Today, Giorgio Armani ventures deeper into the world of online fashion by offering the entire Emporio Armani line at emporioarmani.com for the first time. The designer spoke with New York Magazine fashion director Harriet Mays Powell via e-mail, appropriately enough. How does the new site work? Why did he decide to start a couture line? How would he dress Hillary?
The houses of Lauren and Valentino recently celebrated their 40th anniversaries. Valentino is retiring, while Lauren continues at full speed. Where do you see Armani when its 40th anniversary arrives?
My 40th anniversary would be in 2010. Between now and then I am opening two new Armani concept stores — the Armani/Ginza Tower in Tokyo this November and Armani/Fifth Avenue next September. I am also opening my first Armani Hotels in Milan and Dubai. I am excited by the growth of my accessories business and my home-furnishings collection and will be focusing on continuing that momentum. Then there is A/X Armani Exchange, which we are now expanding around the world. So the short answer to your question is that there is much to be done and I still wake up every day enthusiastic for the new challenges that lie ahead.
You are relaunching the Emporio Armani site to emphasize e-commerce. What’s the impetus behind that?
Over the last couple of years in particular I have observed the increasing sophistication of the online fashion consumer, which has been matched by the spread of broadband access to the Internet. I therefore felt it was the right moment to expand my e-commerce presence by offering my entire Emporio Armani lifestyle for women and men online for the first time.
The site has a dual perspective. The “Experience” area hopefully brings the spirit of the seasonal collection to life through a particular emphasis on the use of video and advertising imagery, while the “Shop Online” area has been developed to allow someone to view the product closely in the various colors and then to purchase with all the customer support you would expect if you were buying in store.
How do you see Armani’s Internet presence developing in the future?
At the moment, our e-commerce is restricted to United States residents, so one of my next objectives in the next couple of years is to provide this service in Europe and Asia.
At the other end of the spectrum, your Privé couture line has become very successful. Can you talk us through the design process for that?
I entered the world of couture late in my career, as some other designers were choosing to close down their ateliers. My motivation came from a couple of directions. First, many of my most important ready-to-wear clients were increasingly asking me for customized items, so there seemed to be a growing trend towards personalization. Second, as I had observed the couture world as an outsider, it appeared to me that the actual client was being forgotten in an effort to create theatrics on the runway (more often than not to promote a fragrance or cosmetic).
I saw this as an opportunity to return couture to its roots: Providing beautiful one-of-a-kind garments in the most accessible way. I have to say that this project has been one of the most personally stimulating and rewarding in all of my work over the years.
A lot of stars are wearing Privé on the red carpet now. What makes a good red-carpet dress?
My favorite would have to be Cate Blanchett at this year’s Oscars. Her natural grace and elegance was absolutely captivating. Sophistication, elegance, and simplicity will always provide the most impact on the red carpet. Actresses are not models, and it is fundamental in my view that the dress always allows the actress’s personality and beauty to shine through, rather than overpowering her.
This fall, it seems that tailoring, strong lines, and more traditional silhouettes are coming back. Do you think young women want to wear suits now?
Suits will always have their place in a woman’s wardrobe. But whereas in the 1980s women felt the need to wear a suit to have a presence in the workplace, today women rightly have a self-confidence and a greater desire to express their femininity, rather than their masculinity. I do not see this trend reversing.
What is power dressing now?
I think power dressing today is about self-expression rather than uniformity or conformity. It is about having the confidence to express your own identity. So there has been a 180-degree turnaround from the 1980s. I think that is a very positive change.
How would you dress Hillary Clinton?
I believe Hillary Clinton does occasionally wear some of my designs, preferring pantsuits. While I might encourage her to alternate occasionally with a dress and jacket, I also understand that one should never force someone to wear something if it makes them feel uneasy.
Who are your favorite models?
At the moment I would say Agyness Deyn and Evandro Soldati, who I have been using in my advertising campaigns in the last couple of seasons. They are very modern but have a timeless look.
After designing fashion for so many years, how do you decide what “modern” means?
“Modern” is a much overused and abused word. I suspect that much of my approach is driven by the desire to create a style that can be timeless — neither so avant-garde that it is seen as being ahead of its time, nor so classic that it is seen as being passé. It is a difficult line to tread, because you can also be accused of being predictable. At the end of the day, I have always wanted to remain consistent and grounded in a design philosophy which I have followed throughout my career. In this way you stand for something and you become known and hopefully respected for that.