After over four decades of domination in the luxury industry, fashion legend Giorgio Armani continues to reign supreme.
Christian Dior gave us the New Look, Yves Saint Laurent paved the way for ready-to-wear, while Coco Chanel liberated women from their corsets. Each of them is worthy of the monikers ‘legendary’ and ‘iconic’, but their fashion histories have already been written. Mr Armani, on the other hand is a living legend, and known for his precision, punctuality and unwavering strive for perfection, he is deservedly the most successful Italian designer of all time.
One part of Mr Armani’s sprawling portfolio of collections, is his Haute Couture offering, Armani Privé. Here we talk to the man behind the empire, about the optimism of orange, and the creative freedom of haute couture.
Is Haute Couture, with its rules and references to the past, still relevant today? What does it mean to you and what attracted you to this form of expression?
Haute Couture may appear anachronistic to some. Personally, I think that its high aesthetic and material value, being so precious, makes it always current. To me, Haute Couture represents the ideal uncharted territory that allows me to express the best of my creativity, translating into sartorial creations of timeless elegance. There are women who live special lives and need appropriate clothes, and in my work, I address their needs. Haute Couture is a dream that materialises into clothes produced with the highest artistry, where my style and aesthetic language are expressed in a subtler, more refined way.
Are you inspired by the creative freedom that Haute Couture allows?
It’s certainly liberating, though I’m a pragmatic designer who never forgets that Haute Couture means wonderful clothes made to be worn. Absolute freedom is expressed in the choice of materials, embroideries, and details. Reinterpreting the codes of Haute Couture in my style, I apply to my creations a precious language, different from prêt-à-porter, but identical to this in the expression of a refined elegance.
Why did you choose to present your Armani Privé collection in Paris? What does this city represent for Haute Couture?
Paris is the undisputed capital of Haute Couture. Here, Haute Couture is part of the rich cultural fabric and has a history preserved and valued over the years. Fashion shows in Paris are magical, the context and audience are essential to the spirit of Haute Couture.
In the last few years, Haute Couture has undergone something of a revival and attracted a new clientele. Do the new markets affect your creative choices in any way?
The new markets do not affect it directly, but certainly stimulate it and provide a wider audience. Personally, I place a lot of importance on my clients’ requests, because Haute Couture is about dialogue and service. I offer them precious clothes with a subtler, less conspicuous appearance. The Middle East and Far East are two markets where we have achieved our best results in Haute Couture recently. These are important markets, as they show today’s wide spectrum of Haute Couture clientele, which includes very young women too. In general, the performance of the Armani Privé collection is very positive, with orders growing when compared to last year, both in consolidated markets and in new countries, and my Milan studio is constantly busy.
How important is the relationship that develops with the client when you create her clothes?
Dialogue is essential, because through it we realise the uniqueness of the Haute Couture creation. There is a very lively flow of ideas. Regarding specific choices, it depends on the clients and their needs, standard considerations do not apply in Haute Couture. Couture is primarily a service, and I dress women for every event in their lives. My Far East clients are particularly interesting to watch, they are more daring and recently seem to be increasingly attracted by eveningwear.
Is Haute Couture a service or an offer?
Both. The catwalk is my offer for the season. The clothes created for my clients come from these creations.
Aesthetically, how has your idea of Haute Couture developed since the launch of Armani Privé?
Over the years, my work in Haute Couture has found a unique, unmistakable code. Today, fluidity is added to structural design, expressing a feminine, precious style. The process has evolved, but the basic inspiration remains unchanged, an ongoing quest for the purest form of elegance.
What is the process for the creation of a dress, and how does it evolve?
The first step is a drawing, followed by the realisation in the Atelier by expert ‘hands’, which take care of each and every tiny detail. Over time, new knowledge is added to each step. All Armani Privé styles are made entirely by hand, to order and tailored in the Armani Privé Milan Atelier.
In Haute Couture, do you prefer the process or the product?
I like the product, because it is unique thanks to the process behind it.
What inspired you for the latest collection?
I wanted to centre my Spring/Summer 2017 Armani Privé collection around a major concept, which I then translated into different styles. My focus is often a particular shape or texture, however, for the new collection I decided to focus on the ‘vibration’ of a single colour, orange. It’s a dynamic shade of orange, used in a variety of tones. A happy, energetic colour that flatters all women, combined with black to enhance its intensity. The new Armani Privé collection embodies my idea of glamour and elegance. It is characterised by flowing, essential lines, enriched through the use of precious materials and carefully handcrafted details. Orange, set off by black, is used for small flecks as highlights, or for solid areas. It gives various looks an exotic accent. But this is filtered exoticism, reduced to a subtle suggestion, never overtly obvious. Haute Couture is an ancient art, which I want to root in the present. Undoubtedly, these are special clothes for special women, but they are most definitely made to be lived in and worn.