Despite the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote extolling the joys of nonconformity on the show notes, for Spring/Summer 2011 it was business at usual at Armani.
Counting off the big trends of this week - relaxed tailoring, unfitted silhouettes, neutral shades and lot and lots of linen - one name leaps to mind: Giorgio Armani. His influence always hangs over Milan, but this time his legacy seems especially potent, with everyone from old rival Gianfranco Ferre to comparable upstarts Dolce e Gabbana creating their own homage to Italian fashion's Il Duce.
Giorgio Armani is the one to show us how it is done - and despite the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote extolling the joys of nonconformity on the show notes, for Spring/Summer 2011 it was business at usual at Armani. Indeed, with loose natural-shouldered jackets and quadruple-pleat tapered trousers worn with grey marl t-shirts and a whisper of designer stubble, it could have been 1991 - or indeed 1981 - rather than 2011. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Armani has a formula, and he's sticking with it. It's a formula that redefined the way men dressed in the latter quarter of the twentieth century (just in case you didn't realise), and it's worthy of being reiterated again and again. As ever, the collection worked best when it worked with that rather than against it, leaving God in the details of cut and proportion - the new feel of revers sliced diagonally away from the torso, for example, or the double-breasted jackets with short, boxier proportion. When that shorter jacket block was single-breasted in grey worsted, it felt a little bit (dare we say it) Prada - or, at least, very young and contemporary, albeit not entirely new.
What looked surprisingly new were some of the fresher styling details. These are often a death-knell at Armani, overworking trite ideas ad nauseam on each and every model. This time, the nauseam was kept to a minimum: the models could have done without the stripe of Barbara Cartland-esque blue shadow from temple to temple, granted, but the flashes of chartreuse in desert boots, belts, or silk handkerchiefs bubbling out of breast pockets, looked sharp and sweet. Cut-away City Banker shirts, worn fastened up to the Adam's apple but without a tie, seemed oddly new and exciting. And indeed, credit where credit's due, that idea is certainly nonconformist for Armani's devoted legions of Wall Street Masters of the Universe. And a fine sartorial concept for the rest of us to filch from this master of modern menswear.