In 1981, while Giorgio Armani was rewriting fashion's rule book, he dressed fellow maverick Grace Jones for the cover of her epochal album Nightclubbing. Her jacket—broad of shoulder, nipped of waist—reappears three decades later in Armani's new Resort collection. It's the sort of gesture he's been prone to of late—gentle reminders of the shifts in sensibility he's initiated over the years. And maybe that was also the impetus behind the collection's orientalism, something else that has been part of the designer's vocabulary since the early days. Here, it was obvious in details like mandarin collars; frog closings; shades of jade, celadon, and lapis; the obi belt on a jersey jacket; and the jewelry, influenced by Imperial China.

Armani's professed theme for Resort was actually Urbanity, so whatever else was going on was a subtext to a sleek, effortless sophistication. "A woman needs to dress and go," he said. But the emphasis was most definitely on "dress," as in clothes that projected a subtle opulence. Armani made it easy with fabrics that shone, like the satin in an evening column, or leather that was lacquered. He also used sheer fabrics for added translucence. The effect was a little like a celluloid shimmer, but maybe that impression was simply because Armani's mid-calf lengths and asymmetric fichus echoed his beloved thirties movies. In that sense, his fierce Nightclubbing jacket wasn't so much retro as timeless.