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.

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.

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.

A mistake and a lesson at Louis Vuitton

A few weeks ago I had a sudden rush of blood to the head and bought what seemed like a very nice jersey from Louis Vuitton, costing about US$930. It had a small LV logo on the neck, but for Vuitton it was quite discreet.

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But on reflection I decided it was a mistake. After returning home I tried it on a couple more times, and realized that as nice as it was, it didn’t fit the style and direction of the wardrobe I am building.

I therefore decided to return the item – and in doing so discovered LV’s returns policy: no refunds.

Credit notes? Yes.

But refunds? No.

And that policy is clearly written both on the receipt and below the cash register, so you have very little wiggle room if all you can say is “I changed my mind” – which is all I personally had to say.

Firstly I find this interesting, as this policy partially explains Vuitton’s continually stellar and growing revenue numbers – they don’t have refunds, so cash in the bank is cash that stays in the bank, and goods go back on the shelf; other stores do return for refund, although they don’t have to do so, at least under EU law.

Secondly it is a tiny bit annoying, mainly because I blindly spent nearly $1000 without thinking about it more carefully and sticking to rules I defined publicly some time ago.

Lessons learned:-

  1. Stick to Giorgio Armani for clothes, and Prada for shoes, just like you said you would.
  2. Don’t buy anything else from Louis Vuitton unless absolutely sure you want it.

I have since used a large chunk of the credit note to buy a nice shawl as a gift for my mother-in-law, who was very happy to have it. I consider that a save.

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.

Invited to the Giorgio Armani FW2013 Runway Show in Milan

The new year is off to an interesting start: I just got an email that confirms I’ve been invited to the Giorgio Armani FW2013 event at Teatro Armani during the upcoming Milan Men’s Fashion Week.

I understand I may even get to meet Giorgio Armani briefly – luckily I now have plenty of things to wear.

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What can I say? I was not expecting this at all and did not solicit it, but I am delighted to have been invited to the show. It turns out I was invited – at least partially – because of this journal. And since Fall/Winter is the season I prefer, I am genuinely looking forward to seeing what is coming in the 2013 collection. I hope it will be spectacular and lots of fun.

Stay tuned for more updates on this quite cool adventure, which keeps getting more and more fascinating.

[Photo credit: Reuters]

Giorgio Armani Limited Edition Jeans

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I am now wearing what must be the absolute last word in designer jeans, which I bought in Giorgio Armani Florence, where this whole project began just over a year ago. According to the label these Giorgio Armani jeans are not only made from special Japanese denim, which is incredibly soft; and not just top-of-the-line GA – also a special Limited Edition; but they also feature gold-plated hardware. Yes, gold-plated, which may partially explain the $1,125 price tag. I’ve wanted, but resisted, buying Giorgio Armani jeans for a while now, as the latest collections featured a huge metal GA logo on the standard items which reminded me of brash Gucci logos, but after being convinced by Stefano at GA Florence to try them on, I had to buy them. This logo is still a bit bright, but the pants looked and felt so good I could not say “no”. To be honest, as nice as they are, I’m still not sure I like the idea of gold-plated jeans…