic coruscations and those mineral flourishings played out in tulle scrap scarves and hems. The defining colors, greige and navy apart, were malachite green and halite pink and much of the full, furling organza twist or intensely beaded embellishment had an organically cultured spontaneity to it.
This was the second collection, following this summer’s menswear, that Armani has held at his Palazzo Orsini property for his main line. The intimacy of the venue and the daylight that floods its courtyard served to force us to look again at the work of a designer who has been so scrutinized over the years. From the hair to the handbags to the high level of adventurousness in the clothes, this show bore that scrutiny well. Backstage, pre-show, I was hovering in the wake of Suzy Menkes when Mr A caught sight of his long-time colleague. She asked him to talk about it, and via eavesdrop my rusty French concluded that he said this: “It’s modern but not too extravagant. There’s something in it that’s brave.”