MILAN — "Beyond beautiful" and "breathtaking" were words uttered by retailers who mobbed Giorgio Armani after his spring fashion show here Tuesday night.
It had been a rather lackluster week until then, with some American store executives grumbling that the styles presented here this season are not worth the high prices consumers would have to pay for them at retail level back home.
As High as $1,000
A Milanese outfit can go for more than $1,000 in Los Angeles, and for that kind of money, a woman ought to have more than flash-in-the-pan design.
Armani fills the bill. Pale and ethereal shades of pink, peach, tangerine, buttercup yellow, sand, putty and pearl are cut of silk, linen, chiffon and cotton so delicate, lightweight and textural that the clothes seem to move on the body with a life of their own.
Gently bias-cut, wrapped or gathered skirts stop anywhere from the top of the knee to a few inches above, as do the shorts that are offered as alternatives with some suit jackets. These are so graceful and well-tailored that one can conceive of wearing them to business or social events without looking awkward or trendy.
Simple and Form-Following
The designer's short chiffon evening dresses--simple, form-following overblouses and bias-cut flaring skirts--are unadorned except for what looks like singed edges that ripple out at the bottom of the blouse and the hem of the skirt. These outfits are in pale pastels as well as navy and black.
Armani's touches include finely corded or rolled edges on skirts and pants, subtly elevated waistlines, long wrap-front blouses for daytime and evening in silk, cotton and chiffon.
To achieve a luminous look for evening, Armani uses a single layer of white chiffon over a single layer of pastel or black for a wispy skirt that flutters beneath a strapless, form-fitting top. More of these bustier looks appear above plaid silk taffeta skirts that billow from the waist but are gently gathered in at the hemline.
No Easy Time for Copycats
The copycats won't have an easy time simulating Armani. His shapes, fabrics and workmanship cannot be duplicated at a modest price. And that's what luxury clothing is all about.
The miniskirt fever so prominent here all weekend had actually broken earlier in the day. Shows by Laura Biagiotti, Gigi Monti for Basile and Muriel Grateau for Complice all featured short but wearable lengths.
Biagiotti's white linens and organzas, pale pastel summer-weight cashmere suits and dresses, and pale khaki crushed silk styles stopped just above the knee. It was a well-received collection offering slim sundresses, suits with long jackets, slim skirts and bra tops instead of blouses and some white handkerchief linen summer dresses that hit mid-calf. Standouts were her navy or black-and-white ribbed cashmere dresses with bare backs.
Basile offered duster coats that extend to a bit longer than the top of the knee; traditional, long knit jackets over slim knit skirts; black-and-white checks combined with black-and-white plaids, georgette flower prints and lots of short skirts with long, tweed, linen jackets. Black-and-white as well as lilac, celery, pea green, purple and floral prints showed up here as they did in most other designer lines.
American retailers here for the shows included Ron Frasch, senior vice president of Neiman-Marcus, as well as representatives from Bloomingdale's, Bonwit Teller, Henri Bendel, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, Apropos in Woodland Hills, Nordstrom in Los Angeles, the designer boutiques of Torie Steele on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and Ultima in Chicago.