Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. A hackneyed phrase for sure, but that was the message of Giorgio Armani's latest show for S/S 2011. Make that everything blue: Armani called his collection 'La Femme Bleue', flooded his catwalk with azure light and sent his models out wrapped in every conceivable shade. The inspiration, Signor Armani said, were the Tuareg tribes of Northern Africa - the pigment in their clothing stained their skin dark blue, hence Armani wrapping his models in the same shades.
In a season dominated by strong, strident colour, Armani's one-tone story had some impact - an old wardrobe stalwart, navy nevertheless looked freshly chic sliced into simple, straightforward silk cigarette trousers and short tunics. Nothing got too complicated, which is sometimes an issue at Armani - trousers were cut slim and straight, soft jackets and tunics layered over the top. Turbans were wound around the models' heads - Armani's favourite styling trick is to repeat a single motif, ad nauseum, on each and every model - but these seemed more understandable than many of his offerings in the past. And his evening wear, mainly simple tubes, suspended from spaghetti straps and sometimes flecked with ruffles or subtle glitter, looked elegant and straightforward, especially when worn with flat, fretwork leather sandals. That's an old catwalk trick - Valentino used it last season, for a start, so maybe that was the 'borrowed' part of that old equation - but it gave the evening gowns a feeling of youthful vitality that's often sorely lacking.
At the same time, those swathed lengths of fabric, dark colours and bound heads hardly spelled summer. Maybe that's a good thing - not everyone can be expected to wear a micro macrame swimsuit as soon as the temperature hits twenty degrees, but even looking at those very many leaves of overlapping cloth felt stifling, and at times oppressive. However, these days fashion has to respond to the new global economy: while Europe sizzles in fretwork underthings come next June, there are no doubt many chillier customers in the southern hemisphere who will be wild to wrap up in layer after layer of Armani navy in the firm knowledge they are still wearing this season.