It already seems old-hat to harp on about Autumn/Winter 2012 being the Season of the Suit: but when you see nothing bar the blasted things coming down catwalk after catwalk nine or ten times a day, it's hard to focus on anything else. Especially when you're in the Armani Amphitheatre in Via Bergognone - a slate-grey bastion to Giorgio, the patron saint of maximal Minimalism where there's nothing to focus on but the clothes.
Ironically for the master (in fact, scratch that: originator) of deconstructed tailoring, we were a good ten looks in to his Emporio Armani show before we even saw one. And that was swathed with a cardigan. The focus this time was on outerwear, and sportswear - but both executed in wool. Bar a bit of slick leather, it was all matte across the Emporio catwalk. It was also almost all black: white, grey and a hint of navy were all that relieved the palette. Armani called the show 'Essential'. And, truth be told, what man doesn't end up buying another black sweater-slash-jacket-slash-peacoat every season? FYI, the Armani peacoat was 125cm long. The press release felt it necessary to be as precise on that point as Mr Armani's scissors.
As with many Armani shows, this one strayed a little from the theme. It's negligible how 'essential' a gaucho-style poncho and wide-brimmed hat are to the twenty-first century man (unless he's trekking off the beaten track in Andalucia, in which case they'd come in very handy indeed). The oversized velvet and pony-skin berets were a fun, editorial-worthy styling trick, but they felt like something Armani's former rival Claude Montana may have thrown out in one of his wilder moments - whilst Giorgio was refining another wide-shoulder houndstooth-check suit that would sell in the millions. It was a pity there weren't a few more of those in this show: its great to see the breadth of the Armani vision (and, at seventy looks not counting the women that peppered this catwalk outing, man is it broad), but with his greatest hits popping up on every other catwalk, you couldn't help but feel the maestro missed a golden opportunity to show them how it should be done.