Giorgio Armani on Dubai, Post-pandemic Realities and Being a Voice in the Desert

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DUBAI It may have been called Giorgio Armani’s One Night Only in Dubai, but the Italian designer planned a series of events around his fashion show held on Tuesday evening, including a trip to the desert, a visit to the international Expo 2020 and a performance by Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

Armani was back in Dubai after 11 years to mark the 10th anniversary of his first hotel, located within the Burj Khalifa — a period of time that in this city is almost like a lifetime, given the changes that have taken place since.

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“When I got here, the structure of the building was in the middle of the desert, surrounded by sheds where the workers would eat — so much has happened in 11 years,” Armani reminisced during an interview in his suite on the 38th floor, overlooking a skyline crammed with skyscrapers, many still under construction.

Asked what attracted him back then to the project, Armani said “it was a great opportunity. Dubai was very exotic for me, and I have always been fascinated by the Middle and Far East and to imagine this stratospheric hotel, which could only be comparable to the American skyscrapers, was an occasion I could not miss.”

Giorgio Armani’s pop-up shop at the Dubai Mall. - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD
Giorgio Armani’s pop-up shop at the Dubai Mall. - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Also, he cited a positive and solid relationship with Mohammed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties, the local real estate giant here that developed the Armani Hotel, and his collaborators. Armani also admitted he was intrigued by developing his first hotel, which actually opened in 2010, but the anniversary event last year was twice postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Armani’s second hotel, based in Milan, opened in 2011.

Armani underscored the longevity of the style of the Dubai hotel, which remains modern to this day and in sync with his own design sensibility, he asserted. “The hotel differentiates itself very much from all the others I have seen on photos and catalogues. This is very Armani — it was so then and it still is now.” The walls of the hotel are covered in Marmorino silk and Florentine leather and the floors are Eramosa stone. There are elements of the hotel that reflect its home in the Middle East; for example, the main entrance to the hotel features dramatic metal arches inspired by traditional Arabic architecture.

As it has not been through any renovations over the years, Armani said he does not feel the need for changes, “perhaps some technical updates, but the structure, the idea of this simplicity of the furniture, the simple lines and the decor, which is never too rich, is something I would keep.”

Giorgio Armani takes his bow at the end of his Dubai show. - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD
Giorgio Armani takes his bow at the end of his Dubai show. - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

This need for continuity and timeless designs reflects Armani’s fashion ideals. In fact, he underscored that there was no need to create a new collection for the runway show in Dubai, held outdoors at the Armani Hotel Pavilion, which comprised looks from the spring 2022 men’s and women’s signature collections and a selection of his Privé couture looks from the fall 2021 Shine collection.

“I don’t want to seem like I’m lecturing anyone, but I do feel like a voice in the desert,” Armani confessed. “There’s this exasperated need to be present around the world, with brands wanting to prove their power, but this can be demonstrated in different ways, with a valid product that is wearable, not necessarily designed to cause a sensation and quickly forgotten. We really do need to slow down and I don’t think much has changed after the pandemic.”

In an open letter sent to WWD in April last year, Armani wrote that “luxury cannot and must not be fast” and that the current emergency “shows that a careful and intelligent slowdown is the only way out, a road that will finally bring value back to our work and that will make final customers perceive its true importance and value.”

The designer’s visit to Dubai and the event underscores the importance of the market and Armani pointed to “fierce competition” in the region. A pop-up shop at the Dubai Mall opened to mark the event and will close on Nov. 5, opposite the Giorgio Armani boutique, which opened in 2010 and was renovated last year, when Armani was meant to show his cruise 2021 collection.

Giorgio Armani’s pop-up shop at the Dubai Mall. - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD
Giorgio Armani’s pop-up shop at the Dubai Mall. - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

A dedicated capsule, with delicate dresses in pastel colors and dainty bags and flats with crochet details, will be available at the pop-up. In Dubai, there is also a Giorgio Armani store at the Mall of the Emirates. “This is a country that is buzzing and that wants to be constantly and compellingly updated,” Armani contended. “The Middle East is the cradle of a new concept of luxury, synonymous with continuous evolution and experimentation that still draw on the roots and the magic of a rich, deep culture to give life to a new creative energy.”

The event was held in Dubai at a key moment for the city, as the Expo kicked off on Oct. 1, and runs until March 31, postponed from last year due to the pandemic.

The open-air catwalk was dotted by silver palms and nestled under the Burj Khalifa and the skyscrapers, dancing fountains in the background, and popular Italian tunes as the soundtrack.

Giorgio Armani’s One Night Only in Dubai event. - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD
Giorgio Armani’s One Night Only in Dubai event. - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Martin did not hold back, singing for about an hour, swinging from Prince’s “Rave Un2 the Year 2000” film to some of Coldplay’s hits, including “Viva la Vida,” “Something Just Like This,” dedicated to Roberta Armani, and “My Universe” with BTS, and closing with “Earth Angel” by the Penguins. His witty remarks added a fun touch to the already joyful mood of the evening. “Mr. Emaar put me in my place,” he said of his own popularity compared to the dozens of skyscrapers bearing the name of the Dubai developer above the stage. “But I bet some of you here own a skyscraper or two,” he said laughing. “This is a tough gig, I’m gonna tell you, the best dressed crowd ever, but just imagine you are 15 years old, just crazy about this music.” The 400 or so guests took the advice to heart, singing along and letting their hair down.

