Armani’s first Korea visit better late than neverA celebrity designer’s personal visit to a country is like a visit by a head of state. It’s only best to have good diplomatic relations with your customers.
For years, the Korean fashion scene has been consumed with gossip about who is wearing what for the next red carpet event, swank boutiques in the poshest districts, glorified images of big brands in glossy magazines.
The loyalty for a luxury brand such as Giorgio Armani fuels feverish discussions about whether the Armani symbol ― the eagle’s head ― looks to the right or left to Armani-deprived fans reportedly buying out the entire Cheongdam-dong flagship store when it first opened in 1994.
So when Giorgio Armani showed up one hour late to a press conference on his first visit to Korea, the 70 or so anxious journalists waiting for him were a bit upset. The designer briefly apologized in Italian through a translator, saying he had been “too busy” to come to Korea earlier.
South Korea is one of 37 countries with Giorgio Armani stores. Since 1990, Shinsegae International, the Korean partner with Armani Group for the past 15 years, has operated 32 stores selling four different Armani labels in Korea. Two stores carry Giorgio Armani, five have Emporio Armani, 22 have the Armani Collezioni and one is an Armani Jeans store along with two duty-free stores.
According to a Shinsegae spokesperson, the Shinsegae Group subsidiary sold 80 million won ($80 million) in Armani goods last year.
Mr. Armani’s first visit to Korea was finally arranged by Shinsegae International. But the rare stopover by the celebrity fashion designer was actually just an add-on to his important agenda in Japan. At the end of March, Armani attended the inauguration of the extension of the “Solomon R. Guggenheim Giorgio Armani” exhibit, a retrospective of his fashion that took place in 2001. The exhibit is at the Museum of Art Moors of Tokyo. He also attended a party that celebrated his receipt of the prestigious Designer of the Year Award from the Fashion Editor’s Club of Japan.
Before the press conference, he appeared at a publicity tour at Namsangol Hanok Village and boutiques carrying his products in Seoul. The 71-year-old designer, deeply tanned and silver-maned, looked extremely fit, framed in a skin-tight navy blue t-shirt and black trousers.
Mr. Armani explained through a translator that his company will maintain high quality and classic styles in the future.
He said he’s now reached a stage in life in which he wants to do something rewarding for himself. Mr. Armani was referring to his most exclusive haute couture collection, Giorgio Armani Prive, which debuted during the Paris Couture Week earlier this year.
Mr. Armani, currently without an heir-apparent, said that he plans a long-term expansion of the Armani Group through worldwide franchises. After he leaves, he said the company will be led by a trustworthy staff who understand the company’s philosophy and style.
When asked about his recent adaptation of Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau-style graphic motifs to his runway collection, the designer said he was entitled to change just like any other fashion designers.
“I just discovered special creativity and sensitivity in artistic works from the past, the 1925 to 1930 era in particular,” he said.
When the designer was about to leave after his answers were crudely translated for half an hour, a commotion broke out amid the already disturbed audience.
Nonetheless, Mr. Armani headed for a private cocktail reception before returning to Italy Sunday.
by Ines Cho