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23/09/2016 by SUZY MENKES

#SuzyMFW Armani: Charm By Any Other Name

Giorgio Armani's captivating show based on blue and feminine gentility was in dramatic contrast with the designer's exploration of sporty bodies.


"Charm," said Giorgio Armani, in three different languages - English, French and Italian - as he showed me a line-up of young women who were dressed almost entirely in shades of blue.



Giorgio Armani with his 'Charm' collection.



There were soft floral jackets and long floaty dresses, fringes swinging from neutral coloured tops over watery shades, and patterned sleevelets decorating bare arms.


On the swaying fringes at the show's backdrop was the full story in one word - CH-ARMANI - to pass on the message that he had told me backstage.



Giorgio Armani Womenswear SS17


"The idea of charming is a certain femininity - which I interpret as little things," the designer explained.


"How to put on a little heel or a little jacket - even glasses can be about charm - it is difficult to explain because it really is something very personal."

Giorgio Armani Womenswear SS17


Armani was singing the blues, not in any mournful way, but rather as playful versions of what he does, with deep blue at skirt hems and even shorts; the darker rising to a paler shade on tailored jackets.

Giorgio Armani Womenswear SS17


They were in summer style, but distinctly shaped, whether squares or quilted, body hugging or loose.


The maestro of the masculine tailoring has always tilted towards elegance and he decided to move his charm school to womenswear.

Giorgio Armani Womenswear SS17


The designer used a cluster of words, offered in pairs, to define summer 2017: "elegance and sensuality", "magic and femininity", "discipline and freedom", "ethnic and sexy".


But the Armani vision was based on a definite - and I would suggest early - vision of female freedom, when unveiling legs or covering them up seemed a radical statement about sensuality.

Giorgio Armani Womenswear SS17


What I found missing from the pretty and appealingly feminine collection was that it turned its pretty, curvy, floaty back on sport. These were ladylike, rather than action, styles.


Yet sport is so much at the heart of Armani's thinking that he has devoted an entire exhibition, curated by himself, in the Armani Silos called Emotions of the Athletic Body (until 27th November 2016).

Emotions of the Athletic Body at Armani Silos.


With each picture, video and even a sculpture of a gymnast by the designer, the body is the pivotal point, even when the original purpose was to promote Armani the brand. For example David Beckham was photographed for an advertising campaign by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. in 2008, with other underwear ads from the same duo of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2010 and Rafael Nadal in 2011.

David Beckham shot by Mert and Marcus in 2008.


The show is a homage to the power and beauty of the male physique, with a few female athletes including Serena Williams.


All these athletic figures, many in digital movement, emphasise the beauty of the healthy, fit body.


I asked Armani if he had been a sports fiend as a child.


“No, not really - I was too skinny, too small - and it was the war,” he said.

Serena Williams by Cliff Watts, 2003


“Sport was not something offered in school education. So I was not very sporty, but afterwards I started exercising. Today's women and men are more healthy - not only because of physical aesthetics, but also for health reasons.”


My challenge to Armani is to start his women's collection from the modern woman's athletic body beautiful, which has a charm all of its own.

Cristiano Ronaldo by Marcus Piggott and Mert Alas.


Anzhelika Savrayuk by Richard Phibbs, 2012


Aldo Fallai, 1995


Giorgio Armani and the Italian Olympic Team.


Emotions of the Athletic Body at Armani Silos until 27 November 2016.


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