During Milan fashion week this past February, I stayed at the Giorgio Armani Hotel. Away from the clattering trams and buzzing Ves pas on the Via Manzoni a few floors below, all was quiet. More than quiet, in fact. The silence was so velvety, so enveloping, that it had an eerily physical presence. I felt companionably alone with my silence, comfortably isolated in lush solitude. calm, to restore you – said the man whose name is on the front door when we were talking a few days later after his show for autumn/winter. Is exactly the kind of sensation I wanted to create.
Design-as-metaphor is irresistible. As Giorgio Armani edges into his 79th year on planet Earth, you d be forgiven for thinking the snowy-maned designer is in his lion-in-winter phase, where contemplative solitude is the inevitable companion of advanced age. in a creative world, one tends to go into solitude – the designer acknowledged. Now that s a notion that hard to resist: Giorgio Armani, whose steely pursuit of perfection has made him the wealthiest designer in fashion, expressing uncertainty about his own motivations. But it exactly that sort of honesty that makes him such a surprise and a refreshing one, to boot in his industry. And there is another surprise to come, in that, closing in on his ninth decade though he may be, he is nowhere near settling into that lion-in-winter phase 1 mentioned. In fact, the man is as restless as someone a fraction of his age. Or, as he once put it to me: can think of myself with a cane not being able to walk; I prefer to think of myself running around as a boy in shorts.
What that means for Armani work is that there is still a sense of the knife edge risks taken, some working, some not which is immensely gratifying to come across in a man of his age, even more so when he is the head of a multi-billion-dollar business empire. Look no further than the colour palettes of his latest collections. Bearing in mind that Armani signature shade has always been described as a neutral greige, it was startling to see a ready-to-wear line fired up with intense desert sunset shades of orange and pink, or a couture collection dominated by sinister serpentine greens
His relationship with time is undoubtedly a spur. In various conversations over the years, Giorgio Armani has said things like: big fight is with time”, and afraid that the years I have left will go by way too quickly”, but with him, it more than the standard contest with the ticking clock. For one thing, Giorgio Armani is utterly engaged by the future. He finds nostalgia paralysing, negative and pervasive.
Giorgio Armani a deep mark in fashion.
It probably inevitable that Armani memories of his own past would so thoroughly seed his present, and future. After all, he was a boy in Piacenza, in the Italian provinces, during World War II, and times were hard for his family. When he says: I do is the dream”, Armani has his own adolescent experiences as testament to the power of that dream, the ideal vision that offered an escape from, or at least an alternative to, the everyday. In his case, it was movies he took refuge in the area possibly apocryphal tale about him going to the movies to drown out the noise of falling bombs. It was real glamour, the absolute dream,”Armani recalls. had the power to charm, to make a deep mark, and it certainly had an impact on the way I see fashion.”.
But, equally, he was impressed by the way the women in his life dressed with as much dignity as they could muster, even in straitened circumstances, dressing sloppily was a sign of a poor upbringing”.
Even after all these decades of world domination for Armani, those early influences still make their presence felt in subtle ways. The invitation for his autumn/winter show, for instance, featured a womanface shadowed by a fedora (Ingrid Bergman, perhaps, in his favourite movie, Alfred Hitchcock 1946 thriller Notorious), a motif that was repeated throughout the show itself. But that hint of Hollywood femme fatale was, as the designer says, interpreted for a woman of today”, meaning the kind of easy, languidly tailored, flat-shoed chic that is an Armani signature. (The show was, in fact, called Easy Chic.)
In Notorious, Bergman and Cary Grant enjoy a relationship that is all ambiguous undertone and suppressed eroticism. Armani thinks it wouldn’t work for a modern audience, because we simply not that sophisticated any more. like in fashion,”he clarifies. lot of people don’t realise the proportion from one dress to the next. Everything is very superficial. Something that is valid today is tomorrow no longer valid.”Technology is partly to blame, he feels. The tyranny of trends and of stylists are two other bugbears. fact that a big fashion house takes on someone to do the styling has come along in the past 20 years,”Armani continues. , there were people who were put in the position to grow with that company. Before, there was a lot more identity within those companies. Now, everyone wants to do what everyone else does. That not good.”Hang on, that almost sounds like the sort of predictable good-old-days nostalgia Armani was just turning his nose up at. Which means we need a little more clarification on this.
Giorgio Armani is one of fashion great modernists, even, in his own way, a revolutionary. When he unstuffed menswear in the mid-1970s, he the defiant, angry mood of political and social unrest”, one commentator rhapsodised at the time. Time magazine famous cover story in April 1982 painted the designer as a kind of freedom fighter in fashion, changing not just what people wore but the way they thought about clothes. Armani achieved this by challenging the prevailing wisdom of the time. He still doing it. He actually be the first person to eulogise the benefits of technology, so heno reactionary. Pragmatic? Yes. Contrary? Definitely. do one thing, the world goes in another way,”he says. my way of seeing things.”
It all comes back to that restlessness, which Giorgio Armani himself defines as a perpetual feeling of dissatisfaction. It high lighted by his relatively recent interest in the hotel industry. exists in six-month cycles,”he said at the opening of his Dubai hotel, the first in a planned dozen. cando that with a hotel.”He has always been notoriously skittish when it comes to talking about what happens to his business after he is gone, but a serious illness two summers ago softened Armani. Now he seems perfectly happy to consider his own chain of hotels as a stake in posterity. That makes sense, given how much scope the bricks and mortar allow him to showcase everything he has attached his name to, from fragrance and furniture to food and flowers. that something of me will remain apart from fashion and the clothes themselves,”he mused while he was recovering. is something that obviously makes me quite emotional, that people will be coming here in 100 years, and they will remember me and my persona and the way I am.”
The addition of a chain of hotels to his properties underlines a theme in Armanilife that his sister Rosanna once pointed out to him: how much of what he does is actually for other people. He jokes that even his yacht Main, his pride and joy, is an extension of his hospitality to the crew, who spend more time on it than anyone else. Fashion obviously fits with Rosanna s observation, but the assumed selflessness of devoting at least 80 per cent of his time (by his own reckoning) to making and keeping the people who want to wear his clothes happy is balanced by Armaniown admission that fashion is , a way to make me be loved”.
There are different ways of being able to make others love you,”he explains, that are easier to comprehend, like being fabulous at sex, but obviously tried the road that most difficult, creating a whole atmosphere that may be liked by 10 per cent and not by 90 per cent. I ve made a choice that I want to speak to people who share my opinion, or who speak the same language as I do.”
Consider that the people who ”Armani run an insanely wide gamut from Sophia Loren to Lady Gaga and itsafe to assume that his own definition of what he is doing is as good as any: with a modern attitude”. And we leave his latest collections with that inspiring thought in mind.