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Indepth Arts News:

"Giorgio Armani"
2000-10-20 until 2001-01-17
Guggenheim Museum
New York, NY, USA

Giorgio Armani offers a thematic look at the designer's evolution and contribution to fashion and culture over the last 25 years. Garments from various periods are presented in narrative clusters to express motifs that are visible throughout Armani's career. Spectacular eveningwear and interpretations of the tuxedo for women introduce Armani's oeuvre. Also featured is the understated daywear that first made the designer's reputation. Many of these fashions, inspired by the cool clothes and warm colors of the North African desert, illustrate Armani's signature sandy or greige neutral palette.

Examples of sensual, body-conscious suits for men highlight Armani's noted androgynous look, along with masculinized jackets for women that evoke Marlene Dietrich (an important influence on Armani's embrace of suiting for women). This modern style is tempered by the romance of tradition and historical fashion, with references to the Directoire and Empire periods and the Belle Epoque. These garments are presented in conjunction with selections of spectacular beaded and embroidered ensembles inspired by dress and textiles from a range of non-Western cultures including China, India, and Polynesia. Armani's interest in the East is underscored by his minimalist approach to both day- and eveningwear, which strips exotic dress to a sophisticated yet practical simplicity, and the use of Japanese elements is directly visible in his interpretations of the traditional kimono and samurai or oroyoi armor.

Armani has described his clothes as costumes for the world stage; Giorgio Armani presents many of the personae that Armani has offered. On view are selected cinema costumes as well as clothes familiar from the red carpet, worn for the Academy Awards and other ceremonies that have become synonymous with the glamour and cultural power of Armani. A small group of sketches complements advertising photography and clips from films that Armani has costumed to yield a fuller picture of how the designer sees his own creations and how they are interpreted by others.

Armani's look continues to evolve even as it maintains its sleek, refined aesthetic. His more recent designs return to a streamlined silhouette, with the same body-consciousness that informed his first innovative efforts. The style that established him as a celebrated symbol of the 20th century is a harmonious balance of contradictions: the modern and the traditional, East and West, black and white, the old and the new, the functional and the fanciful, the elegant and the casual. His style is sophisticated yet prêt-à-porter, conveying a relaxed confidence, a sobriety and refinement, a sensuality with a democratic mission. To acquire an Armani suit has become a rite of passage, a symbol of success sought or won. The very name Armani has become a talisman, a sign of the designer's wide appeal and integration into everyday life.

Woman's evening jacket and pants (detail),
fall/winter 1990-91.
Photo by Ellen Labenski.

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