After spending most of last year confined to his homes in Forte dei Marmi and Broni, Giorgio Armani returned to his studios in early January. “Walking to my office in an empty city, I am constantly touched by the beauty and the quietness of Milano,” he wrote in an email. With restrained poetry, he interpreted through the language of haute couture the newfound nakedness of the city he loves. The collection was filmed in—and informed by—the Via Borgonuovo palazzo that hosts his couture ateliers and salons, its soft gray walls and whispered opulence lending an ecclesiastical palette to the proceedings. He originally bought it as a possible home, but found a house two numbers down the road a bit less baroque, a bit more to his standards.
“The times we are living in do force us to stay at home and have a very limited social life, but the quest for beauty is eternal,” Armani wrote. “That is what this collection is all about.” In the naked streets of Milan, he envisioned the textures of tailoring: mélanges of grays intricately woven with lavishly glistening effects to mesmerize the eye, beaded and trimmed with crystals. Maintaining long lines both romantic and melancholy, he undressed his garments, replacing the opaque back of a suit jacket with a translucent panel, the jacket kept together by a neat bow tied behind the neck. Armani stripped down his dresses, filtering them in sheaths of transparency and draping naked décolletés in cascading beaded gilet collanas.
There was a frailty to his creations echoed in the delicacy of his cool colors and porcelain-like adornment. But as contemplative and solemn as Armani’s post-pandemic poetry felt, it wasn’t dismal. That’s not how he is. With the reality of the vaccine and the change of power in America, he said he felt a sense of renewal and hope. “It is a big bolt of energy that makes me look at the days ahead with a lighter perspective. This does mean, however, that we all have to work harder to make such changes happen. I like to dream, but I remain a pragmatist.”
The collection did reveal a certain purpose to Armani’s step. Jackets lifted up by pagoda shoulders or taffeta puff-sleeve inserts had a sprightliness to them that came across as rather directional for him. The addition of a Renaissance ruff to the collar of a dress—a nod to the majesty of the palazzo—could have served as a teaser for an entire collection study. He may not like “reference fashion,” but it’s fun when he makes an exception. Armani amped up his Milanese couture in a pagoda-shoulder crocodile jacket in slick aquamarine so pristine it could have been molded in silicone. (The clients request it.) The pièce de résistance: a Klein blue ball gown crafted from 130 meters of tulle, then ruffled and ironed to produce the illusion of corteccia—tree bark.
“I do adapt quickly, so the workflow has been smooth and uninterrupted,” Armani wrote, referring to what he called “this kind of new normal state of life.” But “I miss connecting with other humans, for real. We are now beginning to understand what true luxury is: the freedom to walk outside, to travel, to see our friends and loved ones. I am looking forward to this, with the awareness of what happened.” It wasn’t the only thing on the 86-year-old designer’s radar. “I will be vaccinated: It is my duty and my right as a senior citizen. I am just waiting for this to happen, and honestly, I can’t wait.”