Elegance strikes note of rigour at Armani, Prada
Grey flannel triumphs during fashion week in Milan26 February, 15:09
As Milan fashion week closed, the iconic designer tested wool in every possible weight, from thick to gauzy.
He also freshened up the Armani colour par excellence, grey, with unexpected sparkles of lime.
The result was rigorous and graceful at the same time.
The 79-year-old designer is known as the king of grey, a staple of Armani collections throughout the years, and inventor of "greige" - grey mixed with beige.
For next fall, he worked with light and shade, lightness and rigour with unexpected slashes of lime on a knit coat or strapless gown to show that elegance infers much more than meets the eye.
The colour, mainly seen over the last couple of seasons at high-street labels and in sportswear, is also referred to as chartreuse, from the shade of a drink originally produced by French monks in the 17th century as an elixir of long life.
And the fluorescent dabs of light were gracefully blurred with grey flannel in a statement jacket or double vertical bands on pants.
A single-lapel jacket with a lime stripe was worn over pleated, short trousers - the pants in the collection have all been cropped to reveal the ankle, a trend already launched by Armani in men's wear last month.
"We are signalling that we are there, we are putting in a bit of avant-garde," said the designer of next fall's Fade to Grey collection.
And the interest in the texture of clothes was played up by the impressive variety of wools showcased, from wool as light as organza, sparkling with lime-coloured stones, crystals and embroideries, to a thick cardigan jacket.
Accessories were austerely elegant - ballerina flats or a flannel purse - but also playful like evening cuffs and a grey shearling bag. And notes of austere elegance resonated as an orchestra played Kurt Weill at Prada with actress Barbara Sukowa singing in the background.
Clothes came out of the second act of a theatrical pièce which opened with the men's collection in January for which Miuccia Prada drew inspiration from Germany's cultural avant-garde, in particular filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, cult modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch and artist Joseph Beuys, whose conceptual art showed how facts and fiction can become one undistinguishable entity.
The atmosphere was as rigorous and sophisticated, with a touch of flaunted simplicity.
Elegance was showcased with nonchalance, as if it emanated from the clothes by pure chance.
Coats were trimmed with shearling, the poorest of furs.
Boxy jackets were paired with transparent dresses, revealing patterned underpants.
There were no applications and no embroideries in the collection, only the exaggerated shearling edgings of jackets and coats in contrasting notes of red, black and gold.
Leather piping in gold and silver also graphically defined clothes - the shoulders and waist - or the straps of a dress.
The collection was influenced by the costumes of the 1972 Fassbinder movie The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, like the graphic design - the deep, coloured V - on the neckline of dresses inspired by the sweater worn in the film by a waitress.
Touches of red were a recurrent theme along with transparencies as clothes were infused with a deep yet controlled sex vibe.
Overall, prints evoked the 1970s. Germany's history, with the political crises of the 20th century and its art, was very much on Miuccia Prada's mind when she conceived this powerful collection. However, the designer said she has "banned nostalgia" from her life.
"You can never leave any room," for nostalgia, she said.