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WWD: The crisis has been tough on many Italian companies. Do you worry for the future of Italy’s fashion industry? Why or why not?
G.A.: I believe the recession has led us all to focus on what there is to improve in what we do and in the way in which we do it. Anyhow, I believe that there is an Italian aesthetic, which is original and appealing, and an undoubted quality and credibility associated with the idea of Made in Italy. In the last year, these characteristics have moved to the fore and they will work in our favor when the economy bounces back.
WWD: In your estimation, how has the Armani Group weathered the tough economy, and what strategies held you in good stead?
G.A.: I think we’ve handled it well, better than many others, predominantly because my aesthetic is aimed at a timeless elegance and sophistication and not influenced by ephemeral trends. For this reason, my clothing has always been considered something that does not go out of fashion quickly, in other words [it’s] a good investment.
WWD: Are there any aspects of the business that proved more vulnerable, and may take more time to recover?
G.A.: It’s no surprise that the areas that have helped us better withstand the downturn are those that are less costly, such as fragrances, jeans, beauty products, kid’s clothes, Armani Exchange. Meanwhile, the areas that have been more greatly affected by the seriousness of the recession are the articles that involve very high prices. But it’s not that simple. Armani Privé, my high-fashion collection, still has many fans and the tailoring segment has done well too. I think that when it comes to expensive items, perhaps people are looking for individuality and character more than ever.
WWD: Did you change your pricing policy in any way?
G.A.: One of our strengths lies in the fact that we have at our disposal a portfolio of lines and products that addresses a wide range of consumers. More than reducing prices, I’d say we’re more attentive. For example, if I’m putting together a new lineup of Emporio Armani accessories and come across a $700 one, I say it’s too expensive. Even though I’m told it’ll sell, I take it out because it makes us more credible.
In regards to the signature line, if there’s an outfit that is hard to copy or to reproduce, then it should cost more, but a black T-shirt shouldn’t cost that much more just because it says Armani.
WWD: What is your business outlook for the balance of this year and next year?
G.A.: As always, I want to dedicate myself to new ideas and new stylistic areas. I like to push myself and my team to the limit. Our objective will be to exit the crisis even stronger and to build our brand in new areas and markets. I can’t wait to open the hotel-residence in Dubai. It will be the climax of many years of hard work.
WWD: In your view, which developments will shape the industry the most in coming years: China and other emerging markets? The Internet and social networking revolution? The fast-fashion juggernaut?
G.A.: All these aspects will have repercussions but the only thing of which we can be certain is that they will not influence the sector in the way we imagine now. Let’s not forget, television did not kill cinema, nor did it put an end to radio. And staying closer to home, the mass exodus that was predicted a few years ago when it was supposed that everything in the world would be made in China hasn’t materialized in such a clear way, black or white. The fact remains that China and the Chinese represent a fabulous and fascinating market that is giving us and will continue to give us a lot of satisfaction. The industry will adapt and evolve as it has always done. Now we are able to understand that e-commerce is a real force in fashion. But whether social networking will help sell clothes is another matter.