Giorgio Armani is a man with a lot to say about the way women should look. Luckily for him, he has a myriad soapboxes on which to espouse - his first opportunity for the Autumn/Winter 2010 season was with Emporio Armani, his competitively-priced, mass-appeal label, designed to hook you into the Armani ease until you become an addict. Armani certainly doesn't believe in withdrawal - with models emerging in two and threes to form a phalanx on a never-empty catwalk, sixty-something looks were shown in rapid succession - and this is just the start-up act for the Armani carnival tomorrow. Indeed, the law of averages equates that Armani throws such a slew of product at the catwalk, some of it has got to stick. For the collection it was the quieter numbers and subtler statement: the myriad shades of gray, from a dusky pink-toned lilac-bruise through dove and anthracite through to darkest slate, combined with soft neutrals, the wrap-around tulip skirts fastened at the hip into gentle gathers, and the opening trio of fur sweaters in beige, brown and black with easy above-the-knee gathered skirts. These pelts were apparently 'eco-fur', or so trumpeted the press release - not something Milan screams about very often, and indeed the exact 'eco' nature of them remained ill-defined. They looked great throughout, cropped above the waist and cut with a slouchy, easy nonchalance into short jackets with funnel necks and concealed fastenings or loose open-front cardigans.
It was when Armani got bolder that things got slightly embarrassing. Harsh rust orange may be one of next season's hottest shades, but there was nothing hot about the searing satsuma shades of billowing silk skirts and coats, or the drab, washed-out peach of a cocktail dress cack-handedly stuck with glittery corsages. The graphic jewellery too struck a dud note - oversized and far, far too clumsily retro, it only served to distract from the impeccable line of Armani's tailoring. As always, that was superb - even at this lower price point. Armani was the label who not only designed but defined the original broad-shouldered, nip waisted 'Working Woman' wardrobe in the late seventies, and he still does it best. That was proved here in the authoritative line of his jackets, a bold horizontal slash from shoulder to shoulder (and then some) around which his silhouette was based. Best in basic black, it even managed looked great in that harsh tangerine. That takes talent.