Shopping for Giorgio Armani in the USA

Another week, another set of flights half-way around the world on business, and a chance to check out the availability of Armani clothing on another continent. This time it is Washington DC and Virginia in the USA.

I am aware that Giorgio Armani has full-scale boutiques in the USA, having seen them before – prior to this little adventure – in Las Vegas and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills many years ago. But finding one in this region of the USA was a non-starter. The nearest I could find were smaller store-in-stores in larger high-end retailers like Neiman Marcus and Saks 5th Avenue in malls like Tysons Galleria – nice and new, but a far cry from the inspirational galleria in Milan, home to the original Fratelli Prada shop:-

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Milan’s Galleria Emanuele Vittorio II, also known as il salotto di Milano (Milan’s drawing room).

What was also disappointing, but not surprising, is that these stores carry a sub-brand somewhere between the black label Giorgio Armani and the more egalitarian Emporio lines, called Armani Collezioni. I had a good look at the clothes in this range, and I think Collezioni is much closer in quality (and price) to the Giorgio Armani RTW lines – in fact so close I bought one black polo shirt.

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It’s a practical way to scale Armani clothing across this huge market, and also a way to keep shops stocked at lower cost (the polo shirt was made in Turkey, not Italy as would be the case with pure Giorgio Armani), but it’s not the same.

The luxurious nature of shopping in the boutiques is on another level entirely, at least in my experience. The attention I received in the Milan boutique in January, or in the Florence boutique in December, was incredible. Clearly they want to sell me clothing, but they see that I am a serious buyer who knows the Armani Code, and react accordingly.

As just one example they altered a knitted cardigan (again, that word “cardigan” does not do the garment justice) by taking off the knitted sleeves, shortening them by 2 centimeters, and then sewing them back on again, flawlessly, in just one hour. Now, all GA boutiques have in-house seamstresses/tailors, and they are all good – the Florence and Munich ladies are great. But my attendant in Milan told me that store has 11 seamstresses in-house waiting to make alterations. Eleven.

And now that I am a regular customer, the prices in the Giorgio Armani stores are slightly more accessible – this simple black polo had zero discount because Saks don’t see my Armani shopping record on their database, whereas the Milan GA store definitely did see my record, and offered me 10%-30% offsets from the tag price.

So overall this was not the most exciting or rewarding or financially astute shopping I have done for Giorgio Armani clothing, but I hope that I will get a chance to give America a fair shake through a visit to the serious boutique on Rodeo Drive before too long. Stay tuned for that Hollywood update.

The Runway vs. Real Life

Earlier today I was reviewing some runway shots from the Armani SS13 Privé collection and it struck me that this is the second time I have seen runway models making Giorgio Armani collections look a bit frumpy. Take a look at the faces of the models in the Paris haute couture show earlier this year to see what I mean (thanks to Vogue Italia for the pictures).

Now I freely admit that not all Giorgio Armani clothing looks great – maybe that is unexpected from someone like me, but even I don’t like every single thing I see on the racks or in the collections, especially some of the more patterned and obvious clothing. But some of those Privé dresses are stunning; just block out the faces of the models and see what I mean.

I noticed this also in the January FW 2013/14 Men’s show photos. And in that case it struck me that the models are too young to be wearing those clothes. The black label Giorgio Armani lines are designed for buyers in the 35-55 range, and yet the models all seem to be about 18-25 – callow youths, to borrow a phrase. I would prefer to see some of those looks, like the one below, being worn by a more solid, mid-30’s model – and I own that jacket, by the way, or maybe one very like it.

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Now in that men’s collection Armani went very sporty, with tightly tailored pants and all kinds of interesting fabrics, textures and closures. But does that mean only the younger models can wear those styles? No. I don’t think some of the younger models can wear these clothes and move in a way that makes them come alive. They don’t have the physical and emotional presence to catapault those outfits into the real world. They look good, but not great.

In contrast, I saw some amazing women’s outfits in the February FW 2013/14 Women’s RTW collection, and in the SS13 RTW line , and in both those cases the models and clothes worked – the styling and line of the models blended with the nature and texture of the clothes. Look back at older shots of Armani models from the 1980’s – again they worked brilliantly, stunningly well.

