Armani steps into the ring to design matador's outfit

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The Independent Online

Giorgio Armani is to design the suit of lights for one of Spain's top bullfighters in a corrida [bullfight] to celebrate the heyday of the taurine art.

Cayetano Rivera – the latest in a distinguished dynasty of star bullfighters whose grandfather inspired Ernest Hemingway's passion for bulls – will step into Ronda's historic bullring next month clad in a made-to-measure costume in the Italian designer's favourite shade of greige, complete with a full-length cape lined in scarlet velvet.

Armani is said to have been delighted to accept Rivera's invitation to create the haute couture suit. After studying the history of the "goyesca" costume, the designer showed the 31-year-old torero various sketches on the sidelines of his catwalk show in Milan in June.

There is a glittering history of matadors wearing designer costumes in the ring for Spain's national fiesta. Pablo Picasso designed the suit of lights for Rivera's illustrious grandfather, Antonio Ordonez in the 1950s, for a similar event. The American movie mogul Orson Welles and the writer Hemingway were among bedazzled foreign visitors on that occasion. Hemingway later wrote A Dangerous Summer about Ordonez's legendary rivalry with the other great bullfighter of the day, Luis Miguel Dominguin. And Welles was so enchanted with bullfighting that his ashes are buried at Ordonez's villa.

But Picasso's sartorial forays were not always considered a success. A keen aficionado, he also designed a costume for his friend and Ordonez's rival Dominguin, but taurine historians recall that the silk suit was too lightweight, and didn't give the bullfighter the support and protection provided by the stiff, extremely heavy, traditional suit of lights.

The annual corrida goyesca is a bullfight styled in the period of the 18th century master Francisco de Goya, whose paintings, sketches and engravings of bullfights in their glory days have never been surpassed. The "goyesca" bullfighting costume is often velvet rather than satin, and from a sober pallet. It is also less clinging than the figure-enhancing second-skin boasted by today's matadors.

Armani's tight-fitting version, however, favours contemporary bling: sequins and Swarovski crystals.