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Giorgio 'n Bono: Is this London?

September 23, 2006|Booth Moore | Times Staff Writer

LONDON — Giorgio Armani invaded London this week -- sitting in the front row at a young designer's fashion show, receiving an honorary degree from the University of the Arts London and guest editing an issue of the Independent newspaper, where he tinted black the faces of famous models to help focus attention on AIDS in Africa.

The grand tour culminated in a star-studded event for 1,300 on Thursday night with runway shows, celebrity speakers and musical performances to raise awareness for Bono and Bobby Shriver's Red Initiative. The program partners with brands such as Motorola, the Gap, Converse, American Express and Armani to sell Red merchandise, with a portion of profits supporting the Global Fund to help fight AIDS in Africa.

The West London concert venue Earls Court was transformed into a nightclub with bottle service at intimate tables. Beyonce, Bryan Ferry, Andrea Bocelli and Brit band Razorlight performed; Leonardo DiCaprio and Shriver spoke and everyone sipped Laurent Perrier and nibbled on risotto. "You buy a Red product here, the Red company will buy lifesaving medicine over there," Bono told the crowd. "And you will be a good-looking Samaritan."

The event, which will be televised here next week, was the perfect hook for the 72-year-old Italian fashion giant, who has a net worth of more than $4 billion but not nearly so much currency in cool. He used the opportunity to show his own Red product offerings, plus his fall lines for Giorgio Armani Collection and Prive couture. And, of course, his spring Emporio Armani line, which included city shorts and shrunken jackets in shades of sand and gray with occasional flashes of red referencing the charity tie-in.

Strapless dresses came in black-and-white zigzag patterns, some with dove-shaped brooches. And, staying true to himself, Armani didn't scrimp on the headgear, putting models in pagoda-like styles cocked to one side.

With more than 70 models hired for the evening, to say nothing of what it must have cost to coordinate the talent, rent the venue and keep the glasses full of bubbly, it was an extraordinary display of wealth. Who else but Armani would have the nerve to put himself in the middle of another country's fashion week and become the focal point? Well, it was a worthy cause, and a reminder of the part celebrity has come to play in highlighting human rights issues.

The multimillion-dollar evening also put the spotlight on London Fashion Week, which is typically a sleepy event more about the little guy producing a show on a shoestring. Giles Deacon set himself apart from the pack by juxtaposing elegant couture shapes with S&M-inspired details to create the kind of edgy evening looks that tantalize the red carpet set. That meant an elegant ball gown in a bondage-themed print of chains and whips and a strapless pouf dress in a graffiti pattern. A simple black silk chemise had a waterfall of stripper fringe hanging from the back and sleeves, while a papery leather shift dress had a folded collar fastened with a single gold stud.

The stud could be the new skull come spring if Deacon has his way. He used silver studs as trim around the hem of a white satin shift with a black lace overlay, and created a graphic print of abstracted studs on a pretty blouse. Bags, made in collaboration with British leather goods label Mulberry, were incredibly covetable in patent leather with overgrown gold studs. And obviously Deacon has a wicked sense of humor. Who else would encase a model in a pod made of black ostrich feathers?

Christopher Kane, a 23-year-old Central Saint Martins grad who has been working with Donatella Versace for the past few months, was another one who brought sex back to the runway, picking up on the Herve Leger/Azzedine Alaia vibe that turned up at Proenza Schouler in New York. He sent out a tightly focused collection of bandage mini dresses in florescent color combinations with artful lace, ruffle and crystal mesh insets. They came belted, zipped up the front, in halter styles and off the shoulder. But they all had a fresh look, kind of boudoir meets the gym.

Other designers took a softer approach. At Aquascutum, Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler are hard at work trying to revive the 155-year-old heritage brand so that it encompasses more than stodgy old raincoats. They offered lots of separates -- linen windbreakers, trousers and cuffed shorts, pearlized jacquard T-shirts, floral tent dresses suspended by rope straps and skirts with woven raffia waistbands.

But hard as they tried, it all paled in comparison to their wonderful trench coats in an English rose jacquard or silk with ruffle, smocking and pin-tuck details. Oh, well, at least they are doing something right. And now that powerhouse brand manager Kim Winser has signed on as president and chief executive, perhaps things will start to fall into place.

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