On Monday, the final day of Milan Fashion Week, Italian designer Giorgio Armani and Japanese newcomer Tomo Koizumi offered two very different takes on what constitutes style.
Koizumi, who was being supported this season by Dolce & Gabbana, delivered a show that was a bright and joyful explosion of colour.
Dolce & Gabbana gave Koizumi the space, bolts of fabrics from its own studio and armfuls of shoes. It also covered the cost of all the models. In return, Koizumi delivered a show that was like a blast of fresh air, clearing away any fashion week fatigue in a few short moments.
Using only tightly ruffled fabric made from hundreds of metres of netting, an effect Koizumi has made his signature, the designer sent out a huge, bulbous blue tulle skirt, topped with a frilled robe made from Dolce & Gabbana’s own Sicilian fabric. This was followed by a frothy knee-length skirt in mustard, worn under a rippled jacket in neon yellow. There were great green trousers that came with mismatched wrist pom-poms, and a raspberry ruffled skirt with a matching hooded jacket.
One of Koizumi’s most high-profile projects recently was dressing singer Sam Smith for his latest video. The same enormous, neon pink gown featured in the Milan show, shortened in the front with an additional cape of orange and purple. This look was followed by a floor-length white skirt, with a bright blue jacket — worn by veteran model Jessica Stam — that was almost triangular in outline.
To finish, Koizumi sent out a "caterpillar" of five models, all inside the same vast, multicoloured, floor-length blanket.
The clothes were exuberant, playful and tremendously fun. The question could be asked: who will wear it? But with the weight of Dolce & Gabbana behind the brand, that hardly seems to matter at the moment.
On the other side of town a very different aesthetic unfolded, that of Giorgio Armani.
In fashion there are brands that stand outside the normal parameters, which favour discretion over headline-grabbing antics — think Hermes, Max Mara and Loro Piana. Set apart from these is Giorgio Armani, who has been walking to his own elegant rhythm since 1975.
Opening with a loose raincoat over equally spacious trousers in high-shine bronze, the show set an elegant tone that barely wavered. More glossy fabric appeared as a molten bronze, belted tunic and gleaming trousers paired with a caramel jacket, and a fringed velvet wrap. Dresses appeared as simple columns in shades of sand, biscotti and oat, and were worn with sheer plisse trousers that added a sense of lightness.
There was faux fur, first as a shaggy top with an asymmetrical neck in shades of taupe, and then as an intricately pleated gilet in fawn, worn with a sepia, raw silk hobble skirt.
The coats were long and lean, with sleeves typically ending just shy of the wrist in tones of Armani's famous greige, as double and single-breasted, or held with a single button, while skirts were slim-fitting and stopped below the knee, mid-shin or at the ankle.
There is a longevity to Armani's vision, and this was best seen in the closing look. The collection was named Cipria, Italian for face powder. As the last model stopped on the runway to powder her face, the audience was granted a longer look at the dress covered in tightly packed, vertical lines of black-on-black, shiny lozenge beads. Fluid and decadent, it was still cut to be slightly boxy through the shoulders, hanging just short of the underlayer, which sat as a strip of matte black around the ankle.
As a dress, it was sublime, and showed just why Armani is known as the master of sophistication.