As Christopher Bailey plays it soft, Armani bucks the trend. By Carola Long

Christopher Bailey, Burberry's creative director, played to his label's strengths at Milan Fashion Week yesterday, with a show that reworked the company's classic coats in numerous fabrics and cuts.

The designer said the collection was "based on every kind of outerwear from sporty to evening. It goes back to the company's heritage". Accordingly, there were functional dip-dyed cotton macs in graduated shades of stone, green and slate blue, as well as versions in a faded Burberry check. More overtly luxurious coats came in python with sequin embellishment, as well as metallic jacquard. Last season's flared trousers and long tunic silhouette had evolved into longer line cardigans and kick flared, crinkled silk trousers, but apart from shots of citrine and lilac, the colour palette was more subdued and earthy than autumn/winter with khaki, sage, muddy pink and mushroom setting an understated, or as Bailey described it, "softly romantic" tone.

There were no major surprises at the Giorgio Armani show, earlier in the day; in the past decade, Giorgio Armani has generally made his boldest statements through his business ventures rather than his clothes. After his show he held a party to celebrate the launch of his largest boutique yet, on the Via Montenapoleone, and then there's the perfume, the make-up and the Dubai hotel set to open in 2009. The designer might have made his name by pioneering a softer, more sensual take on tailoring, but he knows that the way to keep his empire growing is to make his appeal as democratic as possible. His aesthetic is based around the very Italian notion of feminine glamour, rather than radical shapes that shatter the status quo, and fortunately for him, many people share his vision. In July the label revealed a net profit rise of 66.2 per cent last year.

For spring/summer '09, the look at Giorgio Armani was classically feminine. Short jackets came with articulated waists and neatly defined shoulders in black and navy fabric, embossed cream or stone leather, as well as checks and jacquards. Some had asymmetric fronts, or pleated details at the back. These were teamed with gathered culottes in pale, natural colours, draped pencil skirts and flirty bias-cut silk dresses in duck egg blue and pale cream, and finely tailored tapered trousers in grey.

The palette focused on pale neutrals, with the odd foray into navy and shell pink. However, while much of fashion returns to Eighties and early Nineties tailoring, particularly with oversized masculine jackets, Armani focused on cropped and frock shapes.

Maybe he's missed a trick, or maybe he knows that his core, classically-minded customers aren't interested in revisiting an old look. However, at the show for Emporio Armani on Sunday, which is his younger line, there were long navy sequinned tuxedo jackets that looked very of-the-moment.

The evening wear section featured tapered, tailored grey trousers worn with sequinned and beaded tops. The finale featured long, plunging cross-backed dresses in the palest water colour washes of pink, blue and green organza, and a white gown with beaded leaf design.

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