A long-overdue upgrade to the Armani.com website was just released in the last day or so, and it’s a good overhaul. The old site was long-in-the-tooth and quite tedious to navigate, but this one is fresh and contains a lot more interesting and easily accessible content; it looks like somebody at Armani has begun to sit up and take much more serious notice of the power of the internet to drive business. There are a lot of new features integrated, including the usual handful of social media links, very much more accessible catalogue and video content, and most important for me, a much improved store locator. The online store is more tightly integrated, again with more sophisticated graphics and video, but as usual the black label Giorgio Armani lines are not available on the internet. A very welcome change.
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.
My work sometimes takes me to quite interesting, far-flung, even exotic places, like Rio de Janiero in Brazil, Dhaka in Bangladesh, or as this past week, Shanghai in China. Shanghai is one of the most incredible destinations, full of vigour and bounce, and it’s also one of Asia’s most energetic and fast-moving fashion hubs. I hope to have enough time to visit two Giorgio Armani boutiques during this trip, as well as some of the other high end stores, and prove those points by exploring the way the face of Shanghai fashion has changed over the past decade.
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:-
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.
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.
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.
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…
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 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…