Prints are a big story for next Spring's menswear, but when Giorgio Armani titled his new collection Printwear, it was never going to mean a world of flowers or ikat or any of the other ideas that have already presented themselves for 2012. Subtle geometry was Armani's concession to the coming trend, like the check on a sweater that quietly dissolved into ombré, or the zigzags and houndstooths fading out on a cotton shirt and pants so light they were almost gauzy.
Lightness is Armani's current obsession, as we learned at Emporio the other day. But if that collection was pared to the point of plainness, this one showed why Armani is Uomo Numero Uno. A dove gray cardigan jacket swathing a sweater and pants was silvery and serene, but it's scarcely new in the Armani vocabulary. There was, however, something going on with the jackets, with the way the fabrics molded smoothly across the shoulders, that you sensed rather than saw. Impossible to define. Maybe that's exactly what it was—more definition without more structure. Masterful.
Elsewhere, Armani's shifts in silhouettes were easier to nail. There was a slight flare to a double-breasted jacket. Generously cut trousers either tapered to the ankle, where they buttoned for a pegged effect, or were nipped at the knee to form a soft jodhpur shape. That's how Armani manages to alter perceptions of the most basic components of a man's wardrobe. Why you would be seduced by nipped-at-the-knee pants is a story for another time, but Armani is likely the only designer of his stature who could interest you in a pair.
Same with his shoes. The espadrille is the definitive holiday footwear of the leisured classes, but Armani took it into the city, slipping a rope sole under a brogue or a boat shoe. Maybe not as playfully extreme as Miuccia Prada's potted history of the sole for the Spring just finished, but Armani's mutant footwear probably has a better chance of insinuating itself into boardrooms. And where the shoe leads, the soul follows.