His designs are classic, chic, and innately elegant. Giorgio Armani speaks out about the fine lines of furniture design
Giorgio Armani has been called a design colonialist. Known for marrying fashion with furniture to create a quintessentially stylish lifestyle brand, Armani’s empire of elegance spans some 250 stores worldwide. His name, in short, is synonymous with understated elegance.
Bringing his talents into the realm of living spaces was just a natural fulfillment, he says, of a personal desire to bring his aesthetic to the home environment.
On a crisp late winter day, Armani elaborates on the progression of his natural talent and artistry.“I brought my style to a brand new field which has different and peculiar rules when compared to fashion,” he explains.“I would say that the leitmotif of my creations both in fashion and in the Armani/Casa collection is a sense of sophisticated comfort and this is, of course, what I aim to convey.” His process is as fluid as the inception of his plan.
“I have been thinking of creating a home division for a long time,” he admits. “It was October 2000 when I launched the first collection at the Armani/Casa store in Milan at Armani/Via Manzoni 31. I took inspiration from furnishings that I had in my houses—pieces from trips abroad that held great memories of travel, works of art from the twenties and the thirties, and items that suggested the atmosphere of the Far East.These are all key elements that still have a great influence on my creative approach. I personally supervise—and will always do so—every single Armani/Casa project with the cooperation of an interior design team. And yes, I sketch furniture just as I sketch clothing. It helps me develop the ideas and visualise them in three dimensions.”
From dressing Richard Gere in American Gigolo to creating one of the first unstructured, unlined jackets, ease and elegance permeate the Armani environment. He begs us to feel sophisticated, yet simple.There is nothing gaudy, over- the-top, or ostentatious when you see an article of clothing or a home furnishing with his name on it.
“No excess, but pure elegance through the use of simple lines, that is the message I want my home furnishings to transmit,” Armani confesses. “I deeply believe that the home is a reflection of the self—who we really are—and my home is indeed understated and sophisticated. Functionality is also essential: the environment has to work for the person. Crucially, a person has to feel at his/her ease surrounded by beauty and elegance—I would not use the word ‘sexy’ to describe this experience, but instead would say it is ‘sensual’, as this evokes a greater sense of emotional depth.”
In designing his furniture, art’s impact is varied, yet ever-present. Working often with muted tones, grays, beige, and the occasional vibrant color, he creates a sense of harmony without disturbing the natural beauty of the exterior’s surroundings.With the OsirisTestiera Imbottita—a bed series with an upright padded headboard and frame in polished black lacquer, grey oak, or sukupira wood—he marries Art Deco with contemporary.
The same can be said of his Radetzcky screen, where black lacquer panels with inserts of shell-colored fabric and brass recall the days of flappers, razzamatazz, F. Scott Fitzgerald and gin while, at the same time, echoing the clean, contemporary lines of Italian furniture masters like Minotti and Zanotta.
“I have many influences from a cultural and artistic point of view, but my mother was the one person who greatly influenced my ideas about fashion and style. With very little she always looked amazing. She took what suited her from the trends of the time and transformed it into outfits that worked for her. With design, however, though there are favorites—Art Deco, for example—I would say that my starting point is the desire to create an artistic and cultured atmosphere, rather than to pay homage to a particular artistic influence or art movement,” he explains.
Realizing that the Italian creative and aesthetic sensibility has ensured that Italians are known worldwide as masters of art,architecture and fashion, Armani says he prefers to esteem people “for what they are and do.”
“I am not overly concerned about which country they come from,” the style star reveals.“But if I have to nominate some of my countrymen and women, I would say architects like Massimiliano Fuksas and Claudio Silvestrin are inspirations to me…and actress Sofia Loren, for her timeless elegance and sensuality.”
After almost eight years designing home furnishings, his passion for design is kept alive the old-fashioned way, by incorporating his private life to compliment his professional life.
“I suppose the truth is that my work is my strongest and deepest passion. My private life and my profession are so intertwined that I can hardly imagine myself not working,” he laughs.
When you’re as busy a person as Giorgio Armani, spending time with people you love and devoting time to them can unfortunately become a luxury. As a result, he tries to stay close to family and friends by inviting them to his villas or to come stay on board his yacht on weekends and for holidays.
“I have to say that I am lucky enough to have a close circle of family and friends who I can rely on to provide excellent company,” he adds.
When it comes to work and relaxation, there simply isn’t a significant differ- ence between the two. His creative process is as instinctive as this passion he feels to live his life and work with a very hands-on approach.
”Since the Armani style is clearly a reflection of my way of seeing the world, I need to personally supervise all the creative processes,” Armani explains. “Of course I work closely with a team of designers who are perfectly familiar with the Armani style, and so are aware of how I like things to be done. However, it is imperative that I stay involved on a day-to-day basis to ensure the final prod- uct has my distinctive signature.”
This signature results in a feeling few other designers have accomplished. When you walk into his showrooms, you immediately sense you are connecting with him.
Nothing makes Giorgio feel more gratified.
“It means that I have succeeded in my aim to extend my personal aesthetic and way of conceiving beauty into the field of interiors. If you connect with me through my furniture, then it is because my furniture is created to be a reflection of my personal tastes and vision,” he matter-of-factly admits.
When referencing style, Armani once told an interviewer in Self magazine that “each face, each hair texture, requires a personalized look” and he continues to stand by this clear philosophy of form.
“I do not believe a fashion creation should overwhelm the wearer’s personality, but instead it should help to showcase that personality and present it in a great light. Each person therefore interprets an Armani piece in a unique way and makes it their own through his or her personal touch,” he says.
There are amazing artists in every medium and Armani is certainly one of them. Whether he is creating the perfect wedding dress for Katie Holmes or crafting a Caribbean retreat of tatami, Armani is as much a collector as he is an artist.
Creations, collections, and inspirations aside though, it is the Armani legacy he hopes will best sum up his design philosophy.
“I would like to leave behind this,” he states.“The idea that understated elegance and sophisticated comfort is the key to great personal style.”
And with that, he’s as subtle and timeless as the very work he has created.