In scorching 30 degree heat in Paris, Mr Armani lured us down to the bowels of the Theatre National de Chaillot where the art deco space was completely transformed into a black and red box ready to receive a collection inspired by Japan. The swirl motif on the invitation, like a geisha hairdo, had given the game away a bit. But a quick catch up with Philip Treacy at the door confirmed that it was the mystical east that had been on Mr Armani’s mind and he prepared the AW2011 Privé collection.
It wouldn’t be the first time we have taken our seats in a red and black room and sat through a collection of irrelevant kimonos. But we needn’t have worried. The front row had Cate Blanchett and Katie Holmes, both of whom have wowed a red carpet audience or two in their time wearing Armani. Neither lady is likely to do that in national dress. But Armani drew everything that was feminine and graceful from the traditional Japanese wardrobe and left the costume behind.
Narrow tailored jackets in black velvet with sharp pagoda shoulders and kick flare skinny pants looked simple and sumptuous for openers. Fabric and silhouette were the stars of the collection. Styled with neat, slicked back hair do’s, and topped with Philip Treacy’s architectural head pieces, a skinny black trouser suit with cherry blossom printed obi belt; a simple black strapless sheath dress with sculpted bodice and an evening coat with kimono fullness cut in contemporary cocoon shape with flash of tangerine lining all looked glamorous in an understated way and perfectly modern.
It’s not for nothing that Mr Armani reigns supreme over the red carpet. He’s been doing that for thirty years. But in a comparatively short five year period he has also become a titan of fashion’s most exclusive club, the Paris couture. At a showroom appointment last year I saw women dashing through the rails of couture the way I have only ever seen women behave on the first day of a Zara stock drop. You may find it hard to believe that a designer can whip customers into a frenzy over a £15 000 dress. At this show I counted at least five women (not celebrities: real, paying customers) wearing last season’s couture collection. If anyone can, Mr Armani can.
- Paula Reed in Paris