Giorgio Armani seems to be in a reflective mood. Having recently celebrated 40 years in the fashion world and his 80th birthday, it is perhaps little wonder that his menswear collection, presented in Milan on Tuesday, was as much about philosophy as it was about next season’s clothes.
In notes distributed at the show, the designer railed against the ephemeral nature of fashion. “The Armani universe … clearly and concisely expresses a mindset that focuses on individuality and the creation of a self-sufficient style that doesn’t take notice of trends,” the notes read. “Signature fashion expresses the mindset of a free spirit that rejects all fake rules set by a media consensus.”
As would be expected after such an introduction, the collection was defiantly timeless. It focused on the shapes Armani fans love – relaxed tailoring, linen trousers, silky, fluid overcoats – in typically muted shades: taupe, sand, beige, dove, slate and periwinkle. Slouchy trousers were layered under asymmetrical waistcoats, which emerged from cardigans or relaxed blazers. Innovation came via cuffed trousers, the occasional brightly coloured jumper or chino and an Armani-branded bicycle with unexpected yellow rims, wheeled on by a navy blue-clad model.
Armani has been marking his 40th year in the industry by taking time to focus on his achievements. This season’s show notes also quoted Immanuel Kant: “Give me matter, and I will construct a world out of it.” The parallels being drawn seemed clear.
Armani has, indeed, created a world. As well as almost a dozen clothing lines, from the couture gowns of Prive to relatively affordable high street offshoot A/X Exchange, there are Armani hotels, bars, restaurants, bookshops and things for the home. His designs may not be edgy or esoteric but he is celebrated for the quality of his clothes and adored by his public. In 2014, while many other big luxury brands struggled, Armani reported growth of 16% to €2.53bn (£1.8bn) and gains in “every market”. According to Forbes, the man himself is now worth £8bn.
In April, Armani opened a 4,500 square foot concrete cathedral to his accomplishments – Armani/Silos – opposite the similarly magnificent Armani Teatro, where he presents his collections. During the two-day inauguration party, Tina Turner, Tom Cruise and Janet Jackson rubbed tailored shoulders with Glenn Close and Leonardo Di Caprio.
He recently told a journalist that he had cried “thinking about certain projects I can’t now do because there is a limit of time. How can I be happy when I know that all this, this company, will come to an end?”
However, he remains determined to work into his 90s. He eats well and exercises strictly. Indeed, the word “timeless” could also be applied to the designer himself, who accepted applause at the end of today’s show, standing under a spotlight, honed biceps clearly on display beneath a tight black t-shirt.
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