Giorgio Armani talks about his designs as his furniture store opens in Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
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 in June this year Bahrain became one of them. Situated on the first floor of Al A’ali Shopping Complex, this designer haven is not so much a shop as a lifestyle emporium, divided (by bronze-coloured partitions) 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 – Armani doesn’t like yellow, 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 what lies behind this successful brand extension.
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, first floor, Al A’ali Shopping Complex (17 581 166). Open Sat-Thu 9am-8pm.