As Giorgio Armani's business approaches its 40th anniversary, he's looking back, digging in the desert. But nothing is the same. So if the desert was the inspiration for his latest Resort collection, it was the past transported into the future. The noncolors of the desert, blasted by sand and wind, were touched with metallic details, the fabrics (double-faced wool, jacquard organza) were as light as a breeze, the textures were the ripples of a dune.

But the anonymity of the desert is an obvious challenge. How do you make such vastness memorable? Where are the reference points? For Armani, they lay in the luxe effect of a croc-printed jacket in plongé leather with matching short shorts; in a bustier embroidered in bronze; in a snakeskin coatdress. At the same time, four decades of experience spoke in the pantsuit that was the collection's foundation. The trousers, with their cigarette-thin legs paired with the jacket's short, wide sleeves, updated an Armani classic. Everything old is new again, when you know how to do it this well.