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.
It is often said that the luxury industry is immune from recession; the wealthy will keep shopping no matter what the macroeconomic environment.
And there is some truth to that – not complete, but a strong element. Recent newspaper reports are rife with big upticks for the major brands, despite continuing global economic woe.
As witness I present to you a couple of recent developments in downtown Munich.
It’s well understood locally that Munich itself is almost recession-proof; economic downturns seem to skirt past this city, which is fundamentally very wealthy and enjoys a tax-base supported by successful local family-run businesses – like BMW.
Firing the starting gun for expansion is Louis Vuitton, moving from a smaller store on Maximilianstrasse to a massive new “maison” nearby, the Residenzpost, in the heart of historic Munich.
This location used to be just slightly more utilitarian – it was a Deutsche Post office until a couple of years ago, before the entire block underwent a very expensive renovation/gentrification.
This store is now a world-class LVMH expansion, with three enormous floors featuring pretty much every LV product known to mankind. There is even an LV promo video for the new store. And even at 10:05 AM on a Monday morning there were quite a few people shopping.
This move changes the dynamic of the nearby shopping district immensely. Perhaps not by coincidence, Prada, situated literally just across the street, has decided the time to expand is exactly now, and I would not be surprised to see a few other expansions, refurbishments or relocations in the near future. Belstaff (which is, in my opinion, one of the most unlikely luxury brands ever; when I was young Belstaff was what bikers bought when they couldn’t afford leathers) already opened a brand new store nearby.
But beyond the local environment, this is a telltale of the continuing global success of luxury brands, even the smaller ones in the PPR Group (now called Kering) like Stella McCartney and newly acquired Christopher Kane, about whom I will write a dedicated story later, and Giorgio Armani is no exception.
Globally the tide is lifting all luxury brands. When will it end?
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.
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.
Where it all began for Prada: the original storefront in the Galleria in central Milan, now part of a much larger Prada store in the central internal piazza. Founded 100 years ago this year by brothers Mario and Martino Prada (hence the “fratelli” in the signage above), Prada remained a small company turning over less than $0.5M p.a. selling imported leather goods until grand-daughter Miuccia Prada took over in 1978, started listening to Patrizio Bertelli, and begain designing tote bags from ballistic nylon. Today Prada is publically traded on the Hong Kong Stock exchange, with >$2.5B in revenues, and as already discussed, quite acceptable profit margins. As part of the BAM project Prada is my choice for shoes only; I now own five pairs of Prada shoes, and one pair in particular is probably the most comfortable and stylish pair of shoes I ever owned.
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.
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.
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]