January 23, 2007 Paris
As it happens, the clothes did win the tussle for attention, at least for a respectable portion of the 65-look showand against such starry competition, that's saying something. This was Armani's best couture performance so far, and a clue was in Mrs. Cruise's dress: It was about India. Or, rather, about Armani's chic-ed up take on the subcontinent, the emerging market that has so many designers so excited.
The look might be described as "Maharani of Milan." The show opened with a collarless black pantsuit, a curving steel cutlass with a decorative hilt stabbed through one lapel. That set the tone: a merge of Armani's signature jackets and monotone greige palette with Indian-inflected cuts and bejeweled embellishment. For day, he worked a new sense of ease into Empire jackets with deep ruffles, crafted a twist and curve into knee-length skirts, and caught a sophisticated sense of the trend for tunic and leggings with translations of the traditional kurta. The shoescutaway gray pinstripe pumps with big jewels on the toealso struck a nicely judged east-west balance.
All this, before getting down to the real business at hand: the Academy Award evening pieces for Blanchett and Co.'s perusal. In that department, too, there were outstanding moments, particularly a drop-dead gorgeous one-shouldered silver-embroidered white sheath. If there were an Oscar for the couture gown of the season, that one would be up there with the nominees.