If yesterday's Emporio collection suggested an interest in the work of Rei Kawakubo on Giorgio Armani's part, today's signature collection compounded the impression. He called his show Garçonne, though this time it was comme de Rei in a different way, more attuned to the—in hindsight—almost romantic androgyny of her collections from several decades ago. All the models were kitted out in squishy hats and cropped black wigs. The garçonne they were like could have been the gamine Amélie, the character who launched Audrey Tautou's career. And, as usual with Armani, a cinematic reference helped clarify the collection.
Last night at the Oscars, the designer scored big, dressing three of the best-actress nominees. But that was Armani as Hollywood's go-to glamour-meister. The clothes he showed today could not have been more different. "Decidedly avant-garde," announced the show notes. Without going quite that far, there was an odd principal-boy feel to the cropped, narrow velvet pants (the designer offered the option to narrow them still further by running zips down the leg) and short fitted jackets. Armani emphasized the boyishness still further by making a feature of buttons, buckles, and suspenders, the kind of things that detail the clothes of little princes. In one outfit, the suspenders even appeared as a lacquered trompe l'oeil detail. You could imagine the denizens of Natalie Barney's Parisian salons in the 1920s would épater le bourgeoisie in something similar. (Or maybe that was only because French accordions—and the supremely androgynous Grace Jones—were all over the soundtrack.)
Jessica Chastain and Naomi Watts wowed Oscar in blush-toned, crystal-strewn goddess gowns, but for his own collection's eveningwear, Armani opted for long black velvet dresses, slim on the hips, slightly bias-cut in the skirt to add an eccentric twist, paired with flat shoes and the luminous accent of a white organza blouse tied at the throat. Or he tacked on a sculptural detail, like a circle of pleats on the bodice. If the rigor and purity recalled Rei, there was also a lot of Armani's own iconoclasm in the result.