During the course of the absolutely enormous Emporio show staged today by Giorgio Armani (94 looks!), it became obvious that there was an organic undertow propelling the collection forward, from the aqueous shimmer of the opening passage to the stardust-strewn finale. And, just as nature is a hit-and-miss proposition, so was Armani's Emporio. The models had hair braided and bobby-pinned into wheat sheaves. Natural, yet tortured. And, for every lyrical evocation—a shower of flower petals, or misty jungle flora—there was some strange manmade intrusion, foremost of these being the leggings that were intended to elongate and complete the silhouette. Instead, they sagged rather unfortunately at the knees and ankles, creating an impression of sloppiness rather than sleekness. Armani has never been a designer who shies away from risk, but, as Mother Nature could assure him, some risks work, while others are best consigned to the Darwinian slush pile.

And what worked best here were the pieces that had already been tried and tested: the fitted, single-buttoned jacket in glen plaid over cropped black pants; the monochrome pantsuits, severe but soft; the suits in pajama stripes; and, even as the designer pushed the envelope, notions like the tiered fans of pleated organza that he formed into party dresses. "Poised between realism and abstraction" was the claim Armani's show notes made for him. The more he tips the balance toward the former, the better off he is.