The audience walked into Giorgio Armani
's latest presentation down an avenue lined with the works of Richard Hambleton, whose graffiti-graphic black "Shadowman" paintings from the early eighties are looking mighty good of late. Armani took that black and ran with it, all the way through a show whose guts were darkest velvet. He talked about "the New Chic," but what that boiled down to was a very particular precision: a short wrapped skirt, a jacket with a broad shoulder—sometimes peaked—and seaming that evoked Joan Crawford's exaggerated tailoring from the forties. And most of it in that black velvet. The two gowns in you-guessed-it that closed the show were surprisingly funereal as a red-carpet statement, but otherwise, almost everything slotted effortlessly into the category retailers then and boozehounds now think of as after-five. Examples included the one-shouldered dress floating away asymmetrically on one side, or the jacket coated in black paillettes (an echo of the Emporio collection earlier this week). Given that the mood was predominantly black, it made sense that the standout pieces were in color: a coat-dress in vibrant red ponyskin, an orange mohair jacket, a funnel-necked coat in green velvet. Armani has often seemed most attached to the exceptions to his own rules. It's perfectly conceivable that we saw something like that today. The needle-heeled stilettos and the fringed berets that suggested a sea creature dropped from a great height onto the models' heads certainly said so.