Do similar principles apply to designing clothing and furniture? Giorgio Armani tells us that he believes they do
Internationally renowned for his fashion collections, Giorgio Armani started making waves in another area in 2000 when he launched his furniture label, Armani/Casa, in Milan. Almost a decade on, there are 80 Armani/Casa stores in 45 countries around the world – with a line of Armani hotels to be launched over the next few years featuring the lines – and since February this year Dubai has been one of them.
The Dubai Mall designer haven is not so much a shop as a lifestyle emporium, divided into several moodily lit zones showcasing furniture and home accessories worthy of any Milan ramp. Plus there’s a florist section, Armani/Fiori, in which Armani’s understated aesthetic code translates into sophisticated floral arrangements in every colour of the rainbow. Except yellow – the designer doesn’t like it, so you’ll never see it here. Fortunately he’s not impartial to brown, because a decidedly delicious element of the store is a sweet section (Armani/Dolci), selling designer chocolates, along with biscuits, teas and jams.
We heard on the grapevine that the whole lifestyle concept was initiated because Armani didn’t want people dressed beautifully to have to sit on bad furniture, but we thought we’d ask the man himself.
Why did you decide to add a furniture arm to your already burgeoning fashion business? After a while as a clothing designer I started to wonder about whether I could apply my design aesthetic to new areas. I have always been interested in furniture, furnishings and architecture, and taken great pleasure in designing and furnishing my stores and homes, so in the end it seemed like a logical next step – why not create an Armani home line, and offer my vision of interior design to my customers? After thinking about it for a number of years – the first ever Armani/Casa item was the Logo lamp, designed in 1982 – I launched Armani/Casa properly in 2000 through its first store in Milan.
What makes the store unique? My aim was to create the concept of a complete Armani lifestyle. With Armani/Casa, I present my ideal for living, my dream of the perfect environment: an intimate and sophisticated space in which to relax, unwind and entertain guests, surrounded by beauty manifested through furniture and objects for the home.
Do similar principles apply to the actual process of designing both furniture and clothing? The creative process involved in designing clothes and furniture is actually very similar, so it wasn’t so difficult to make the transition from one to the other. In both cases, it’s a question of harnessing your imagination to create objects in three-dimensions, and both require you to translate a design philosophy into something that works in the context of your customers’ real lives. The challenges you face in bringing your creations to life are also very similar – all to do with materials and manufacturing processes.
But there is one crucial difference that makes designing for the home perhaps more difficult: a piece of furniture has to be conceived to be much more durable. It’s a fact that people change their clothes more frequently than they change their furniture. So this reality demands a different approach to that which you employ when designing a fashion collection – it needs to be timeless. Thus, when you innovate in this field, you need to do so by delivering classic style. Luckily, this approach is with all things Armani.
How does the Armani fashion ethos translate into furniture? There’s no change of approach within my portfolio. I have one philosophy that can be expressed in different forms according to the people being addressed. To better explain this concept I could say: from an Armani Privé dress or an Armani/Casa sofa to an Armani Exchange pair of jeans, there is a unique ‘fil rouge’, always a coherent philosophy of elegant, sophisticated comfort. And in all my work there is both aesthetic coherence and a consistent commitment to function – whether we are talking about a dress made to the highest standards that must fit well and be comfortable, or a bed which must be supremely comfortable and encourage a good night’s sleep. In essence, I believe in elegance in all things, but I also wish to combine comfort with sophistication, and practicality with understated style. Things cannot just be beautiful, they also have to work and function.
We’re intrigued by the ‘furniture couture’ line with pieces that actually bear your signature. What makes these pieces worthy of your personal mark? People search for uniqueness today. Made-to-measure and bespoke are two concepts that I find particularly interesting, both for my fashion and my home creations. I like to make people feel special. Furnishings like my limited edition home bar, ‘Bach’, or my chaise longue, ‘Borromini’, have added appeal because they are limited pieces that will not be mass-produced. Of course, when I make these extra special items, I employ precious finishing techniques and rare materials so that they are truly luxurious. Also, similarly to my made-to-measure menswear, you can commission bespoke interiors conceived in a perfect Armani style by my Armani/Casa interior design studios around the world.
What inspired the addition of the flower shop, and what is the essence of Armani floral displays? To be honest, my vision for Armani/ Fiori is the same as it has always been for Armani in general: to make wonderful products which reflect my personal design aesthetic, and through doing this, to offer people collections that make them feel good about themselves. When I first started my business, back in 1975, I could never have imagined that I would end up creating so many different things – furniture, fragrances, flowers, even cakes! The lifestyle approach has evolved naturally over the years, as I have applied myself to areas of design that have interested me personally. It has not been so much a business strategy as a personal creative odyssey.
What do you think is the most important consideration when decorating a home? The way people style their homes is very much a reflection of their personality and lifestyle. One of the most important aspects and what I usually notice first is the colour palette chosen. Colour is integral to creating a sense of freedom and space in an environment, however big or small the area.
What is a big decorating no-no in your book? As with clothing, sometimes people try too hard to please or follow what the ‘trend’ is at the moment without considering their own lifestyle and likes. But what they usually end up with is something that feels distracting, uncomfortable and suffocating.
Whether haute couture or casual Armani jeans, furniture of flowers, what makes Armani ‘Armani’? Understated elegance and sophisticated luxury. Armani/Casa, The Dubai Mall (04 437 3131). Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Sat 10am-12 midnight.
Wear and care
1 Love it Composed of an 18-carat white gold ring engraved with the word ‘Love’, studded with a diamond and attached to a silk cord (in a colour of your choice), Cartier’s Love Charity Bracelet is a highly covetable piece of jewellery based on appearances alone. But there’s another reason to love it: 100 per cent of proceeds from the sale of every single bracelet will be donated to Gulf children’s charities, established to improve the standards of nurseries and support handicapped children. First launched four years ago, this limited-edition bracelet is part of a worldwide charitable initiative by Cartier to give back to the communities in which they are operational. The Love Bracelet, Dhs2,500, available from Cartier boutique, The Dubai Mall (04 434 0434). Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Sat 10am-12 midnight.
2 Bohemian wrap Those of us with a little less cash to flash are investing in the hand-embroidered wrist wraps on sale at The One. Handmade by Palestinian women in the Kalandia Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Jerusalem, they’re cool and colourful, putting a modern spin on timeworn traditional Palestinian craftsmanship via abstract designs inspired by nature. By buying a bracelet, each of which takes on average day and a half to embroider, you are also supporting the Kalandia Camp Women’s Handicraft Cooperative, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that aims to raise the educational, social, health and economic standards of women and children in Palestine. Wrist wraps, Dhs119, The One, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 345 6687). Open daily 10am-10pm.
3 Can do When you invest in one of Bahrain-based Marissa D’Souza’s quirky handmade pieces, you’re not only contributing to your accessories collection, but to the environment, because each one is made from recycled materials, particularly tin cans. There are pendants made from the cans’ bottoms, hand painted with quirky, folky images, earrings made from the colourful sides, and handbags with bits of shredded can stitched into them.
The project was inspired both by Marissa’s wish to contribute in her own way to environmental awareness and by her homeland: ‘In India nothing is wasted,’ she says. ‘For example: milk comes in plastic bags, which my mother would give to our maid, who would sell it to small merchants, who in turn sell it on to large companies. So recycling has always been part of my life.’ Earrings from Dhs70, pendants Dhs100 and handbags Dhs145. See www.marissa.co.in.