MILAN — A strange scene unfolded at Linate, one of Milan’s three airports, just after 9 p.m. on Thursday. As bemused business travelers with wheelie bags stood in the departures hall, waiting for their last flights home, a crowd of 2,300 guests, dressed in sequins and suits and clutching their passports, descended upon the check-in area, ready for take off.
To where, you ask? The vast aircraft hangar at one end of the airport, a.k.a. the latest location of the Emporio Armani catwalk show.
“I wanted a location this season that represented Milan, but also its international essence, its sense of openness to the world and the spirit of innovation that distinguishes it at this time,” Giorgio Armani said before the show about his decision to take the runway to, well, the runway. “A place synonymous with traveling, and the opportunity for adventure and freedom. Linate is all of this.”
It is unlikely that many New Yorkers would make the same comparisons with La Guardia. Either way, if anyone could execute a midweek takeover of a working airport, it would be Mr. Armani: Since 1996 the Italian billionaire fashion mogul has had a giant Emporio logo emblazoned across the hangar that became the show venue, making it the first or last thing that many passengers see of Milan as their planes traverse the taxiways.
After cocktails, guests took to their seats inside a giant purpose-built black auditorium, with a catwalk snaking around four standing pits. The collection itself was something of a long-haul journey, with more than 200 looks, including urban daywear (diaphanous parkas, slouchy slacks, relaxed knits), elegant suiting, eye-popping nightclub neons (chartreuse yellow or hot pink biker jackets, miniskirts and hot pants, and sequins by the truckload), and a finale of Emporio-branded bustier dresses, sheer blazers and blouses, scattered with the letters and finished with tassels.
On one side of the hangar was a vast stage, and in the background planes continued to take off and land, twinkling in the night sky. After a bow by Mr. Armani, Robbie Williams, the British pop star and ’90s heartthrob, strutted out sporting a sparkly kilt, Armani T-shirt and tiger-decorated Y-fronts, which he regularly showed off to the crowd.
Then he began a set. “Let Me Entertain You,” he yodeled, before segueing into “Supreme,” and a rendition of George Michael’s “Freedom! ‘90,” much to the delight of the audience. He dedicated his final number, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” to Mr. Armani, personalizing the final chorus for the designer. “You did it your way,” he sang. With that, everyone had to agree.