In the eighties Yves Saint Laurent declared he was no longer concerned with innovation, but with the perfection of his style. One wonders exactly when Giorgio Armani came to the same conclusion, but given that designers throughout Milan seem to be paying homage to the Armani signatures (read: ripping off), Signor Giorgio's constant reiteration of his house favourites seemed to strike a collective nerve circa Spring 2012.
This was vintage Armani, in every sense of the word. As with so many other Italian labels, Armani's summer collections are considerably finer than his winter offerings: for many of them, it's the propensity to strip off and party that thrashes their finest out (read: Versace), but for Armani it's the opportunity to push his deconstructed, lighter-than-light tailoring to its zenith. It was here today, of course, single or double breasted but always rippling around the body with all the effortless ease of a cardigan. There was some stab at pattern - Armani saw it as a leitmotif worthy of titling the entire collection after, but it was subtle tone-on-tone rather than brash baroque, underlined with resolutely low-key accessories: could the Armani man tread any lighter than in a velvet espadrille?
On the surface, this restrained, restricted collection would be the last you'd compare to the glitz and garish colour of yesterday's exuberant Versace experience. But never let it be forgotten that Milan fashion's seventies and eighties heyday was ignited by the creativity, commercial acumen and competitive spirit of Gianni and Giorgio. It's odd that we're still polarised into minimal and maximal, at least in the Italian fashion capital, where slick suiting rubs shoulders (pardon the pun) against exuberant excess with alarming alacrity. It's also odd that, thirty years on, Armani and Versace still provide the definitive aesthetic statements for these opposing camps. Maybe it was a 'vintage' Milan fashion week after all?