You could have bought a ticket to the Giorgio Armani fashion show from one of the concierges for $210. That's less than the price of an Armani blouse these days -- and probably money well spent. The fashion pros here, the American store buyers, have been calling Armani's the best show in town.
This week of fall fashion showings -- the next stops will be London, Paris and New York by the end of the next month -- was highlighted by an emphasis on pants, long and knee-length, but otherwise quiet styles. Offstage, a bizarre police raid against non-Italian models took place after Italian models complained that foreigners were working without the proper credentials.
First, the fashion news.
To capture those hard-to-get customer dollars, designers have been hedging with quieter styling, hemlines that are long and short, and coats that are slim and straight as wel as swingy and tent-shaped. Just the same, certain distinct trends have emerged from those collections that buyers have rated best -- the Missoni knits, the Fendi furs, the Morio Valentino leathers and the Krizia sweaters.
The major trends are:
Shoulders not as drastically broadened as last season but rounded-off and extended to give fullness to sleeves.
An emphasis on pants, usually a full trouser that cuts off at the angle rather than flopping over the shoe.
Skirts never tight but eased even to the point of being very full, with split skirts or culottes a growing option.
Half belts, called Martingales in fashion lingo, on the back of coats and jackets.
Winter white and the safe, neutral range of browns from beige to bitter chocolate.
Often-flat shoes with slanty heels and white or colored hose.
Pleated ruffles, mostly on the necklne (to contrast with the many spare, geometric shapes) and made up in everything from silk to fur.
Behind the scenes, there was no shortage of excitement when police staged a crackdown on non-Italian models working at the showing without proper temporary working papers and without paying a 20-percent tax on their salaries.
Police barred dressing-room exits after some of the showings. While several models escaped by climbing over some temporary walls and others made their way out undetected, 15 of the 80 or more non-Italian models in the showing were given summonses to appear at police headquarters. After questioning, they were ordered to leave the country within 12 hours and not to return to work here without proper papers.
"We'll never come back.I've never been so scared in my life," said a New York model after the Armani showing. But others seemed sure that their agents, to whom they pay as much as one third of their salaries, would have the proper papers in order for the next season.
Perhaps the most glamorous model of them all, Catherine Deneuve, occupied a seat in the front row usually reserved for store presidents and some of the press. She was wearing a loden green squirrel Fendi coat. "I love the softness of the coats and the way they wrap around the body," she said. She already owns two, "but I'll own one more very soon."
Designer Karl Lagerfeld and the Fendi sisters carved unusual jackets and coats out of fur. Knitted sable sweaters, knitted Mongolian lamb jackets, quilted furs and clever cuts and colors turned humble furs such as mole and squirrel into appealing styles. Even Charles Kehoe, one of Neiman-Marcus' executives, had trouble identifying a few of the furs on the runway. But for those swayed only by pure luxury furs, there was a Russian lynx with a likely price tag of $75,000.
For the less extravagant, there were separate fur scarves and fur bibs that David Wolfe, another Neiman's fur expert, guaranteed would update any old fur or cloth coat.
At the Armani collection, which followed Fendi, everything except a few evening pieces was teamed with pants: pants rounded over the hips and cuffed pants pleated at the sides, short pants to the knee and even pants with a skirt treatment at the back.
"All the women around me wear pants," said Armani. "They all want to work in pants because they are more comfortable. Besides, with pants it is less of a worry about stockings and shoes."
While pants were all Armani showed, there were skirts as an option back in his New York showroom, where the collection already was a sellout to such American stores as Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks-Jandel, Bloomingdale's and Neiman-Marcus. In fact, any buyer wanting more Armani fall clothes after seeing the show could not have any because he had already sold as much as he could produce.
Another thing about the Armani collection was the clear cut of the jackets, neatly fitted to the body, often with rounded shoulders and a blouse with a collar standing above the jacket.
Armani for the first time has designed all of his own fabrics, many of them geometric patterns. While there are several bright colors -- including jade, saffron and lacquer red -- mixed with the neutrals and black and white for day, Armani is single-minded about black and white for evening.
"Walk like you were wearing sports-wear, not couture," Armani told ing the final fitting for the show. "The worst thing is for clothes to be pretentious."
Another point for Armani.