Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Runway - Reconsidering Armani - Emporio Armani and Giorgio Armani: Fall 2008

Giorgio Armani is hardly in the minds of anyone seeking something different, much less avant-garde. Although his name was once synonymous with innovation in menswear, it has now been commercialized into a multi-billion dollar global franchise including everything from teeny-bopper mall stores to hotels and coffee shops. Wildly consumed by the mainstream, it seems there would be nothing left to see by those looking for something distinctive. However, searching carefully at his runway shows we can find hints of that revolutionary eye still quietly at work as well as many lessons to learn of where menswear can tread.

For the sake of education, let’s pretend to ignore the 90s detailing, the color palatte that’s just a little bit off, the overly happy models, and the large corporation. Let’s carefully avert our eyes from what we assume to see. Let’s study individual pieces. We will see that Armani is not yet done reinventing what men should wear.

In the two images above we see a common piece that has been imprisoning men for over a century and a half: the suit and blazer. This piece is the archetype of professionalism and, unfortunately for most men, must be worn in order to be taken seriously and to progress towards their goals at some point in their life. It’s a symbol; yet, it is unflattering, disproportionate, and lacks any possibility to communicate individuality. Although Armani is a perpetrator in the continuation of the suit through his previous invention of the “power suit,” here he has served his time by reinventing the piece to meet the needs his previous models forgot. Both jackets represent better proportions, flatter the body, and express the individual. Both also re-imagine elements – be it a draped neckline or a method of fastening – to show a different personal viewpoint. Yet, both maintain a precise number of elements to maintain the symbol of a “suit” in order to not hinder the wearer during less-than-progressive social situations.

We’re going to pretend the fur arm-warmers on the above ensemble never happened. Look at the coat. Contrast between textures and geometry make this a particularly interesting piece. Note the subtly draped neck line juxtaposed with the rigid front panel. See the asymmetrical zipper and the pleasing proportions. Armani has created a new coat.

Fall 2008 menswear could aptly be summarized as “101 ways to wear a pashmina.” Armani is one of the few designers this season, however to actually rethink the shawl both in its construct and in how it’s worn. below, pulling both from his Emporio Armani and his Giorgio Armani lines, we see either the addition of a heavily striated texture (making it more rough and masculine) or the careful matching of the pattern and fabric weight with a sweater to downplay the scarf and thereby allowing the pair to blend as a single piece.

A wrap is a very simple and safe way for the average man to express something different in his wardrobe: it can be added on top of any other pieces he already owns and can be removed over the course of the day so that he may blend into various situations. No risks even for the stuffiest dresser.Ok, this is a tough one. Ignore the blue cow print…just try really hard. Look at how the collar is draped. Armani is hardly the first to place a draped collar and lapel on a leather coat, but he is one of the first to make such a thing readily available for men across the world. Should we give him credit for this?
If we place two older pieces together (in the above a parka and a trench coat) do we create something new?

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