Giorgio Armani didn’t go down the livestream route for the unveiling of his audience-less spring-summer 2021 main-line collection. He actually went a step further and broadcast the show live on the Italian TV network La7 as a gesture – no doubt – of rebooting an industry bruised by the Covid-19 pandemic. He even thought to introduce it with a 20-minute documentary, ‘Timeless Thoughts’, narrated by award-winning Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino, spanning decades of his marque’s timeless style.
Live streaming, the 86-year-old king of Italian fashion must have reckoned, was a more suitable medium for this past January’s Privé show, a collection that’s normally a big Oscar-watch moment with starlets and stylists alike often indicating who might choose the label for the Academy Awards – the most high-stakes red carpet of the year. (This year, the Oscars have been pushed back from February to April.)
“The pandemic has allowed me to reflect and made me think about what I would like to adjust,” Armani told us, ahead of the show. “It has not changed my attitude aesthetically – in fact, if anything, it has reinforced my vision. I have always felt that clothes should be comfortable and functional as well as beautiful.”
His influence on fashion might have waxed and waned over the years, but in many ways, he was prescient – he was never interested in being achingly of-the-moment. Rather, he favours creating clothes designed to stand the test of time. “I believe that we need to make things that are not at the mercy of transient trends,” he says, “so they can be worn and enjoyed for a longer period.”
None of the soft, fluid silhouettes with clean lines and neutral colour palettes seem likely to date any time soon. And this is a quality which is now prized by ever-swelling numbers of eco-conscious shoppers. It’s a design philosophy which makes Mr. Armani well-qualified to opine on the current state of a fashion industry which has found itself at a crossroads thanks to the coronavirus: “the current rhythm of the fashion industry and its business model are challenged, and this requires us to adapt and learn,” he observes. “While I do believe there is a role for showing collections on models to bring designs to life, I do not think it is mandatory for many people to fly around the world to see them. Couture, on the other hand, is special and must be appreciated in person, as a screen cannot convey the same sensations.”
Mr. Armani believes there are lessons in the principles of bespoke for us all in a timely move away from fast fashion. “We should borrow the idea that beauty has no expiry date,” he says. As a David Attenborough of style, he has the moral heft to say that “throwaway fashion is the worst imaginable concept, for designers and consumers.”
Instead, we, the consumers, “need to buy less and buy better, choosing things that are made in a way that minimises environmental impact. The industry has, in my opinion, been due for a reckoning for a while now,” he continues. “Concerns like waste, too much product of poor quality and a marketing-driven approach can lead to a disconnection with what the consumer really wants.”
Mr. Armani has decided that the days of athleisure are numbered and as we adjust to post-Covid life, the vision he sets out in his collections – of sophistication and exquisite craftsmanship – will become more relevant than it has been for decades. “Beauty comforts, reassures, and heals the spirit,” he reflects.
“I am sure people will want that after such dire times. I can say this first-hand, having grown up in the post-war period, the emergence from the dark years created a widespread hunger for beauty. And I am absolutely certain it will happen again now. After all this stress and uncertainty is over, we will want to surround ourselves with beauty.” And where better to begin that than with Armani’s timeless allure.