They start this week, when the designer arrives on one of his typical whirlwinds for his first official visit to New York since 9/11. He will stage a massive fashion show, sign books he’s helped write and pick up a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to fashion.
Beyond that, though, there is a larger commercial strategy. Armani wants to grow his accessories business, open more stores and reach out to a younger clientele. He has a mission to “democratize” fashion and touch a broader public — make that the general public, which the designer is incidentally inviting to his fashion show Tuesday night through an ad in Paper magazine. Thousands are expected to attend the show at Pier 94 and an A|X Armani Exchange after party. Such an approach goes against the conventional wisdom of a luxury goods industry that thrives on exclusivity, but that’s not going to faze Armani. If he creates some controversy in the process, all the better.
“Naturally, I know that I’m going a bit against the rules in America, where there are nights reserved just for the VIPs and then other nights where everyone is invited,” the 70-year-old designer said in an exclusive interview at his Milan headquarters just a few days before leaving for New York.
“To mix the two together is somewhat unexpected. There will probably be those who will refuse to accept the evening because they don’t want to mix with a different kind of crowd. Democratically, I must say it’s something I really like. It intrigues me and I think that I’ll be breaking the rules slightly,” he added.
It’s not just a moment of provocation for Armani, but also one of reflection. As he visits the country that catapulted him to fame decades ago, he’s also looking to the future of his $1.6 billion company, which turns 30 next year.
“Every day that passes, I’m obliged to reflect even more. Naturally, every day that passes is one day less to live and one day less to decide. However, for me to make a decision [about the future] today is truly impossible. Some different options still remain, ones that I’ve already discussed,” he said.