MILAN (AP) -- Giorgio Armani sees the irony.
The female models -- all belonging to the target audience for his younger line Emporio Armani-- arrive in leather leggings and he fits them in wide-legged trousers that evoke ankle-length skirts.
The designer, who turns 80 in June, is not at all bothered by "this divergence," as he calls it backstage after his fall/winter womenswear preview Friday, the third day of Milan Fashion Week.
The wide pants are an evolutionary twist on the long skirt, which Armani said younger women today don't want "because it is part of another world, a bygone world."
His pants, a silhouette evolution, stop at the ankle and have youthful touches like a playful buckle near the hemline. The trousers, which also come in Bermuda length, are worn with heavy soled shoes and daintier pumps with bows alike, and paired with blousons or masculine jackets.
Armani said he was inspired by Luc Besson's Nikita, the French femme fatale.
"The clothes were put together in a way that projects a strong attitude," he said.
Yet the pieces individually are still soft, appealing and wearable for women of any age.
The Emporio Armani woman wears her hair tussled under a feminine bowler's cap. The look is accented with ironic Plexiglas ties, belts and bracelets, or pretty pearls that appear as buttons, accenting the trims of dresses or forming pinstripes down trousers.
The color scheme -- simple black and white with an icy turquoise for contrast -- reflects the dichotomy between male and female shapes that the collection seeks to bridge or maybe blur.
While Armani in many ways is taking a tongue-in cheek look at men's fashion for women, few designers know a woman's figure better.
"If a woman doesn't have too much bust or behind, she can wear a man's suit, but otherwise, if she is more fully figured, she appears to be a sex bomb," Armani joked.
He prefers to keep sensuality understated: bare legs, high heels or a plunging neckline.
For Armani, the handbag is the key accessory, the one that "allows you to send the message you want." Next winter's bag is envelope flat, or a clutch on a chain.
Keeping his eye on the bag -- not the proverbial ball -- Armani on Friday opened a new accessory story in the historic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, featuring the must-have Armani bag for this spring: the "Borgonuovo bag."
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