Emporio Armani at Milan fashion week: 40 years of ‘a determined form of grace’

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Emporio Armani at Milan fashion week: 40 years of ‘a determined form of grace'” was written by Jess Cartner-Morley in Milan, for theguardian.com on Friday 25th September 2015 13.09 UTC

The show notes at the Emporio Armani catwalk show in Milan defined the look of this collection as “a subtle yet determined form of grace”. A phrase which applies not just to these clothes, but to the brand Giorgio Armani, 81, has spent the past 40 years building.

The first look of the show was a grey trouser suit. One, of course, with the precisely calibrated slouch that has made the Armani suit an icon of urbane sophistication since Richard Gere wore one in American Gigolo. This being the more youthful and relaxed – read, cheaper – of the two Armani catwalk shows in Milan fashion week, the suit was worn with a pink T-shirt with a smiley face emoticon.

The emoticon was interesting, because the emotional tone of Armani brands has always been one of cool detachment. This comes from Armani himself, who describes himself as having “an excessive sense of discretion, which stems from my austere middle-class sense of morality” and has long been shown in stark relief, in the Milan fashion world, against the tumultuous narratives and heart-on-sleeve emoting of the house of Versace.

The interplay of masculine and feminine memes in fashion has been the central leitmotif of the clothes Armani designs for women. Fashion has fallen into step with him on this lately, with the result that the principal-boy silhouettes ever present on his catwalk are bathed in the flattering light that comes from being in vogue. The narrow jackets, duster coats and light, airy wide-cropped trousers all chime with fashion’s direction for next spring.

To mark the 40th anniversary of his career, Armani is publishing an autobiography. It is a very Armani way to celebrate a landmark. Control and self-determination have been the guiding principles both over his empire, which he has never allowed outside investment in, and over his aesthetic.

In the autobiography, he says: “I have built my empire upon the observation of everyday reality.” Leaving aside the exaggerated shapes of the more extreme pieces – bloomers buckled beneath the knee, anyone? – this collection showed plenty of evidence for that. Lace-up ghillie flats with a mesh inner sock neatly brought together the hottest current flat shoe style, which laces over the front of the foot, and the integral socks which have debuted on football boots this year and which, in this new era of athleisure, are a smart target for translation into a fashion shoe.

Armani has a net worth estimated at £4.9bn ($7.5bn), and over 10,000 employees. Financial results for 2014, the most recent made public, saw profits rise by 5.7%, to £417m. Armani, who is chairman of the company as well as designer, credited “an attentive strategy of brand diversification”. Six collections are designed each season, with catwalk shows for the most prestigious three. Prive is shown at Paris couture, Giorgio Armani will show in Milan on Monday. But it is Emporio Armani that remains the most accessible of Armani’s catwalk shows.

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