Should I review the Giorgio Armani show as a fashion or a television critic? I ask, as for the first time in the 45 year history of his brand, Armani’s catwalk show for spring/ summer 2021 was broadcast in a prime time television slot on Italy’s La7 channel, as well as on his website and Instagram.
Armani is a household name and at a time when Netflix has never felt more essential to family life, the decision to air his show via a prominent network in his home nation was an inspired one. In normal times, Armani might host up to 1,000 guests at his personal catwalk theatre, the Teatro Armani, during Milan Fashion Week. Of course the coronavirus crisis has meant he, like everyone, has had to rethink things.
But while most other brands are pandemic-proofing their fashion shows by streaming them on social media, here Armani has added another dimension, reaching a greater audience than perhaps ever before. In his 9:15pm Saturday programming slot (which for global fans could be viewed online too) he aired after The Good Wife and the evening weather, and before, brilliantly, a rerun of American Gigolo, the 1980 film starring Lauren Hutton and Richard Gere, who wore Armani famously throughout.
But did it all make for good TV, and crucially, did we see any good clothes? It was a clever package for a super-brand to deliver - before we saw the new collection, there was a short film about Armani’s career, reminding audiences of his titanic impact on the fashion industry.
Soundbites from historic interviews with the designer still chimed with how his woman wants to shop today - case in point, a comment from 1984 on his rules for getting dressed. ‘Know yourself… never let the clothes ‘wear’ you, you’re the one who’s ‘wearing’ them.’
It meant that by the time we saw the new ‘Timeless Thoughts’ collection, we were already fully immersed in the Armani world. The first outfit presented was a neat, textured pale grey jacket with easy linen trousers, opening the floor for no fewer than 100 looks (what retail crisis?). Armani’s evolution was subtle and consistent as ever, moving through silver suiting and silk satin fabrics, into a pale blue section, then mint, then navy. His take on pyjama dressing - a shawl collar blouse and liquid trousers - was particularly desirable.
‘I think that the challenge has always been to adapt to the times without changing one’s nature, respecting one’s history and convictions, but at the same time focusing on the future through research,’ he said.
Who wouldn’t want to stay on to re-watch American Gigolo after that? The merging of past and future-looking content was sleek; first the scene was set with the legend, then came the new clothes you might like to buy next spring, then, just for fun, came the movie classic which launched Armani’s name globally.
It made the Armani empire look storied and solid - and reminded us all that, at 86-years-old, the designer is still the master of fashion publicity.