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The Scene catches up with the godfather of Italian style, Giorgio Armani, in Milan and hears about his lifetime in fashion.
The Scene: How did you get started in the fashion business?
Giorgio Armani: Never in my wildest dreams did I entertain the idea that I would become a fashion designer. I first came to Milan as a young, impressionable boy -- I was still in short trousers! -- and I started work as a window dresser. I had come from a tiny village and to arrive in such a big city made a huge impact on me. It was very hard, at first, to get used to it. After 30 years working in this industry, it all feels like it started yesterday.
TS: How has Milan influenced your work?
GA: From the start, Milan, as it has done ever since, welcomed me with open arms in the most extraordinary way. Milan is a city where you can live well, where you can make something of your life. Milan will always help you achieve that. I am where I am today -- talking to you about this fantastic city which always excites me -- thanks to Milan. It may not have the sweeping avenues of Paris or the skyscrapers of New York, or the amazing sites of Rome. It is not even a shadow of what Shanghai or Beijing will become and yet no other city has driven my work or helped me be the best I can be.
TS: What does it mean to you to have your own Armani store here in Milan?
GA: My first Armani Boutique on Via St Andrea is very, very special to me. It represents all my work; the shop is a physical embodiment of the creative process that I follow. I love the warm stone, the contours of the store, its feel. It would take a lot of thought and reflection before I would even consider changing an iota of it. I never imagined I would own a space like Via Manzoni that held all these different things -- Emporio Armani, Armani Donna, Armani Uomo, Armani Casa, Armani Books -- it is in fact a small boutique on a big scale. The mono-branding of Armani throughout means there are very few similar spaces in the world. I am very proud of it as it is followed by so many people -- it serves as a reference for fashion followers, consumers. It has become a bit of a meeting place in Milan. People will hook up here on a Saturday; have a look around, hang out... maybe even buy something! I love to come here, stand on the balcony and just watch... it fascinates me. We staged our catwalk shows here last year, in store. It was a one-off really. There were a few technical problems but to have people in the heart of the store -- to see the clothes up front was an exceptional experience.
TS: And now there's also an Armani restaurant and club ...
GA: Nobu Restaurant is a luxury restaurant that retains the simplicity of a pizzeria. I remember when it opened people were saying, "Armani has opened a restaurant and he hasn't even put table cloths on the table!" To level that criticism at me it to completely miss the point of the restaurant. I opened Nobu Bar as a place where the young, international Milanese crowd could come and hang out in the evenings. Between 7 and 9 we draw a very eclectic crowd that seems to mesh really well. I come here every night, for an aperitif and it allows me time to meet people in a relaxed and gentle setting. It is an exchange of sorts -- I give you a great bar, and you come in and enjoy it. I didn't want to stop there, so a few years ago I opened Prive, a club which is below the shop floor. This kind of club was missing from Milan, and it attracts a really mixed group of people. We are selective about who we let in -- the club is deliberately small and it is the clientele who dictate the mood inside.
TS: Last year you staged your first ever haute couture show. How did that come about?
GA: People thought I was mad to go into an area of fashion that doesn't often yield a great deal of success. I arrived at the grand old age of 72 and I thought I want to have fun with something! I wanted to work without constraints and the Prive Couture allowed me to do that. This is the fourth season we've done and I've proved all those people wrong. I've shown all the doubters that my creative instincts are as strong as ever.
TS: How would you describe your philosophy as a designer?
GA: I love things that age well -- things that don't date, that stand the test of time and that become living examples of the absolute best. For anyone to make anything of their life, attention to the smallest detail is essential. To create something exceptional, your mindset must be relentlessly focused on the smallest detail. I believe that my clothes can give people a better image of themselves -- that it can increase their feelings of confidence and happiness.
TS: You are famously hard-working at an age when most people are content to settle into retirement. What's your motivation?
GA: You can think you've made it and yet the next day's press will always be waiting for you, the public will always ask more of you. In short, you can always do better! There are so many things to take into account -- your ambition, your ego, the press, the consumers. You can never be sure that you'll be on top of the pile again.