Giorgio Armani – 2016 Spring Summer Womenswear Collection

40 YEARS as a leading revolutionary light in fashion and Giorgio Armani still doesn’t like “talking about myself” he admitted coyly at a presentation, introduced by Suzy Menkes, of his first autobiography; a giant hefty tome, simply entitled Giorgio Armani, a name writ large on 500 stores worldwide. The book he said, answering questions from a large audience, gathered after his catwalk Spring Summer 16 show, inside the slick concrete lined Armani headquarters in Milan (to this day he proudly prefers to converse in his mother tongue, despite a global empire worth £5 billion), were “the pulses, the remembrances of my past,” the designer elucidated. He was dressed as usual in a simple uniform of cashmere, loose twill cotton trousers in dark navy and white trainers. Around us rotated pictures from his life – his mother, immaculate and gloved, in a cream tailored suit, alongside his father, also spotlessly attired; Armani as a young man, then still planning to be a doctor, intently holding the eye of the lense, whether in his army uniform; muscular and tanned in cream swimming trunks or reclining James Dean-like in a leather biker jacket. And just as illuminating, we watched pictures and campaign shots smoothly slide past, demonstrating a remarkable career, how his company grew from humble beginnings in 1975 to the vast conglomerate it is today. He deftly averted directly naming a successor, “Well, my ego says no one will ever replace me!”, the 81-year-old joked to laughter, “but actually I know how to behave and I must say there are many global talents…”

For those born in the Nineties, it is hard to comprehend what Armani brought to fashion 40 years ago. “I started my own revolution,” he said. “A subtle one but also very strong. I changed the rules of fashion from the previous 20, 30 years,” he continued. “I showed that you could wear a flat shoe with evening wear; I added softness to men’s clothes. And I envisaged that women could dress like men but with great femininity.” Suzy Menkes reminded us that as women broke glass ceilings in the Eighties and entered the boardroom, he provided an armour, “suitable, significant” clothes with his light, womanly, androgynous trouser suit.

Armani is a designer who doesn’t like to bow to passing trends, instead delivering consistent luxury to his many fans. All the elements that have made his name synonymous with discrete elegance were there in his show today. There was a play on silhouette, the body softened, disguised and also revealed by cleverly juxtaposed fabrics, layered one over the other. Such as ribbed organza trousers worn under suit jackets or silk dresses; a classic white work shirt was re-invented as a loose silk shirt dress, with billowing pockets worn over a sheer black silk slip. There was also a playful floral jumpsuit in bright vermillion, while crisp shorts or capacious trousers were matched with bolero jackets.

Gems cascaded down pretty party dresses, danced across bodices in red, pink, emerald and white crystal or were bunched together in sparkling orbs. Skirts were voluminous, and above the knee, in midnight blue organza, gathered and ruched at the waist. Loyal customers will yet again invest in his tailoring next summer. There was something for everyone here – either in his sharp rendition of an evening tuxedo, or a day jacket folded and fastened at the collarbone. He is a master in flattering our female form, which is why so many professional women still flock to his stores. 40 years on his vision is intact across global boardrooms, a legacy worth applauding.

Emily Sheffield

Giorgio Armani – 2016 Spring Summer Womenswear Collection