The piers on New York’s West Side Highway are dreary. Some are half sunk into the Hudson River, others are sanctioned off my chain link fences and rusty locks. But leave it to Giorgio Armani to turn a stretch of concrete that juts out from 15th Street into one of the most glamorous venues in Manhattan. That’s what happened last night when the designer, still handsome as ever at a spritely 79 years, kicked off his One Night Only celebration with a retrospective, fashion show and late night dance party.
Ricky Martin. Those two words are enough to put a pep in my step. But the Pop star wasn’t the only bold faced name that came out to support the Italian fashion icon. Hilary Swank, Renee Zellweger, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorcese are only some of the people that made their way down the champagne colored tunnel to the fashion show and party. (It was the first time Leo’s lady friend Toni Garrn had watched a fashion show.)
What was so remarkable about the traveling exhibition and fashion show – despite the fact that it lasted more than half an hour, one of the longest fashion shows in recent fashion history – was the unparalleled glamour. Yes, Mr. Armani redefined what it meant to be a red carpet designer, but in the annals of fashion history what most of us associate with the designer is the rounded shoulders of his menswear and his introduction of the female power suit. In my head, Jodie Foster, who wore Armani to collect more than a couple accolades, and a couple of Oscars too, will always be linked with the rigid modernism that we have come to associate with the Armani brand. And I even told Mr. Armani he should send a couple of things to self proclaimed pantsuit aficionado Hilary Clinton when she makes this presidential run in 2016.
But what Mr. Armani (we dare not call him Giorgio to his face) told me before the gala when I stopped by the Armani showroom on Fifth Avenue he was most proud of with this show and exhibition is the more creative looks that he has put together. Remember that iridescent space aged spiky crystal ball ensemble that Lady Gaga wore to the Grammy’s a few years ago? We’re talking about that stuff. In this existing exhibition there are monochromatic embroidered and embellished jumpsuits and traffic cone orange crocodile column dresses. These are the pieces from the designer’s fantasies, which he was so kind to bring into our reality.
Following a vernisage of the exhibition, we meandered down the plush carpeted pier to take a seat for a fashion show of the greatest hits collection of his first decade in the couture business. After dominating the ready to wear market and branching into accessories and home (Armani Casa is still one of my favorite shops), ten years ago he started the Armani Prive line, which became the incubator of his couture dreams. And it was all here, including the seaweed green collection from a few years ago, the Asian baton show from two seasons ago, and this season’s beige decadence, which my favorite couture show of the season.
The last stop on the One Night Only experience was the converted nightclub where Mark Ronson came back from DJ retirement to spin some records. I had a few drinks, but I can still remember a sick Amy Winehouse remix. There was risotto, of course, and other passed pasta dishes, but I made the rookie mistake of following the pretty ladies around the dance floor and forgot to eat, which explains why I’m typing this with one eye open this morning. Yet, a little headache isn’t so bad after a night like that. After all, if you’re going to do ‘hangover chic,’ make it Armani.