The Visionaries: exclusive – Giorgio Armani on 20 years of Armani/Casa
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In 1982, Giorgio Armani, having been unable to find a lamp he liked for his Milan office, set about designing one. Its angular yet archetypal shape, conceived in metal and glass, was directional yet discreet, embodying the same codes as his ready-to-wear collections. And there it sat, quietly furnishing his office, until 2000, when the designer launched Armani/Casa, a new collection for the home in which his much-loved lamp (now named Logo) became the headline act.
“I played with the idea of expanding my aesthetic for a long time,” says 85-year-old Armani, whose business launched in 1975 and today spans fashion, beauty, interiors and hospitality. “I wanted to create a complete Armani lifestyle to reflect my ideas in different areas of everyday life. The Logo lamp is testimony to this curiosity. It was my first creation in [interior] design.”
Two decades on, Armani/Casa is a full division within Armani’s empire, with 41 dedicated stores in 29 countries in Europe, the US and Japan offering everything from textured wallpapers and leather-topped desks to bathrooms and kitchens for those favouring his understated aesthetic.
In 2004, he established an interior-design studio that has transformed private residences everywhere “from Milan to Mumbai” and is currently involved in redeveloping the flagship Giorgio Armani boutique on Madison Avenue, New York, above which will be 19 luxury homes. “I’ve designed them,” says Armani of the development. “It marks an important milestone in my career in interior design.”
To say Armani is serious about interiors is an understatement. He owns 10 homes around the world, among them a country house on the Côte d’Azur, a cliffside Antiguan villa and a newly purchased New York penthouse – he’s furnished all of them. “Home is an extension of our being and of how we feel,” he says. “There is a sense of permanence of style when designing a space that I find particularly satisfying.”
Armani has always allowed for subtle reinterpretations that, he says, ensure his designs are timeless. “A classic piece will never become boring,” he says. And his homewares are never retired – the Logo lamp remains available to buy to this day. “My work does not fall prey to fads that die out after six months.”
This longevity has made for a natural segue into hotel design – the first bearing his name opened in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa building in 2010. The suites, free of art on the walls, are furnished to a cosy minimum with the aim, he says, of creating “a place that makes one feel completely at ease”. Armani, who once stated he disliked staying in hotels lest the bathroom sink be too high or the cuisine not up to par, has since worked on creating spaces that meet his very particular criteria. Hence his outposts – a second opened in Milan in 2011 – sate his appetite for on-the-go perfection. “They depict style as a lifestyle,” he says, noting Milan’s glitzy Armani/Privé nightclub and Nobu restaurant. He is a regular at both.
Armani describes the overall Casa identity as “eclectic”, with influences drawn from different eras and cultures – spherical vanity units crafted from mother-of-pearl are sold alongside Japanese-inspired room dividers upholstered in botanic print, while his king-size walnut beds evoke a midcentury sensibility. Favourite pieces from his archive include two cocktail bars – the Riesling and the Club – unveiled in 2005 and 2009 respectively. The latter, inspired by vintage travel trunks, has a bronze lacquered interior with pull-out trays for Margarita-making. “I designed them as elements to be used on an imaginary 1930s film set,” he explains.
This eclecticism is evident in Armani’s new furniture collection, available in his stores this autumn (he recently switched all production in Italy to making medical overalls for healthcare workers fighting coronavirus). The range includes an upholstered daybed named Pretty and his favourite piece, Peggy, inspired by the multifaceted personality of Peggy Guggenheim: “It’s both enveloping and light, and demonstrates how Armani/Casa manages to combine tradition with contemporaneity.” A hint, perhaps, at the secret to the brand’s success.