In an exclusive interview, Italian design stalwart Giorgio Armani opens up about the creative influences seen in his Spring/Summer 2018 collection, and how India constantly inspires him

At an age when several of your contemporaries have retired, you are still as active with your brand as you were when you first launched it in the 1970s. How do you keep yourself motivated?

Fashion forces you to carry on; you should always observe what is going on around you, and respond with something that is your own, but that is also in line with the times in which you are living. This is why I still love my job, and why I devote myself to it with my entire being. Dividing my attention between many different things keeps me alert and fast, and this is an invaluable stimulus. Today, as in the past, I face new challenges with the same enthusiasm. The motivation for all this is always the same — to create something that makes a difference to people, that lasts over time, that responds to a need, and that — above all — expresses an idea of what is beautiful.

How do you view men’s attitudes to fashion, and what they wear now, as compared to when you first launched the label? What are the styles you see flying off the rack these days?

Today, men dress with a greater sense of awareness and confidence than when I started out. My pieces are aimed at men who swim against the tide, and choose a gentlemanly elegance. My intention, this season more than ever, is to bring the classic wardrobe up to date while maintaining its dignity and spirit, but renewing it in terms of both form and materials. I am picturing deconstructed blazers in cupro and jersey, bomber jackets in ultra-lightweight leather, or washed silk trench coats — all pieces that are classic, iconic and very current.

Millennial fashion is constantly evolving, and trends change ever so frequently these days. As a fashion house that has firmly stuck with classics, what are the challenges you face when catering to the younger consumer?

In men’s fashion, I prefer slow changes to the classic wardrobe, which I continue to modernise and update in both form and materials. I think the times of the super dapper dandy are over. The formal suit is no longer a uniform; it is universally liked, even by young people, because it is constantly being updated in new ways, while maintaining its classic charm. It can become almost sporty, casual, cool and is worn naturally. My ongoing challenge is to continuously update the look.

Your Fall/Winter 2017 collection is all about refreshing classics. Why do you find it imperative to reinvent tried-and-tested silhouettes and styles that customers love and find comfortable?

Just recently, I was compared to an orchestra conductor, always intent on exploring new variations of the same theme. I can fully identify with this description. We rid ourselves of the idea that men’s fashion changes every six months; I leave this urgency to women. I have always preferred men’s fashion to be long-lasting, constantly updated, but never too radical. The clothes that are still current today have been shown to have a universally recognised value. I have never liked unnecessary extravagances. I prefer beautiful garments, which can enhance the wearer, always. And, this is true now more than ever.

There is much emphasis on Giorgio Armani made-to-measure in India. Many other luxury men’s apparel brands are also offering the same. What makes Giorgio Armani stand out?

My Made to Measure has all the hallmarks of the effortlessness, naturalness and simplicity of an Armani suit, with the added extra of being able to personalise the pieces. The wide range of fabrics and the choice of alteration on the different models are other important features. In all Giorgio Armani boutiques, this proposal is the pinnacle in terms of a luxury shopping experience — it combines tradition with modernity, blending the origins of sartorial art with contemporary-style innovations.

Spring/Summer 2018 sees you favouring grey as a go-to colour. Why do you forecast it as the colour of the season?

Grey is a colour that always highlights a person’s elegance. I include it constantly in the palette of my collections because it matches naturally, creating a particularly effective chromatic impact. For me, it represents a range of possibilities — a transversal and malleable shade, perfect for every occasion; elegant and ideal in an urban context.

You recently took the decision to condense the Armani portfolio, reducing the offering of seven lines to three. What was the idea behind this?

We spent a long time analysing the economic situation, the change in the general buying attitude and the market, which is becoming increasingly competitive, and we came to the decision to simplify the architecture of the group’s brands. In this way, the reference brands are strengthened and more recognisable: Giorgio Armani at the top, Emporio Armani as a transversal ‘container’ for clothing and accessories, and A|X Armani Exchange, my streetwear range.

Any chance you will be coming to India in the near future?

I’d love to return to India. I visited for the first time in the 1990s, and it was a truly amazing trip. My first impression of the country was so memorable and strong. India affects all the senses, dazes you and envelops you. It’s magical. It’s difficult to summarise the impression that these places are able to arouse, in just a few sentences. It is a mixture of scents, lights, faces, energy and a capacity for deep introspection. And the colours — so vibrant. All of this never ceases to amaze me.

Does this country ever cross your mind in any way when you conceive of your designs?

India has a rich culture and a precise visual aesthetic. I especially like the taste for colour and sense of decorum. It is an amazing country, full of life, where traditions are still very alive, with a visual concept of luxury that is strongly tied to popular culture. The colours, labour, processing —everything fascinates me, and every time I come into contact with this culture, I try to assimilate as much of it as possible while always remaining faithful to my own aesthetic.

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