The oldest – and possibly surest – hand in Milan belongs to Giorgio Armani, the elder statesman of Italian fashion. He showed his spring/summer 2014 collection a day later than the rest, in a Monday morning slot he has made his own. If the weekend shows of Moschino and Dolce & Gabbana could sometimes feel like parties, Signor Armani sees fashion as work. He’s dressed the working woman for long enough, so you kind of understand why.
This season’s Armani continued like many others – models walking Ark-like two-by-two, modelling garments that, Armani said, were inspired by lightness and shadows. There was certainly a lightness, reflected in the fluidity and fragility of fabrics, and the pastels the collection favoured were sometimes dulled, as if a pall of Armani’s signature greige were drawn across them.
However, the real inspiration behind Armani’s collection was pure and simple. It was Armani. The garments he showed stand the test of time precisely because they are not of it. It sometimes feels unfair to place Armani alongside his peers in Italy, a little like placing a Rembrandt next to a Pollock. They belong to the same medium, sure, but their approaches, techniques and indeed final outcomes are diametric opposites. Rembrandt and Pollock both hang on walls: Armani’s clothes and those of his Milanese cohorts hang on bodies. But otherwise their similarities are minimal.
Watching the fluttering culottes, the unstructured jackets in herringbone, or the diaphanous evening dresses in chiffon spackled with glinting beads walking in the cold blue catwalk lighting that Armani favours, you were struck by their similarities to his collections past, the continuum of the Armani style – style over fashion. I couldn’t help but remember the declaration of the late, great Yves Saint Laurent: “I am no longer concerned with sensation and innovation, but with the perfection of my style.” I wonder if Armani would say the same.
From an old master to new blood on the Via Della Spiga: last night saw the first catwalk show from a new Italian designer. Yes, they do exist. His name is Fausto Puglisi, previously showing via look-books and some terribly visible (and sometimes risible) gold-studded outfits worn by the fearless fashion likes of Anna Dello Russo. Such has Puglisi’s success been, even before his first own-label show he was head-hunted as head designer for the Paris-based but very much Italian-born label of Emanuel Ungaro.
His eponymous label, however, skews more towards the work of Gianni Versace – witness the second Axl Rose reference of the week after Donatella’s own ode to rock, with saddle-leather bondage straps buckled across brightly coloured silks, splashed with printed or sequinned palm trees like Vegas motel-room curtains. Most clothing stopped at the crotch. If it went lower, it was slit to the waist. Puglisi isn’t dressing shrinking violets and this collection will get both his label and his clients noticed. He may be young – just 37 – but Puglisi offered a persuasive counter-statement to Armani’s, the duo closing a strong Milan Fashion Week with a bang rather than a thud.