Giorgio Armani gets UAE golden visa: 'Nothing can be compared with the wonder of Dubai'

As the Italian designer prepares to bring an exclusive show to the emirate, he discusses the dynamism of the city and his hopes for the future of the fashion industry

Giorgio Armani acknowledges that his relationship with Dubai may seem like something of a paradox.

“In many ways, Dubai is the opposite of what is normally associated with Armani, a kind of reverse image of the things I hold dear: it is highly visible, ostentatious and frenetic,” the Italian designer, 87, famed for an aesthetic that favours quiet elegance and understated sophistication, tells The National.

“But there is also an aspect that is very Armani and resembles my character, a quality we have in common: it is without doubt a place focused on the future, fast moving, where the imagination knows no bounds. Nothing and nowhere can be compared with the wonder of Dubai, conceived and raised with the sole purpose of astonishing the world.”

Those parallels were given concrete form when Armani opened his hotel in the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, 10 years ago. They were reiterated on Sunday when the designer was presented with a golden visa, giving him a 10-year residency in the emirate, in recognition of his contribution to the country.

And they will be celebrated once again on Tuesday night, when the designer hosts the One Night Only event at Armani Hotel Dubai. The exclusive fashion show was specifically planned to coincide with Expo 2020 Dubai, while also marking the 10th anniversary of the hotel and the 40th anniversary of the Armani brand, which was launched in 1981.

One Night Only will showcase looks from Armani’s spring/summer 2022 womenswear collection, as well as some menswear and couture, and an exclusive capsule collection designed for Dubai.

The spring/summer 2022 womenswear line, dubbed Metissage, debuted at Milan Fashion Week on September 25, and is a joyous, uplifting celebration of colour and lightness. Soft, floaty fabrics and easy-to-wear cuts dominate, in gentle pastel hues interspersed with the odd shock of purple, pink or red. Elongated jackets, wide-legged trousers, flimsy tops and weightless gowns that skim the body add to the relaxed, summery feel of the collection, which is an ode to the sun and the sea.

“It is a mix of my signature themes, mixed with nomadic details, decorations and colours, all reinterpreted with an urban feel. A balanced combination of precision and freedom, achieved through the lightness of both materials and hues,” Armani explains.

A sense of liberation is inherent in the men’s looks, too. “With the men’s collection, I have explored the idea of clothing that frees instead of constricting, of classic as proof of progress,” Armani says. “It is imbued with a sense of lightness: weightless materials, shapes that fluidly caress the body, a calm and nonchalant attitude. A sporty way of dressing – dynamic, comfortable and bold – made up of instinctive and essential choices and colours.”

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I believe that Dubai is a really dynamic place, a truly modern city with enormous energy
Giorgio Armani

The Exclusive for Dubai collection, meanwhile, will feature a selection of clothing and accessories for men and women that encapsulate the Armani codes, but interpreted in new colours.

One Night Only will, no doubt, be a fitting ode to a city that Armani says he finds deeply fascinating. “I believe that Dubai is a really dynamic place, a truly modern city with enormous energy. I love the metropolitan lifestyle and when a city is really attracting attention, investment and business, it becomes a magnet for interesting people.”

While the Armani aesthetic is distinctly Milanese, the designer has always looked to other cultures for inspiration, and this region is no exception. “I am interested in the colours and fabrics associated with the Middle East, and, in particular, the use of geometry in its art, both ancient and modern. Music from the region is also something that appeals to me, particularly as it becomes mixed into the sounds of North Africa.

“Armani may be symbolic of Milanese style, yet if you look carefully, you will see that I like to create something distinctive by combining the creative spirit of my homeland with other influences. It is all put through my personal creative lens, and so the result is highly personal.”

Notably, One Night Only has been designed to minimise the impact on the environment where possible, in accordance with ISO 20121. Materials are being reused and recycled, separate waste collection is being encouraged, and hybrid or electric cars are being used, along with LED lighting. “Moreover, to offset the event-related residual greenhouse gas emissions, we will be supporting nature-based solutions projects,” Armani notes.

This is in line with the designer’s view that things should be done differently in a post-pandemic landscape. He was one of the first designers to grasp the full impact of the coronavirus, and soon after its magnitude became clear, penned an open letter criticising the unsustainable pace of the industry. He accused top-of-the-range brands of adopting and imitating the methods of fast-fashion brands, insisting that “luxury cannot and must not be rapid”.

And while there was an initial period of widespread good intentions at the beginning of the pandemic, he fears that the fashion system is regressing into its old, destructive habits. “The long-awaited slowdown doesn't seem to be coming true for everyone: several collections keep coming out, at a rapid pace,” he says. “However, there has been a generalised lengthening of the life cycle of the collections in stores, also to make up for the losses during the hardest times, and generally this will lead to a less foolish markdown policy.

“But in my opinion, more should be done, starting with design and production. We should adopt a higher social and environmental awareness, because luxury is not fast fashion, not to mention that even fast fashion seems to have reached the end of its useful life.”

On a more personal level, the pandemic has encouraged the octogenarian to slow down slightly – although perhaps not this week. “The more you grow, the more you learn that taking time is important in order to truly progress. It has also shown me how much human connection is important. We all need to step up, because we are all part of humanity. We can win only if we are united.”

Updated: October 26th 2021, 7:34 AM