Giorgio Armani’s IRL show is staged without music. Silence to stand in solidarity with Ukraine. Applause
So far, in Milan, no designer has taken a definitive stand on what is happening to the north-east of the fashion capital, some 2,203 kilometres away. The unfortunate, clear-as-velvet Russo-Ukrainian war struck on the second day of Milan Fashion Week, but it would take the vanguard of Italian fashion Giorgio Armani to express—even if it’s another two days later—what his fellow designers probably feel, but unwilling to say: show “respect” for the Ukrainians. This Mr Armani does by eliminating the soundtrack to his autumn/winter 2022 show. A quiet affair can be a much louder objection to the war than what some far more vocal opponents prefer: blaring condemnation. (While we are on the topic of taking a stand, we at SOTD would like to state categorically that we do not support unprovoked war against a sovereign country. Peace be with Ukraine soon.)
The show opens with a voice-over reading in the darkness, a message in English that Mr Armani had written: “My decision to not use any music in the show was made as a sign of respect towards the people involved in the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine.” The audience clapped approvingly. While reports emerged that, since last Thursday, there were people holding placards denouncing the war outside some show venues, none stated that designers took similarly disapproving stance. It is possible that many brands worry about their businesses in Russia (where, in Moscow, many Italian brands have flagship stores that appeal to the oligarchs and co) and, therefore, prefer to be quiet about their feelings and play down their reactions. Mr Armani’s music-free show may help break that booming silence.
No matter how much the present time has changed (or will change even more), Mr Armani’s designs have not. This is not necessarily disadvantageous. Perhaps of the uncertainty of the future, this familiarity is reassuring. The Armani silhouette, never extreme (no Yeti’s-fur-as-coat or leg-O-Franken-mutton sleeves, as seen in the Dolce & Gabbana blitzkrieg on the senses), adheres to a reliable and, if one tries, relatable elegance that may wane with the fashion crowd, but does not fade. His shoulders are often rounded and soft, but can be powerfully strong when the occasion calls for them, his necklines are usually quite high, but they may plunge when the trend expects it, and his hems are usually low, but they do rise when there is a need for them to. This, for many, is a ‘safe’ balancing act, but it is the embrace of such safety that many turn to when confronting the ugliness of an abhorrent, conflict-struck world.
Mr Armani, to be fair, attempts to create freshness in fabrics he uses: corded fretwork, graphic quilting and paneling, even faux fur—they have the exquisite quality (and technical finesse of application) that other houses declare to possess, but do not. And however he mixes them—the heavy with the light, the patterned with the plain, the effect is not excessive or disproportionate—he confidently repels the excesses these past two years wrought. While only the models’ footsteps and the swish of the body-skimming clothes could be heard, the overall quiet is peacefulness that stirs. With a war raging, the serenity is truly pleasing, audible, and harmonic.
Screen grab (top) and photos: Giorgio Armani