Tag Archives: Armani

YSL, 2011

Rumors, rumors. Hintmag.com has speculated Stefano Pilati will make his way to Armani upon the legend’s retirement. Who’s to say whether this is accurate or valid, but, when looking at Pialti’s Spring 2011 menswear collection that seemed to interpret St. Laurent’s Moroccan fascinations as a palette of beige and greige and into modern, sleek, and global silhouettes with just a hint of retro flair – you can’t say it’s a bad idea.

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A Different World, Spring 2010

Kenzo1981

Kenzo, 1981

Gigli1985

Romeo Gigli, 1985

Armani1994

Armani, 1994

It can be argued that global culture, emerging as communication and travel out pace our own comforts of community, is not the bold new paradigm it is made out to be. With the history of textiles as a record of trade and cultural dissemination and consequently fashion, there has always been a global culture. From the early sailing Phoenician civilization who exposed their Hellenic neighbors to flax fiber, to the Venetians who traded into a taste for Chinese silk and Oriental* decoration, to the couture designs of Paul Poiret — the first in Paris to appropriate in its entirety an Eastern vocabulary for dress, there has always been an exchange of ideas, aesthetics, and cultural symbols through the trade of one of the world’s earliest commodities.

In the 70’s there was a cause for ethnic investigation in fashion, taking a cue from the previous decade that sought answers in Eastern philosophy and practices, hippies they would be called, or just a failed effort to modernize western thought. The 80’s saw any global perspective subject to the trivializing of the traveling wealthy (notably the patronizing tones of YSL’s flair for the exotic, as if he ransacked a Shanghai gift shop for its souvenirs to make a flash of couture). And in the later part of the decade it became a full on mission as artists (Keith Herring and his African inspired art) and designers sought understanding in what was thought to be a simpler and more natural life. Each of these approaches to world culture coming and then inevitably going.

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Armani, 1978

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Armani, Spring 1978 Ad Campaign

Armani’s penchant for global “poor” textiles brought ethnic fibers of the subcontinent into the modern man’s style lexicon, eschewing the shirtings and suitings commonly sourced from America, Britain, and Italy.

More than a romantic farce of European colonialism, Armani presaged a global culture and a universal yet ancient definition of luxury. Not to mention that linen fiber has always been preferable for unbearable humidity.

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Eastern Promise

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Armani, Spring 1989

There’s a theory that post recession comes an inevitable shift in fashion, along with contradicting turns to unbridled optimism and dark cynicism, towards ethnic inspiration. Referencing a culturally and geographically distant style of dress offers a pragmatic means of escape, the idea of a simpler life, and something that is just new. In 1989 Armani struck a note with his orientalist* leanings, this instance drawing from Middle Eastern and North African dress. The fallout of the 1987 stock market crash put an end to the over the top spectacle of the 80’s and paved the way for new codes of dress in the 90’s including grunge (or rather the aggressive appropriation of disparate youth culture ala Marc Jacobs), minimalism, and a pop sexuality that became the hallmark of Versace and Dolce & Gabbana. It enabled retrospection and a rigorous reassignment of values but most importantly it enabled change.

There is something of those Armani looks in the recent menswear collections from Paris: the encompassing theme of the middle east done with a nod to the silhouette of the early 90’s. It’s a far cry from the military/rock n roll aesthetic that has swallowed menswear, a denial of what has been the norm for the past decade, and a step forward to another world.

*I use the word “oriental” to specify a specific manner in referencing Asian culture that eschews modernism and contemporary global culture in favor of a dated and western habit of exoticism.

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