Armani’s China Tour: New Shanghai Flagship Ignites Expansion Drive

Giorgio Armani and his entourage landed in China to celebrate the opening last Saturday of the designer’s first store in Shanghai.

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SHANGHAI — “I don’t know that the Chinese realize how futuristic Shanghai is, how much more avant-garde it is than, say, New York was, or Chicago, or Paris, or any of these other big cities.”

That’s the view of Giorgio Armani upon his first visit to this city, and to China, which is becoming a magnet for Western brands. Armani and his entourage — including the actress Mira Sorvino, Lady Helen Taylor and the photographer Roger Hutchings — landed in China to celebrate the opening last Saturday of the designer’s first store in Shanghai, which included a fashion show, party and a stream of tours and interviews.

Armani’s visit came amid rumors that the designer was looking to retire and hand over the reins to Narciso Rodriguez. Armani immediately dismissed any idea of retirement or of selling his company, saying, “I am a typical Italian. I say a lot of things, at the end of interviews, as a part of several options, and people take these as a firm decision. One of the things I could do is sell a minority stake in the company to another big company, but it is one of many options. At the moment, there are no concrete plans. For the immediate future, I feel on the professional level that I still have many things to do.”

As for the Rodriguez rumor specifically, a spokesman for Armani Group laughed it off. “It’s an April Fool’s joke, just a couple of weeks late,” said the spokesman from China. (Meanwhile, other companies are eyeing Rodriguez. WWD has reported in the past that members of the Simon family are considering investing in the fashion house. “Narciso Rodriguez is a great design talent,” said Herbert Simon, co-chairman of Simon Properties, on Tuesday. “I, along with some other individuals, continue to evaluate his vision from a private investment perspective.”)

Generally, though, Armani was focused on the future — specifically the opportunities China offers him for expansion. Armani also stopped in Beijing and Hong Kong, where he has older outlets. “This is a much overdue trip to one of the world’s most remarkable countries. Today, Shanghai certainly qualifies as one of the world’s most talked-about cities,” he enthused in a statement.
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