Awesome Giorgio Armani SS2014 Collection

Typically I’m a bigger fan of the Fall/Winter styles, but this is a knockout Giorgio Armani collection for next summer. Numerous excellent, soft jackets, some with really outstanding lapel details and interesting gorges; pants that derive gently from the sportier FW2013 collection, and most importantly models who look like they can wear these clothes properly in the real world. There were even some shoes I really liked, which is unusual. Sometimes when you talk to Giorgio Armani boutique staff they will discuss which collections have been strong or weak sellers, but I can already see that SS2014 will be a popular direction, and I’ll personally be picking up several of these items. Awesome collection.

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Giorgio Armani, Shanghai : The Bund

Despite a pretty tight work schedule in Shanghai last week, I had a couple of hours (and a central location) that gave me the opportunity to check out not just one, but two Giorgio Armani boutiques: the original flagship store situated directly on Shanghai’s famous Bund, and the one located within the very upmarket Plaza 66 skyscraper on Nanjing Road. In this post I will explore the 3 on the Bund location.

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Giorgio Armani opened this store back in 2004 (you can still find the press release online), as a way to shine the spotlight on the GA brand in China. The Bund was – and still is – one of the most highly trafficked tourist areas in Shanghai, both for Chinese and foreign tourists, and it seems that the position was selected mainly to ensure the Giorgio Armani name was suitably prominent. Many other luxury brands such as Cartier followed suit.

The Bund, however, was never considered a prime retail location; rather more of a branding exercise, with large crowds browsing but rarely buying. Piaget’s chief executive Philippe Leopold-Metzger summed it up nicely: “Locals don’t go to the Bund to buy luxury goods, and those that go to the Bund don’t buy luxury products.” If you walk around that area in the evening, you can see the truth in that statement. There’s an amazing and atmospheric view of the Pudong skyline across the river, but the Bund is more about tourist sight-seeing than high-end shopping.

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That dynamic has had a natural impact on the Bund, as other areas of Shanghai such as Jing’an have become more important as serious, affluent retail locations. The staggeringly huge and opulent Plaza 66, which I will cover tomorrow, is in the centre of Jing’an on the Nanjing Road, and you can see why those who shop for Gucci, Prada, Vuitton, Armani and Versace would prefer to spend time and money at such exclusive and elegant locations.

The result is a migration of premium brands away from the Bund in recent years. Like many things on the Bund, such as the slightly down-at-heel Waldorf Astoria just next door, this area has lost some of its sheen, and the luxury brands have moved on to more fashionable addresses. The GA Bund store actually closed it’s doors earlier this year, and the ground floor of it’s former address, 3 on the Bund, is now just an empty shell.

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There are still signs that this was once a Giorgio Armani flagship store; on the windows you can see the shadows of the branding manifestations, the name plate inside the building lift features “Giorgio Armani”, and inside the store you can still see the remains of the decor – the mirrors, spotlights and rolled white linear wall coverings that pre-date the current warm beige stone.

By pure fluke, I managed to be the last person to see the GA name plate within the building; I visited the store one rainy evening last week, taking a few snapshots, and by the very next day most of the branding was gone, because the old GA store had been turned onto a new Shanghai bar literally overnight. I personally watched the workmen moving the equipment in on Wednesday (you can see some of them inside the old store in the internal photo above), and by Thursday evening the bar was up and running in full swing. Inside there was still the old decor, even the changing rooms, hidden behind scaffolds of spotlights and a complete bar constructed in under 24 hours.

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It’s slightly sad to see what was once deemed to be the epicentre of Shanghai style turned into a hastily assembled cocktail bar, but on the other hand you can sense that this area no longer fits the brand. Tomorrow we’ll visit the impressive Plaza 66 skyscraper, and see where the Shanghainese shop for Armani nowadays.

The First Giorgio Armani Design Office

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Corso Venezia 37, Milan. Situated just off the edge of the quadrilatero della moda, this was the location of Giorgio Armani’s first “official” design office, setup in two rooms in this building in 1973 when Armani was already 39 years old, and partially financed by selling a second-hand VW. While at this point there was no corporation – it was founded two years later – Giorgio Armani established this office and ultimately the company with his companion and business partner Sergio Galeotti. Galeotti ran the business end of the company during the early years of high growth and rapid success, until his untimely death in 1985. Most of the work carried out here was design consulting business for labels like Cerutti & Zegna, including runway styling, during which period Armani formed what was to become a recognizable house style. I find it interesting to see how such huge companies start out in life – the means and mechanisms applied to achieve success are often lessons that can be learned and re-applied in other circumstances.

The final photocall : Giorgio Armani and the FW2013/14 models

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The show is over, the VIPs have been thanked and photographed snuggling with Giorgio Armani, and there’s just time for one final photocall to sum up the show and the look, before turning to the next show, the next season, the next look – and with the Armani Privé show on 22 January in Paris it’s not that far away…

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.

Inside Teatro Armani at the Giorgio Armani FW2013/14 Runway Show

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Last night an email from WordPress reminded me it was exactly one year ago yesterday I started this blog, and here I am one year and a lot of shopping and blogging later at what must be one of the world’s premiere live events for men’s style and fashion. I have to say I am giggling slightly to be here, and enjoying the experience immensely – thanks very much, once again, to Monica and Gianluca, as well as Roberto and Stefano in Florence for allowing me to come to this event. One year ago I just wanted to track progress of a fun little project, and now I’m here watching the absolute epitome of style and elegance in person, and thousands of people hit this journal each week to find out what’s going on. To say it is a bit startling is an understatement…