Giorgio Armani is often credited for creating a modern wardrobe for working women - the term "Armani suit" comes to mind whenever one thinks "corporate dressing" - while Jil Sander showed up in the ninties to take over as one of the vanguards of minimalism and sharp tailoring for women; in other words, an even stricter take on corporate dressing.
And yet despite the fact that both labels working women swear by, the Armani woman of today can hardly be associated with the Jil Sander woman. Both are masterly in cut and timeless in their own way, but luxury and elegance is the catchphrase of one while intellectual austerity and edge is the definition of the other.
Linking them back again is the fact that both are among the top shows of Milan (in my opinion, that is), simpley because they give women something new to think about when it comes to dressing themselves, without losing the ease and wearabilty all modern women desperately need when they go about their busy lives.
It might be stretching it to say that of the Giorgio Armani collection, but while Mr Armani may have shifted his focus on pantsuits to sparkly cocktail dressing, but there's no denying the ease and fluidity in his creations - he really gets evening wear, making a simple cocktail dress new again with a full and yet controlled bubble cut and sexy skinny straps that never border on tasteless.
There was also some great casual/dressy coat/jacket-and-dress ensembles, which had the effect of dressing down the dresses and making them wearable for day -
Meanwhile for day he upped the ante on luxury and showed yummy, beautifully-cut jackets -
The weak point of his collection would be the bottoms - I wasn't too sure about the bubble skirts - but those jackets would go very well with trousers, be they of skinny or mannish cuts. But in the end, it was very much the kind of collection that made you understand why there are legions of women who dress exclusively in Armani. It's the kind of clothes that you don't need to think much about to look beautiful. You are confident in knowing that you look look timeless and current at the same time.
I always felt that all the Armani collections in recent years seemed to indicate that Mr Armani was running out of ideas, but this collection to me felt like he was taking inspiration from what he did best and infusing a shot of decadence and luxury where there was only utility. A bit like Donna Karan and her switch to vaguely Eastern vibes after discovering yoga and all that.
Not bad for someone in his 70s. Mr Armani might pushing the kind of timeless elegance and glamour that Valentino is doing, but his is a more subtle and casual take, hence it feels modern, rather than a celebration of a bygone era.
Paring down the the unembellished end, Raf Simons' collection for Jil Sander finally ditched the frumpy vibe (though he didn't ditch the hideous orthopaedic shoes). I hated how his previous collections just dulled women down, and I never understood the fuss and applause that greeted his shapeless straight below-the-knee skirts, straight, no-waist shirts, and seriously boxy pantsuits.
This season, the clothes feel easier and seem a bit more aware that people don't necessary want to look, you know, square. I like the monkish austerity and fluidity of the cape-like coats and sweaters -
The trousers are beautifully cut, narrow without seeming to squeeze the life of the models' legs -
I like the pantsuit, like the peacoat-like look of the not-a-peacoat jacket, though I think the suit would look way cooler with a pair of flats instead of those damned clumpy shoes. I like the clunky shoe thing, but Jil Sander always shows the least appealing ones.
There was also a nice spectrum of dresses, from these sexy (but not vulgar) fitted ones (the leather is a standout) -
to these feminine and yet strict creations -
to these billowing beauties -
And finally, on a note on comfort, there was that timeless combination of a sweater and a sparkly skirt. It's no mean feat, making simple trousers, turtlenecks and coats that interest people in our overembellished times, and Mr Simons deserves lots of applause for finally striking that perfect note between edge and elegance. Like the Armani collection, you don't really need to think very hard when you wear Jil Sander, because each garment is perfectly finished, in the this case to look fashion forward and classic at the same time.
So that's two wonderful takes on what easy dressing could mean in our current times.
Pictures from www.style.com