Giorgio Armani kept things streamlined this season in one of his most lovingly understated collections, and a timely lesson in the art of romantic tailoring and sophisticated draping.
Where the over-ridding message on many Milan runways was exotic glamour, on Armani's this season it was lean and clean chic. That much was clear from the opening salvoes - some perfectly cut mannish suits, whose sharp-shouldered jackets and pleated pants had both authority and allure.
Composed in combinations of chalk stripe, Prince of Wales check or pink satins, and seen on models wearing flat patent, pointy loafers and cocky fedora hats, the look was androgynous without ever being even faintly perverse.
"I think there was a time when fashion had to provide certain women, cabinet ministers, CEOs or icons, with clothes that had a certain serieta," said Armani, using the Italian word for seriousness. "Now I believe we can be a little more casual."
In this fall 2012 collection, unveiled in the designer's south Milan headquarters on Monday, Feb. 27, Armani wants to see women in swirling skirts and dresses - finished just above the knee, and smartly dissected with huge horizontal bows - or faille coats cut with an assured flare.
Practically every model was wearing a hat in this show - from berets to mousquetaire hats to angled trilbies. All of them looked great.
Armani remains the most assured Italian colorist, most charmingly in a final sequined cocktail trio whose rosy hues recalled the remote pink beaches of Sardinia. Though for his finale, one model stood in statuesque black profile and enormous hat - just like the seductive spy version that was featured on the show invitation.
Seconds later, a tanned and bright-eyed Armani, sporting a small diamond cross under his open-necked shirt, took his bow, looking the healthiest he has been in many years.
Asked by FWD if the cross meant he was entering into a more spiritual moment, the 77-year-old designer laughed: "Do you mean growing closer to the church? It's a little soon, isn't it?