In case you've been holed-up in a dungeon for the past six months, you'll know that Giorgio Armani is the latest designer recruited by Lady Gaga to help fashion her unique stage and screen presence. And if you weren't one of the twenty-three million to catch the 'Alejandro' video on youtube, Signore Armani hit on a clever ruse, projecting it across the backdrop of his Spring/Summer 2011 Emporio Armani show and sending a cavalcade of macho models goose-stepping straight out in the video's masochist-militia leather uniforms. Art-life cross-over? You bet.
It seems Armani's association with Stefani Germanotta inspired the rest of this collection too - certainly it seemed touched not only by her aesthetic, but by the cutting-edge cadre of stylists, photographers and fashion designers she has gathered around her. How else to explain the septuagenarian granddaddy of the Milan fashion schedule latching on to the latest London Darkwave club-kid attire? It takes some bravado to stifle a summer collection with dozens of all-black all-leather outfits, but Armani did so - and somehow managed to pull it off. The first clutch of exits focused purely on the dark stuff, with calfskin jackets and shirts and hefty leather sleeveless gilets, sometimes with metal-mesh scarves or a body-harness of glinting silver slung over the torso as way of relief. Below the waist, it was more darkness: bermuda shorts layered over skinny leggings, a chink of pasty flesh showing between the hem and the top of cuban-heeled suede Chelsea boots.
With slicked-back hair and kohl-rimmed eyes, this look was a lot of goth, a little eighties, and at times more than a bit 2006. We've seen the shorts-under-leggings menswear game on a few dozen catwalks and in a few hundred editorial shoots over the past few years, and it's started to look trite. That said, in its take-no-prisoners, love-or-hate-it extremism, there was an unbridled energy and blind conviction to this show that was genuinely exciting, especially for a money-spinning secondary line. It even carried over into the more subdued daywear, with light-weight, sharply-cut trenches, salt-and-pepper tweeds and tapered trousers replacing those leggings in the staple Armani shades of putty, beige and grey. The less said about crocodile-print 'mankinis' and leggings - twinned with feti-chic leather caps and proffered as unironic beach attire - the better, but overall it seems this injection of youth was just what the doctor ordered.