'I am no longer concerned with sensation and innovation, but with the perfection of my style,' Yves Saint Laurent announced in 1982 - difficult though it is for Italian fashion to accept, Giorgio Armani is undoubtedly in the same mindset. The perfection of Armani's rigorous style, that precision tailoring combined with a relaxed ease, was achieved long ago. Since then, it has been about establishing and retrenching those codes of Armani DNA for generations to come: right now, they are less set in stone, more entombed in Florentine marble.
It was startling, therefore, to hear the Armani Autumn/Winter 2010 notes talk about 'The New Chic', a move away from black and white and reflecting the infinite change of our time. Was this really true? Could Armani be shaking up the system? Of course not. New Chic was a convenient, buzzy soundbyte thrown to the press to help describe what was essentially another classic Armani collection. As ever, it was shown in the Armani Amiphitheatre on via Bergognone, on relay teams of models sporting the usual, slightly off, Armani styling quirk - this season a lopsided toque razored into rough fringes and plonked on the forehead. And yes, the clothes were very much what we expected: suiting, softly gathered and draped skirts, easy separates, slightly overworked evening wear. The latter was out in force, with heavily beaded jackets and a passage of searing stoplight-red glittery shorts and babydolls. As if to put paid completely to the 'New Chic' label, there were echoes of Poiret, of all things, in portrait-collar velvet Caban coats and an evening jacket sequinned with a stylised art deco-meets-Charles Rennie Mackintosh rose motif. Next to those tasselled skullcaps and a few Josephine Baker diamanté fringes, new was the last word that sprang to mind.
Nevertheless, with the tailored suit once again a wardrobe lynchpin for next season, Armani was in prime position to capitalise on his unrivalled expertise. His aesthetic, after all, influenced a generation - granted not this generation, nor the one before that - while subsequent shameless revivals of the eighties, a decade that truly belonged to Armani, has thrown focus on the styles he helped delineate. We did get some of those flawless jackets, cut with a strong, upturned crescent shoulder that would put his younger rivals to shame in pinstripe wool or velvet luxuriously lined in cashmere. Those light A-line skirts looked fresh, sliced a few inches above the knee, as did easy furs tossed on with the carelessness of a cardigan. And against all odds, Armani managed to make velvet palatable, and even adorable, in neat circular a-line skirts with graphic ridges of seaming. The twinned finale of spiral-cut floor-length evening gowns once again in powdery matt velour, may not have looked new, but it was certainly chic.