The closing day of Milan Fashion Week is what fashion professionals call Armani Day. Mr Armani’s is always the final show of this city’s Fashion Week, but today was dedicated to the titan of Italian fashion, with the launch of his autobiography following his show.
The 81-year-old was standing, microphone in hand, dressed as usual in a simple black T-shirt, trousers and sneakers, white hair gleaming, tan glowing, in front a screen with the cover image of his luxury coffee-table tome – a black and white photograph of Mr Armani as a baby.
Asked how it felt to be called a fashion revolutionary, Armani, who is credited with being the first designer to deconstruct men’s suits for women, harness the power of Hollywood, create a lifestyle empire and consistently reinvent elegance, said humbly: ‘I started a subtle whisper, it turned into a revolution, I added comfort to men’s tailoring and I saw that women could dress like that too.’
The designer is as close to a fashion icon as it is possible to get. The only designer still working today who can be compared to fashion greats Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. Not only is he one of the last of his generation still designing clothes, as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Armani Group and the company’s sole shareholder, he has ultimate control over his business and, according to Forbes, a net worth of $8 billion.
Anyone interested in how he became a fashion phenomenon, need only look at the show today. Armani has never knowingly pounced on a trend, rather, his clothes serenely evolve from one season to the next and his customers rely on him for just that. This collection was quintessentially Armani, a testament to his consistency, with the focus on the jacket – arguably the piece that has powered his business. They came single-breasted, cropped and simple or – catching the current mood for ethereal romance – all gauzy and soft. There were micro boleros and swingy short coats in stripes, even fringed ponchos. All paired with flowing transparent trousers, shorts, playsuits or bubble skirts in whisker-fine fabric and his trademark smooth, subtle shades of greys and blues. Not the most familiar of Armani shades, granted, but the collection looked all the more contemporary for it.
This collection – and his book – will no doubt keep the Armani faithfuls happy. If it all felt like the beginning of the end, given that Mr Armani is an octogenarian who just served up an autobiography that traces his personal roots and his extensive legacy – he didn’t sound like a man who was about to announce his retirement anytime soon. Asked who might replace him, he neatly side-stepped the question, and joked: ‘Of course, my ego says no one will ever replace me!’ Watch this space. And in the meantime, read the book, published by Rizzoli.