Armani, with attitude
It began with Giorgio Armani’s “Rock Symphony” and ended at midnight Wednesday with a barefoot Courtney Love in a Givenchy couture gown belting out “Samantha” until even the wrought iron banisters of the august Paris fashion house were shaking. So the haute couture autumn/winter season rocked? Not exactly. Although the former model Claudia Schiffer dressed as a “Libertine” as seen through the lens of Karl Lagerfeld – the image unveiled at a party awash in Dom Pérignon Champagne – did suggest the rock-the-baroque scenario of Sofia Coppola’s movie “Marie Antoinette.” But parties with a decadent glamour are nothing new for couture, especially in a season with so many landmark celebrations. The surprise was to find a new vision from the maestro of Milan: Armani with attitude. Citing his muse as David Bowie and switching from beige to shocking pink, Armani Privé challenged pre-conceptions about the designer. And although a lot looked forced (think pink – and more pink) the show had an energy and dynamism you don’t get from ladylike couture. “Soft rock,” said Armani. “I thought about the women of today – a lot has changed in the world even for the wealthy. And women who may be old still want to dress young. I am designing for a woman who wants to be assertive.”You would certainly be noticed in a shawl made up of a tangle of pink and blue mesh, a pink feather coat, a bright orange bolero with ballooning, frilled sleeves and what Armani called “crinoline rock.” That was a strapless dress with an egg-shaped skirt, split to one side to show off boots and recalling some of Gianni Versace’s wilder creations. But since Armani Privé has built a serious client list, the partygoers did not need to take all the hoopla too seriously. It was as if a rock band in full swing was trying to drown out the bass notes. But those were there in the collection: a lean tuxedo, fancied up with a shocking pink shirt and one of the crumpled mini fedoras, which had a rakish charm. Then there were the opening daytime outfits that seemed eons away from glam rock, with their small jackets, deep belts and full, girlish skirts. They too came in colors, but including an inky ikat blue. For those who wanted impeccable evening wear, silver came up as the new neutral shade and the line was slender, nipped in at the waist. The general feeling was that Armani was testing himself, trying to break out of his own shell, rather than seeing the 65-piece collection as a wild departure from his signature style. Often the funky pieces were accessories: a single fingerless, studded glove; an egg-shaped clutch bag in vivid pink; glitter bootees; and those multicolored shawls that the designer has tinkered with in ready-to-wear. It didn’t make for a cohesive vision. But the front row guest Cate Blanchett got the show. “It was fanstastic – so rock,” she said, picking out for the red carpet a black gown with a swoosh of chartreuse taffeta. “And God is in the details – I loved the shoes.” Suzy Menkes is fashion editor at the International Herald Tribune.