Giorgio Armani – about the future of his empire and luxury in the modern world
The legendary Italian designer Giorgio Armani on December 2 received the The Fashion Awards for outstanding achievements in the fashion world. In a special interview for Vogue international editor Susie Menkes, he talked about his fashion empire.
In the library of the Milanese office of the designer, created by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, Giorgio and I talked about English eccentricity. For this reason, the Italian maestro believes, the UK was so late in achieving high positions in the sky of fashion.
“This award means something to me – it is important and prestigious. Despite the fact that they handed it to me just now – and I'm not going to forgive the British for this, – said the 85-year-old designer with a wide smile. “Maybe it's because I'm not doing eccentric fashion, and the British just now understood my evolution.”
All this was said before Mr. Armani demonstrated at his Milan hotel a completely new stage in business development: exquisite jewelry with black and white diamonds, onyx and pink gold with several flashes of color. This was the first time he had expanded his own kingdom to diamonds and pearls (except for his unique high jewelry for the Privé couture collection).
As if the new jewelry company was not enough, Armani decided to arrange an exposition of his accessories in the Armani / Silos building, which is a fashion museum opposite his headquarters. Called "The Accent of Style," it combines the objects that he designed 40 years ago, along with modern bags, shoes and jewelry. “We have made hundreds and millions of accessories over the years, but no one talks about them, and I'm disappointed,” the designer said.
“My task is not to be able to sell accessories,” he announced. – Everyone tells me that the happiness of all other brands is that they mainly sell accessories. I sell them very little. I am engaged in fashion, sportswear, clothing for youth – but accessories for me are not a priority yet. ”
Hollywood has loved Armani since the 1980s, starting with Richard Gere and his famous soft costumes. And to this day, an affair with Giorgio Armani continues in Los Angeles. He is considered the Italian fashion hero, who abandoned the hefty structure of traditional men's costumes, and also offered women the option of relaxed masculinity.
Armani, restrained and even modest, does not call himself a designer, who stands at the origins of the tradition to choose designer outfits to go on the red carpet, although he dressed everyone: from Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, to Sofia Loren and Julia Roberts.
All financial indicators surrounding Armani are huge. His personal fortune is estimated at six billion euros. There are hundreds of shops around the world, the hotel business, home clothes, which reflects his penchant for the Japanese style. He seems to have private homes everywhere, mostly near the water, including on the Italian island of Pantelleria and the Caribbean island of Antigua.
I asked him to recall the past, but not that difficult post-war childhood in Piacenza, near Milan, but the days when he was a medical student, then a worker in the La Rinascente shop in Milan, where he studied men's clothing from Nino Cherruti.
But the key moment in his career, he calls a partnership with Sergio Galeotti. As a designer, he did not undergo formal training, but he learned design by studying the sketches of Yves Saint Laurent. His fashionable success came only when he was 40 years old. Galeotti – his partner in business and in life – put Armani on a fashionable map, opening stores at an incredible speed and presenting collections in America. Then, in 1985, after a decade of joint management of the company, Armani was left alone due to the death of Sergio from AIDS.
“It was very difficult: not to have someone next to you who would take care of you and with whom you could exchange ideas,” Armani admitted. – Others did not have the power that Sergio had over me. I was also scared because many people said that I couldn’t manage the business myself, especially without commercial experience. ”
Part of Armani's success is his constancy. There is, of course, another Italy: spectacular, colorful and hot, which I imagine as a split between north and south. My mention of the sunny style of Dolce & Gabbana met the harsh words of Armani: "This is not my language."
Given the huge number of Armani stores around the world – various fashion lines, accessories, hotels, shops dedicated to home clothes, and now jewelry too – can you believe that the designer does everything himself?
I watched how he was preparing for a show in Milan, choosing shoes, changing hats. Then I took a deep breath and asked him the key question: “Are you sure that your company will be equally successful in 50 years?”
“This is a difficult question – times are changing,” he replied. “And now I'm going to say something that is likely to make your hair stand on end: I find it very strange to talk about luxury today, given everything that happens in the world.” I’m uncomfortable if I spend millions on shows when people suffer. I think we crossed the line. “Once upon a time, people were happy to see a plastic bottle of water, but now the world has changed and is changing.”
I asked Armani what prompted him to such dedication for so many years. “My mother was very important to me – she was very, very strict. She also said shortly before her death: “Giorgio, you should stop. Your work takes your life. You need to have time for yourself. ”
So, the great designer bought himself a house that he does not have time to visit. And he makes money that he does not spend, unless on his spectacular yacht. “One thing I've never had is money,” Armani explained. – I was always very careful with the money. I have never been too keen on things. I can say no, even when there is a very good, exciting project. "
Giorgio Armani and his mother Maria
A good example of his concern for expenses was the folded chairs lined up at the back of the Tadao Ando building – returned from a show in Japan and designed for reuse. One of his employees told me that the designer still thinks on “old” Italian money up to the euro, and sometimes suffocates on how much “lira” everything costs.
Armani’s mother rarely discussed his work, but, as you know, she said to her son: “No more beige,” referring to the neutral color on which the designer built his empire. Did the maestro listen to her words? Or will this greige effect, so fashionable again, come back through all these years? “She was right. And whenever people say that I should think about beige again, I think about my mother, ”said the designer. I accepted this answer as no.
Giorgio Armani – 85 years old
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