There was a pleasant twist at Emporio Armani‘s Fall/Winter 2023 collection in Milan this afternoon: the models were smiling. So much so, in fact, that the backdrop of the runway also featured an oversized picture of a smiling model. It set the tone for a collection that was uniquely optimistic, playful, and vibrant. Giorgio Armani took as inspiration the culture of Elizabethan theatre. “When staging the everyday, Giorgio Armani consistently suggests clothes that bring out the person, not the character,” explained the show’s notes.
The end result was a collection that married tropes of theatrical costume with an easy everyday wearability. Think: jodphur-derived trousers in lightweight wool (tucked into fabulous knee-high flat boots), asymmetrically buttoned silk jacquard jackets, and suits with dramatic ruffled necklines. Models wore little woollen berets (it’s a testament to Mr. Armani’s deft hand that they looked genuinely chic and not like an arts school cosplay) and Charlie Chaplin-esque bowler hats, be it with sharp tailored suiting or more fluid skirt-and-silk-blouse combinations.
Eveningwear is always a focus with Armani, and Emporio F/W ’23 proved no different. The designer mixed volumes and textures liberally to create an effortless ease to the after dark pieces: crushed velvet with silk, mohair with canvas. Low-rise sequin-embellished trousers were dress-up with skimpy silk “going out tops”, black velvet bodices styled with full silk skirts in vibrant graphic prints in bold magenta and violet.
The palette was in part inspired by the photographer Guy Bourdin, whose work Armani is celebrating with a new exhibition at Armani/Silos, a creative hub in the brand’s Via Bergognone headquarters. Bourdin was one of the most important fashion photographers to emerge post-World War II. His surrealist imagery was bold and often narrative driven, inspired by his longtime friendship with the artist Man Ray.
“At first glance, Guy Bourdin is not an artist with whom I have a lot in common: his language is clear-cut, graphic, and impactful,” explained Mr. Armani of the exhibition. “[But] Bourdin did not follow the crowd and he did not compromise and I identify with that. I don’t believe that there is any other way to make a mark on the collective imagination.” As the grand patriarch of the Italian fashion world, the mark Mr. Armani has made on the collective imagination is groundbreaking and enduring, much like the late Guy Bourdin.
This article originally appeared on GRAZIA AU.