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Coming to America: Armani Arrives in N.Y. With Plans for Growth

Giorgio Armani’s big plans for the U.S. kick off when he comes to New York for a fashion show, to sign books and get a lifetime achievement award.

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Armani has a few plans of his own to meet the public’s needs, with one of the priorities being the younger lines such as Emporio Armani and A|X Armani Exchange. While A|X Armani Exchange already has a significant network of 48 stores in the U.S., there are only 11 Emporio boutiques, a proportionally small number compared with the 30 or so in Italy. Growing the brand means changing its positioning so young customers are less intimidated, Armani said.

“Emporio in the U.S. was a bit forgotten. It got off to a later start than in Europe. At first, Emporio was treated like a luxury brand in the States; we had doormen. It’s one thing to have that for Hermès, another for Emporio,” he said.

Two Emporio stores have opened this year, in Short Hills, N.J., and Plano, Tex. Another is slated to open in Bal Harbour, Fla., next year and the company also is looking at Chicago. A|X Armani Exchange also will open three stores next year.

Armani Casa and accessories are other areas the company has earmarked for growth in the U.S., primarily through third-party retailers. This year, Armani Casa opened three shop-in-shops in specialty stores in San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle and next year another 10 will be rolled out in locales varying from Cleveland to Puerto Rico. A freestanding Armani Casa store also will open in Miami next year.

As for accessories, an area Armani has focused on growing for several years, the designer said he’s seeing increasing demand for his bags and shoes, despite what he deemed a slow reception by department stores. Currently, the accessories collection is sold in 43 doors in the U.S., often sharing space with leading competitors on accessories-designated floors.

Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president for fashion at Bloomingdale’s, said he’s seen a natural evolution of interest in accessories as customers who buy Armani clothes are looking to complement them.

“The shoes have their own look. The ballet flats are especially good,” he said.

Armani said he believes he’s finally getting the sales space he deserves for these new products.
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