As Milan Fashion Week makes its post-Covid return, it feels as good a time as any to meditate on the changing nature of the Italian fashion industry. The Spring/Summer 2022 season saw many firsts for MFW: Kim Jones’ first in-person runway show as creative director of Fendi womenswear and Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons’ first runway outing as co-creative directors of Prada. At Emporio Armani—a collection that celebrated the brand’s 40th anniversary—Giorgio Armani took his bow beside his niece, Silvana Armani, effectively affirming her role as the future head of the Armani empire.
But with all this exciting newness, Mr. Armani also wanted to pay homage to heritage and history. For Giorgio Armani SS22 he opted to forgo his usual show location (the Armani Teatro at the brand’s expansive Milanese headquarters), instead inviting an intimate list of attendees to view the show from the basement room of his own home. Granted, it was hardly a quaint living room situation—Armani himself has amassed a net worth of $7.6 billion USD and his sprawling Milanese palazzo is one of many homes—but it spoke to a sense of intimacy that one rarely sees with designers nowadays. Armani is a designer who has been at the top of his game for six consecutive decades, and has established himself as one of the most important and influential designers on the planet. There can be no celebration of the return of Italian fashion if he isn’t at its centre.
As for the clothes, the perpetually sun-kissed Armani took inspiration from the sand and sea, projecting a soft blue seascape as models took to the runway. The opening looks offered subtle modern updates on the traditional uniform of well-to-do Amalfi dwellers: silk scarves tied around the head as bandanas (very Jackie O), soft linen trousers affixed with maritime-style rope belts, cropped white blazers. As the collection progressed we saw soft silk skirts and dresses in fresh aqua hues, draped to mimic the soft lapping of the tides at sunset. Looks were finished with crochet headpieces or lashings of beaded jewellery.
The collection was a reminder of the root of Armani’s staying power: a laser-focused obsession with what women actually want to wear. “I design for real people,” Armani famously asserted. “There is no virtue whatsoever in creating clothing or accessories that are not practical.” But it also hit a slightly more profound nerve too. Watching the show play out felt like the proverbial deep breath in, a moment to relax and meditate on fashion as a force that makes life simpler and—at its best—more glamorous. In these strange times, what more could we ask for?