He called his collection "Regal," but Giorgio Armani is clearly a kindly king. This season, the designer has emphasized happy coupledom on his catwalks, and, at the end of his signature show, he brought his entire design team onstage to take a bow. They were celebrating a collection that marked Armani as master of his domain. In a season where pattern and texture have come to the fore, Armani came into his own. His work has, year after year, resisted trends and fallen in and out of favor with critics, and this season his lustrous quilted velvets, shawl-wrapped knits, and softly reassuring coats came across like a luxurious security blanket. Which isn't to say that this collection was some kind of deluxe mush. It was disciplined in its construction, even quite hat-and-gloves formal. The way in which daywear and dressing up flow seamlessly into each other seems to be a theme that has been absorbing Armani of late, so here he offered high-collared shirts, velvet-collared jackets, three-piece suits with waistcoats that buttoned high and old-fashioned.
Their softness saved the pieces from rigid formality, and they helped to underscore the inevitable cinematic subtext of all Armani's work. By "Regal," it's safe to assume the designer was thinking of Hollywood royalty as much as any tin-pot Euro monarch. Indeed, there were moments when one imagined a modern-day Cary Grant racing through a screen adventure in something like the richly bronzed nylon coat or anaconda-print jacket. But only a younger screen stud could swing Armani's black velvet tux with matching shirt. It's surprising how avant-garde a combination of such traditional elements can look.