Trousers shine in ripples and pearls: Armani's soft silhouettes offer an escape from 'grunge'. Marion Hume reports

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The Independent Online
GIORGIO ARMANI took hundreds of metres of chiffon and brimfuls of bugle beads to whip up a shimmering collection of evening wear in Milan.

A low-slung, sloppy men's suit was cut from languid fabric and pin-striped with row upon row of silver beads; a pair of trousers that rippled like waves when the model moved were entirely covered in tiny pearls; a glittering bustier dripped bead fringes, like a 1930s lamp.

The latest Armani collection, shown on Wednesday, was predominantly a trouser story. The minimalist maestro of Milanese fashion cut evening pants straight, wide and fluid or so they curved eliptically, full below the hip and tapering in to the foot. Every designer in Milan this week offered the black tuxedo option for after dark - and Armani had the best of the bunch - but better still were shimmering columns that looked like evening gowns until they revealed themselves to be trousers.

The mainstay of Giorgio Armani's global business is daywear and here too, the main story was trousers, often teamed with jackets as floppy as cardigans. Colours were muted watercolour washes, from sage to lilac and then beige, beige, beige. Milanese style can mean boring beige, but Armani showed there are 1,001 subtle shades from cafe au lait to caramel to toffee in as many textures; from basketwork springy weaves to the lustre of cloth shot with lurex threads.

Wealthy women expect Armani to dress them for the office and women who cannot afford his clothes feel the designer's influence as it filters down through the market. For many women, the office means a jacket, despite what the hordes of designers currently taking the 'grunge' route may think. Armani has not deserted the jacket, but has softened and streamlined his silhouettes yet further. One jacket was cut as short as a spencer, then an additional piece of fabric added below to give the illusion of layering without bulk and to draw the eye down a leaner line. Another had a ripple of fabric spilling over the front in place of a lapel, which gave fluidity without the frilliness that has been overdone elsewhere in Milan.

Grown-ups who do not want to 'go grunge' and turn up to work in a baggy sweater and a sock hat, nor to relive the Seventies through their clothes, may now breathe a sigh of relief.

(Photograph omitted)