Next, we head to the conference room, which is to be my home for the next few days. It is now 5 p.m. We have a show to do in about 40 hours, so let’s go to work. People think that fashion is glamorous, but this windowless room with its low ceilings and unflattering lighting might change their minds. I have spent many hours in rooms like this all over the world, checking clothes and selecting shoes and accessories laid out on long tables. Some of my team have been here for a day or so and have organized things—we have shots of the 79 outfits from our Milan show, a stack of model cards for the girls we are about to see and tailors on hand to make adjustments. One is sewing crystals back onto the finale dress, which stands on a mannequin atop a table, dominating the room.
We start the casting straightaway. It’s not until you see a girl in the flesh that you know if she can really walk the catwalk for Armani. I have done a couple of shows in L.A. where the girls posed a real challenge—they were too exuberant for my taste. Because I have a certain aesthetic in mind, I am wondering how the Texans will work out. I am very satisfied. These young Americans with names like Maggie and Megan are tall and pretty, and most walk well. There are some Ali MacGraw types, and many have really modern features—one even reminds me of Gisele, and I earmark her for the finale. We are looking for about 50, so the casting is conducted speedily. Soon after starting I have to make my first major decision. Heels or flats? The fall collection was first shown in Milan on ballet dancers, all wearing ballet slippers. I decide that the women of Dallas will probably prefer the glamour of heels.
As each girl finishes her walk, we take a Polaroid and write our comments on her card. It’s strange, but models often look embarrassed at castings—it’s as though posing in front of a few people is more difficult than walking in front of hundreds. I always make a point of thanking them for their time. It’s the least I can do.
After the girls come the guys. We need only 13, as they are really there to function as escorts for the girls and to give the largely female audience some eye candy. But it’s soon apparent that this is not going to be easy: The guys here are really big. I do dress powerfully built men—I have a long tradition of outfitting athletes—but on the catwalk, I tend to use men who are more normally proportioned. In the Eighties we had musclemen on the catwalks. Today they are more refined. Slowly we gather together a band of Armani men. One I christen “Jude Law”—he has a great smile—and I’m pleased to see there are many multiethnic models on offer.