The Giorgio Armani Privé show at Paris Haute Couture fashion week in January is usually a big Oscar-watch moment. The starlets on the front row (or their stylist representatives, who have now become big names in their own right) often indicate who might choose the label for the most high-stakes red carpet of the year and amidst the dozens of looks shown, a handful will next be seen on the likes of Nicole Kidman or Cate Blanchett parading in front of the flashbulbs at the Dolby Theatre.
Alas, this year the Academy Awards have been pushed back until April, but it’s certainly lovely to imagine what a fashion feast they might be for our loungewear-overdosed eyes. Especially if Mr Armani has anything to do with it. The couture collection he unveiled on Tuesday evening, in his Palazzo Orsini atelier in Milan rather than in Paris, spanned from pared back tailoring to ethereal frothy gowns.
“The pandemic has allowed me to reflect and made me think about what I would like to adjust,” the 86-year-old king of Italian fashion told The Telegraph, ahead of the show, which took place with no audience and was instead broadcast online. “It has not changed my attitude aesthetically – in fact, if anything, it has reinforced my vision. I have always felt that clothes should be comfortable and functional as well as beautiful.”
Armani’s influence on fashion might have waxed and waned over the years, but in many ways, he was prescient, – he was never interested in being achingly of-the-moment. Rather, he favours creating clothes designed to stand the test of time. “I believe that we need to make things that are not at the mercy of transient trends,” he says, “so they can be worn and enjoyed for a longer period.”
Neither such looks as a structured silver jacket with an immaculately nipped-in waist or an inky-blue velvet gown with a pussy-bow flourish from Tuesday’s collection, seem likely to date any time soon. And this is a quality which is now prized by ever-swelling numbers of eco-conscious shoppers.
It’s a design philosophy which makes Mr Armani well-qualified to opine on the current state of a fashion industry which has found itself at a crossroads thanks to Covid: “the current rhythm of the fashion industry and its business model are challenged, and this requires us to adapt and learn,” he observes. “While I do believe there is a role for showing collections on models to bring designs to life, I do not think it is mandatory for many people to fly around the world to see them. Of course, couture is special and must be appreciated in person, as a screen cannot convey the same sensations.”
His couture collection may be destined for the wardrobes of the super rich but Mr Armani believes there are lessons in the principles of bespoke for us all in a timely move away from fast fashion. “We should borrow the idea that beauty has no expiry date,” he says. As a David Attenborough of style, he has the moral heft to say that “throwaway fashion is the worst imaginable concept, for designers and consumers.”
Instead, we, the consumers, “need to buy less and buy better, choosing things that are made in a way that minimises environmental impact. The industry has, in my opinion, been due for a reckoning for a while now,” he continues. “Concerns like waste, too much product of poor quality and a marketing-driven approach can lead to a disconnection with what the consumer really wants.”
Mr Armani has decided that the days of athleisure are numbered and as we adjust to post-Covid life, the vision he sets out in his Privé collections – of sophistication and exquisite craftsmanship – will become more relevant than it has been for decades. “Beauty comforts, reassures, and heals the spirit,” he reflects.
“I am sure people will want that after such dire times. I can say this first-hand, having grown up in the post-war period, the emergence from the dark years created a widespread hunger for beauty. And I am sure it will also happen now. After all this stress and uncertainty is over, we will want to surround ourselves with beauty.” And where better to begin than that Oscars red carpet?