My First Giorgio Armani Store-in-Store

A recent comment on this blog pointed out that while Mexico City may not have it’s own standalone Giorgio Armani boutique, it does have a store-in-store within Saks Fifth Avenue in Santa Fe.

Tokyo Ginza is also replete with many luxury-branded store-in-stores in the big department shops like Isetan, Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya. Mitsukoshi Ginza, for example, contains a Giorgio Armani mini-store:-

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This boutique was a small but fairly standard representation of the Fall / Winter 2012 collection, and also contained a small rack of about 15 pieces from the new Spring / Summer 2013 collection. I had assumed that they only displayed a few pieces of a new season as they were being released and shipped slowly, but interestingly the assistant said she had almost the entire collection available, with many more new season pieces not on display, and could bring them out if I wished to take a look.

This again makes me think about the clever retailing policies at Armani stores. At the Ginza stores, all the assistants said that sales “maybe” start in January, while they slowly start to release the new collection in a way that will minimize impact on the current season’s sales. Meanwhile in Europe I know that many stores have already started seasonal pre-sales – in fact I have received email promoting them since about 8 December. I will write about the seasonal sale cycle in the next entry, stay tuned.

Store-in-store is OK, as far as it goes, but it seems a bit cramped and can’t quite achieve the same degree of Armaniesque style and range that you see in, for example, the London store. Having seen this concept in the flesh, I am not such a big fan, but given that Armani has these store-in-stores, it makes me wonder again why the major airports are not a target for the Giorgio Armani brand. Emporio is strongly represented, and you can’t turn your head without seeing Armani cosmetics. But the high end boutiques with a similar range to a store-in-store in airports? No.

A little odd. I will have to figure this out.

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Eccentrica on the Secret 9F of Armani Ginza

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By a streak of luck I not only found a nice pair of pants (that I noted, for purchase later this month while in Milan for some Xmas sales shopping at Giorgio Armani HQ), but also happened to be at Giorgio Armani as a special show called Eccentrica was going on on the secret 9th floor of the Ginza megastore building. The exhibit, on it’s last day of a short run, features quite a range of Privé gowns with a very Japanese bent, as well as some quite startling bits of personal decor, like this glass flower arrangement. I don’t think I will ever be a haute couture customer.

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En Route to Japan Again

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En route to Japan again, this time for a whistle-stop tour of central Tokyo, leaving snowy Munich airport beneath the wing of a Turkish Airlines flight flying via Istanbul. I may get a chance to see the Giorgio Armani stores in Roppongi Hills and Shibuya, but the main target is the Armani multi-brand store visited once before in downtown Ginza; I want to see what Privé is all about and give the store another chance to win me over.

Giorgio Armani Tokyo, Ginza

The Armani store in Tokyo’s Ginza district is what I would call an Armani megastore, with every sub-brand represented somewhere in the building, including Ristorante, Spa, Emporio and Privé.

According to the WSJ, this push to bring all the brands into a common retail platform was some part of a disagreement between Giorgio Armani and one of his most senior and trusted managers, John Hooks, who left his role as Deputy Chairman in 2011 after more than a decade at Armani.

So does the megastore concept work? Well, honestly: it does — and it doesn’t.

With it’s eager and friendly Japanese staff,  it certainly deserves it’s place as a flagship store for Armani. It is a spectacular store, with many nice details like the “VIP” fitting rooms, which are a cut well above what I have seen in other boutique locations:

And the sub-brands are separated by floor, so if you never want to see an EA7 or AX outfit, you can avoid them. But somehow as a total concept I miss the exclusivity that one gets in shops like the Knightsbridge Giorgio Armani, which is wall-to-wall black label. And the restaurant/cocktail bar on the top floors were nice, but seemed to me to be out of place. I get that Giorgio Armani clothing can help me feel like a well-dressed person; fine, thanks, they are awesome, and I may have picked up some nice pants in a location-branded shopping bag:-

But the entire lifestyle that those clothes are intended to fit  – shifted slightly off-key to allow the EA and AJ crowd to enjoy a cocktail or what was described to me by the head host as “fine dining” — shrink-wrapped in a minor city block?

No. That seems wrong. This Giorgio Armani customer doesn’t want to shop in a megastore. It seems out of balance — inelegant, in fact, which is counter to what the brand I am buying represents. And I think that leaves me feeling a little disappointed by this experience.

Armani Tokyo / Ginza

A few years ago I researched the Japanese luxury fashion market for another project and discovered the Japanese love of high fashion and luxury clothing labels.

Probably there are very few people outside of the luxury market who realize just how crucial the Japanese predilection for high fashion is to the global industry, but when you learn that something like 25%-30% of all luxury clothing is bought in Japan, it takes on extreme importance to the big brands.

Japan’s consumption equals that of Europe or the USA, but with more than twice the per capita spending in those regions. One remarkable fact is that around half of all Japanese women own a Louis Vuitton handbag; in fact sitting here in the Senator lounge are two Japanese ladies, one of whom is toting Vuitton.

Japanese consumers gorge on high fashion labels like Giorgio Armani, and if there is one square mile on the planet that is a serious contender for black label ground zero, it is Ginza in downtown Tokyo.

I have been to Tokyo several times before, and shopping in Ginza as a bystander rather than a serious participant, but in an hour I will board an 11 hour flight to Narita for a mind-jarring 3 day visit to Japan, and along the way have a chance to go shopping – and even dining – at one of Giorgio Armani’s global flagship stores in central Ginza.

Ginza fashion shoppers are dedicated people: I remember seeing a line that literally went around a city block, including being split across a road crossing, for a new store opening in Ginza a few years ago. That devotion to the hardcore luxury labels, plus the high percentage of disposable income they transmit to the boutiques, makes them prime customers, and I hope and expect to see some unique local features in the next couple of days that will make this trip a highlight for Armani Man.