My – perhaps obvious – view is that there needs to be a marriage of the clothes and the selection and styling of models wearing them, to give the garments the chance to glow and sparkle. I can imagine it is not always easy to get all the elements just right, even if you are a highly detail-oriented designer like Giorgio Armani.

But when it is right, and you see how these clothes were meant to work, they just explode off the page, and you want to have them in the real world, where they can, hopefully, work that incredible, subtle magic on your tired, lumpy, old, broken frame…

Giorgio Armani takes a Bow

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It’s amazing to me just how quickly these shows pass by. I can imagine all the work that goes into creating each piece, and each one literally flashes past you in a few seconds. I must admit a while back I thought that people taking notes at these shows was a bit much, but now I can completely understand why they need to do that – you are looking at individual pieces, but also trying to spot themes and quirks, and they come at you very fast. But even from the 5th row you can see everything quite clearly – much more clearly than these photos show. It was a very nice show, congratulations on the new collection Mr Armani.

The Giorgio Armani FW2013/14 Show in Progress

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Some interesting new looks and details – beards and waxed moustaches (I shaved off a beard this morning – typical), ruby red velour pants, quilted smoking jackets, tightly tailored pants, a large number of manbags, and I think I even spotted some spats… it’s all very Sherlock Holmes, 1893 styles and colours brought up-to-date with new materials and cuts.

Milan Men’s Fashion Week starts tomorrow

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While the London Collections: Men, run by the British Fashion Council this past few days, has focused on bringing on a host of relatively new or minor British designers, the Milan Men’s Fashion Week is a cornerstone of the annual global fashion calendar, and focuses squarely on the big guns of Italian style and fashion. Hosted by the CNMI, Milan is a home turf showcase for all the major Italian brands and a handful of the international ones like Jimmy Choo, Burberry and Marc Jacobs too.  The schedule of runway shows is here, with many of them streaming online. I personally will be making my first visit ever to a fashion show, and starting at the very top: my “virgin” runway experience will be the Giorgio Armani show on Tuesday morning. I hope to offer the gentle readers of this blog some live-ish updates from inside and around the event. Many thanks to Monica and Gianluca for the invitation and arrangements, much appreciated.

Dressing for the Giorgio Armani Fashion Show

If there is one conversation I never expected to have with myself or anyone around me, it is what to wear to one of the world’s premiere fashion shows.

And yet that is the problem I face this week… I have to figure out what to wear to the Giorgio Armani FW2013/14 show in Milan next Tuesday morning.

A phone call and email from GA contacts in Italy confirm the details of the show, travel and hotels are booked, and now I have to turn up wearing something suitable.

Naturally I will be going in almost all Giorgio Armani, that goes without saying. But:- Formal? Relaxed? A mix of the two?

I have turned to images of Mr Armani himself for some clues, and I think I am settling on a mix of informal t-shirt and cashmere sweater, plus a semi-formal smooth black suit with my favourite Prada shoes. To this I will add a recently acquired black overcoat, grey scarf and some sunglasses to add the final touches.

Meanwhile I have explained to my haircutter where I am going, and in return received almost regal attention to detail.

This is all quite strange for me – but also quite fun.

Stay tuned for lots of new BAM updates

I have a large backlog of stories I’ve been working on recently, and the next couple of weeks will see new entries on a wide range of subjects:

  • Giorgio Armani and the whole gay thing
  • An excellent visit to Giorgio Armani Florence, both alone and with my sister-in-law
  • Reportage from Milan Men’s Fashion Week, including the Giorgio Armani FW2013 show
  • Details on how to maximize your budget by accessing 40%+ discounts at Giorgio Armani
  • Giorgio Armani’s annual sales & marketing cycle
  • Discussion about fashion seasons shifting as markets in Asia and the Southern hemisphere open up
  • A close-up look at some of the major Armani corporate properties in Milan
  • Shots of various pieces in my personal wardrobe, showing how they work together.

Finally this journal will be moving later this week to an all-new, re-designed, hosted platform, with additional features and faster access.

Lots more to come from Armani Man – stay tuned.