Italian Designers Right at Home at Salone del Mobile

Just how serious Italian designers are about their home collections is perhaps best expressed by Giorgio Armani's modus operandi.

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Diesel's take on pillows.

Photo By WWD Staff

MILAN — Just how serious Italian designers are about their home collections is perhaps best expressed by Giorgio Armani's modus operandi.

"This is a business," said Armani, who showcased his latest Casa collection inspired by famed architect Eileen Gray during the Salone del Mobile international furniture and design show that ran April 16 to 21 here. "I never do anything unless it has a commercial, economic return."

The designer's home collection has grown. Last year, it reached sales of $52.1 million and Armani hotels and residences are slated to open over the next few years in locations ranging from Dubai and Milan to Singapore and Moscow. "I couldn't have done this by selling a few scented candles," deadpanned the designer, who takes pride in being able to present a full lifestyle collection with more than 30 pieces a season.

This year, two highlights of the collection were a chaise lounge with flexible armrests and a three-legged table made of shiny macassar ebony with a pleated effect. In terms of presentation, Armani has moved to a loft-style concept for the house and explored the combination of black-and-white, ivory and cream — a recurring theme throughout Salone. "People are looking for noncolor," said Armani, noting colorful pieces underperformed compared with neutral hues last season. As the designer unveiled his new LCD television in collaboration with Samsung Electronics, he said a DVD player will be the next project with the South Korean electronics giant (the first was a mobile phone).

Armani also gave a few hints about the Milan hotel, located in the same Via Manzoni megastore that houses his Nobu restaurant. "It will be very intimate, but each room will be a suite, with a sitting room area in addition to the bedroom and the bathroom," he said. Above the A-shaped building, Armani has designed a glass structure with special light effects. The 90-room, four-story hotel will open in 2010, a year after the Dubai hotel. The designer said his hotel in the Middle East will reflect a more playful environment, with projections of small camels walking in the desert on the walls of some rooms, while in Milan "it will be more about the details." Armani said a hotel in Australia is also in the works.
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