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A Fashionable Option Among Buyers in Italy

March 19, 1986|BETTIJANE LEVINE | Times Fashion Editor

MILAN, Italy — A lot is going on in European fashion, not all of it on the runways. Buyers ended the first leg of their three-country fashion trek looking for items and trying to spot new trends. There are plenty of those, which will show up in Los Angeles stores soon, but not always made by the designers who featured them in their shows.

Buyers are increasingly looking at the option of private-label merchandise, where the store name is the only one inside the garment, to offer consumers high fashion at lower prices, to build store loyalty instead of designer name loyalty, and to compete effectively with the increasing number of designer boutiques and with chains such as the Limited, which continue to grow and to siphon off customers who might otherwise shop at traditional department stores.

But there are some designers who show such talents, fine workmanship and individuality that their clothes seem worthwhile at any price. Giorgio Armani is one of those. His was the last major show in Milan and the best. He received a seated ovation simply because the audience was too stunned to stand. They had seen clothes that bore the stamp of a perfectionist and an artist.

Armani's tailoring is flawless, his fabrics superb, and his silhouettes graceful. Whether working in tweed, plaid or solid color wool, in crinkled silk that looks like twill, in jersey or velvet, the designer carves a narrow silhouette that skims the body but is never tight. He showed long, full skirts, some for evening, slim skirts at knee length or longer, straight pants and extended shoulder jackets that narrowed over the bosom and rib cage.

He teamed his full, ankle-length skirts with civilized, tailored jackets and explored a dress shape reminiscent of Austrian peasant styles. It featured a narrow, long torso bodice that ended below the waist in a gathered, below-calf skirt.

His evening velvets were as beautifully carved as his daytime suits and dresses, and one crinoline-buttressed silk skirt was topped by a short, fitted jacket.

Armani's clothes are carried at I. Magnin and Maxfield in Los Angeles. A company spokesman confirmed that Armani is considering Los Angeles for his second freestanding Armani boutique in the United States. (The first is in New York.) It will not be on Rodeo Drive, she said.

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