More than any other tributary of the fashion industry, haute couture depends on keeping the customer satisfied. Clients were out in force at the Armani Privé show tonight, more noticeably so than at other shows this week, although that may have been due to the closeness of the venue. Baby, it was hot inside.

It's tempting to think that the clients came because Giorgio Armani treats them like queens. At least, that was the significance of the mysterious wand-like object that appeared as an accessory throughout, dangling off lapels, rolling up waistbands and necklines like a scroll. Armani based it on the scepter, the symbol of royal authority carried by crowned heads.

But it also looked a bit wizard-y, and when you put that together with the Middle Eastern skew of other recurring features—such as the gilets and the fez/cloche hybrids that every model had fitted to her head, as well as rich reds, oranges, and saffron in the color palette and a couple of outfits that suggested zouave pants—it was hard not to go there with a Thief of Bagdad-style subtext. Armani would surely have seen the film when he was a boy (Conrad Veidt was the wicked vizier), and it's always entertaining with this designer to see how early impressions filter back through decades of adulthood. It is possibly the same process that accounts for the way in which haute couture allows him to indulge his own fantasies of fashion, like the Thief of Bagdad's magic carpet. That private passion translates into a persuasive draw card for the Armani customer.

Today's collection included some ever present Armani signatures. The thirties insinuated themselves in the form of the chevron patterns of Art Deco. Fitted gazar jackets limned the body. And of course, there were pants galore, often in mikado satin and fitted to a practical fault. It was those pants that clarified a characteristic of Armani's couture: its tension, in radical opposition to the ease on which he founded his empire. He's working something out here. Today, the experiment yielded some fascinating results (a bustier gown embroidered in strands of sequins looked like a spill of hell red liquid latex) and some dead ends (black satin pants sprouted what looked like a fanny pack). And so it goes on.