Given that he's famous for greige and navy, Giorgio Armani sure knows his way around red. Through the entirety of his new Armani Privé show, there was a soft-focus back projection of a dancing lady in red, and the catwalk explored the contents d'une boîte laquée, a lacquered box that opened to reveal a feast of red, white, and black. Cresting on his ninth decade, Armani has been reflective of late. One of his most memorably odd early collections was a Japanese-influenced affair from 1981. There were subtle echoes of that here in the lacquer, the pagoda shoulders and origami effects, and the Kabuki-ness of the color scheme. But like his contemporary Karl Lagerfeld, Armani is also hell-bent on the future. Couture is an experimental playground for him. So there was a peculiarly appealing industrial edge to this collection. The coat of red vinyl strips studded with rhinestones was as unexpected as it sounds. The hard space-age cage that swaddled a torso was actually woven ribbon. The shimmer of a coatdress came from laboriously applied enamel studs. And all of it red.

The buzz around the Couture shows in Paris has been about young customers. Apparently nothing says youth like a pair of haute shorts. They were a major building block of Armani's collection. But so were the A-line jackets swinging pertly off pointy little shoulders, and they were young, too. Likewise the careless confidence of breasts bared under polka-dotted tulle. And the fur that wasn't fur (organza) and the mohair that wasn't mohair (nylon).

But Armani wasn't really chasing the youth vote. Another key factor in his collection was the huge swathes of net around head and torso. They blurred the silhouette, creating an air of mystery for clients who might be of the vintage of Sophia Loren, serenely seated front-row-center. And Kati Nescher's finale moment, in a huge ball of organza atop a fishtail dress in silk crepe, echoed across the decades to Norma Desmond. That's where the past and future collide.

It was the same with Armani's front row. Aside from Loren, the entirely random cast of characters included Juliette Binoche, Jared Leto, Kate Hudson, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Pink. "I can't wait to get my hands on that red dress with the black back," the latter enthused. "I love to sparkle."