Armani sets a celebratory tone with a salute to the Forties

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The Independent Online

This is Giorgio Armani's year. Having recently unveiled his new Privé collection of handmade dresses at the Paris Haute Couture, along with a fine jewellery collection and four new fragrances, Armani - the brand - celebrates its 30th birthday while Armani - the man - prepares to celebrate his 71st.

This is Giorgio Armani's year. Having recently unveiled his new Privé collection of handmade dresses at the Paris Haute Couture, along with a fine jewellery collection and four new fragrances, Armani - the brand - celebrates its 30th birthday while Armani - the man - prepares to celebrate his 71st.

And it was clear from his autumn/winter 2005 collection, shown yesterday as part of the Italian ready-to-wear collections, that he was ready to celebrate. Forsaking his signature beige minimalist aesthetic, Armani reiterated his manifesto to "capture the very summit of the luxury market'', in a glittering collection that continued his current love affair with 1940s surrealism. From the top of the structured turban-shaped hat to the tip of the platform court shoes, there was a nod to that era's most infamous designer - Elsa Schiapparelli - in the pagoda-shouldered velvet-trimmed cocktail suits, and his witty take on shorts: Little Lord Fauntleroy velvet bloomers.

Referencing the pre-World War Two surrealist art movement, there were cloud-like patterns that floated across velvet fluted shorts cut to shimmy like flirty skirts; a beaded eye that blinked from a lizard-skin handbag, and hand motifs that clutch heart-shaped pendant necklaces or the fastenings on swing back coats.

In the extra-long - perhaps too long - show, Armani also made it clear that this septuagenarian was not slowing down, nor stepping down from the $2bnempire that he still runs single-handedly.

And so to celebrate Armani sent out a finale of black velvet cocktail dresses that glistened with beadwork and crystal embellishment. It was just the thing in which to raise a toast to the birthday boy.

It was a different story, however, over at the psychedelic printed house of Pucci where Christian Lacroix showcased an unusually sober collection. A brand more famous for its Capri pants, island life sophistication and sun drenched Mediterranean coloured prints, Lacroix opened with a series of black wool dresses and black suede boots that were lightened only with the flash of gold filigree.

Even the swirling prints were hushed in tones of berry, lilac and burnt orange, or redrafted into geometric patterns. Pucci was a favourite of such style icons as Jackie O, Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Bardot, and Marilyn Monroe, who not only collected Pucci shifts but was buried in one: a chartreuse Pucci silk jersey number. Anybody going to a funeral will, strangely, not be short of anything to wear from Pucci.

Even Consuelo Castiglioni's collection for Marni, with its cheery handcrafted and wholesome approach, was sober to say the least. Washed khaki and navy cotton was sliced into duster coats, while kilts were created from clashing panels of tweed in a muted palette.

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