Sharon Stone, Clive Owen, Jurnee Smollett, Madelyn Cline, Lily James, Melanie Laurent and Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs were among celebrities flown in for the show.

Owen, a longtime friend of the house, said this was his first time in Dubai, and that he was accompanied by his daughter Eve, who is a singer and songwriter. “It’s her first show, she’s very excited,” he said, adding proudly that “she has an album out now.” As for himself, he said he “just finished playing Bill Clinton [in “Impeachment: American Crime Story”], it’s still on in America, it’s been getting great feedback.” Asked if Clinton had reached out to him, he said, “Oh no, I didn’t expect that.”

Stone, Smollett, Cline and James were all duly impressed by the trip to the desert on Monday evening.

“It’s never a bad thing to be out in a desert sky; it’s very lovely,” Stone said. While she said she has four limited series in pre-production, she spoke of a new chapter in her life. The actress is writing a book, after the success of her memoir “The Beauty of Living Twice,” going into paperback in March, translated in 12 languages and available in 24 countries so far. She shied away from revealing details about the new tome. “I don’t really want to say what it’s about but it’s a thriller. I’m enjoying writing,” she admitted.

Sharon Stone front row at the Giorgio Armani show in Dubai - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD
Sharon Stone front row at the Giorgio Armani show in Dubai - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Asked why she thought her autobiography, which made the New York Times bestseller list, was so successful, Stone said she believes that it’s because “it’s truthful and it’s not really about the business, it’s about life, and it’s a real exploration of life. I think we are all in a different place now, and women, in particular, want to hear about real things, real thoughts and real feelings. We are a little bit over the false ideas and ideals.”

“I don’t think that anyone can be in the business as long I’ve been in the business in a false reality,” Stone continued. “If you look at Mr. Armani, he has been in the business so long because he kept his own business, no one else owns it or operates it. He’s kept true and consistent and it’s not owned by some conglomerate telling him how to make his business work and it’s not constantly on the edge of somebody else’s idea of a trend. There’s never a question of who or what Armani is. A lot of people may not always like that I always tell the truth, but they know that when you talk to me I’m going to say what I believe is true. I think that’s the only way anything lasts because in the beginning, we succeed because of the core of who we are. It’s true that pop artists have to constantly reinvent themselves, but what people really like is the essence of who we are and the further we get from our essence the less valid and real our product becomes, I believe.”

Asked about her Emmy nomination for “Lovecraft Country,” Smollett, said she was “shocked, it was a dream, quite unexpected,” and that she was on set with Allison Janney, who was also nominated for “Mom,” shooting the Netflix thriller “Lou.” “I just screamed, it was very exciting.”

Jurnee Smollett - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD
Jurnee Smollett - Credit: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

Smollett said this was “so many firsts,” her first Giorgio Armani show and her first time in Dubai as well as “in this part of the world.” Of the experience in the desert, she said she was “so in awe; I feel the climate, the nature, the environment, it’s like God showing off.”

After “Lou,” the New York-born actress filmed “Spiderhead” in Australia for Netflix, with Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller, due out early next year. She explained that Hemsworth “plays a mysterious man who runs a futuristic prison” and that she is a woman “with a secretive past.” She praised director Joseph Kosinski, for being “a visionary, such an amazing force. It’s a wild movie, I’m excited for people to see it, it’s unlike any of us have ever done.”

Cline, who lives in Los Angeles, said that city “is in a kind of true desert but it’s not like this. It was one of the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen. You could stare directly at the sun, and the colors were so vivid against the sand, just so beautiful.”

After wrapping “Knives Out 2,” she said right now she was just enjoying her time. “I’ve been traveling a lot, and it’s fun, but I’m going home and it’ll be nice to be in one place, be around my friends. I actually do need to unpack my suitcases and feel settled for a little bit.”

James just finished filming two projects, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?,” written and produced by Jemima Khan for StudioCanal, and Craig Gillespie’s “Pam and Tommy” for Hulu, which is due out next year.

The itinerant One Night Only series so far touched London in 2006; Tokyo in 2007; Beijing in 2012; Rome and New York in 2013, and Paris in 2014. An event had also been planned for Shanghai in May 2018, but that never took place due to technical and logistic reasons at the time.

Armani said One Night Only Dubai was conceived to minimize the impact on the environment, avoiding single-use plastic and food waste, promoting the use of hybrid or electric cars and LED lighting, among others, and employing nature-based solutions to offset the event-related residual GHG’s emissions.

SEE ALSO:

Giorgio Armani RTW Spring 2022

Giorgio Armani to Hold One Night Only Event in Dubai

Giorgio Armani on Emporio Armani’s 40th Anniversary, Inclusion and Diversification

Launch Gallery: All the Looks from Giorgio Armani Show in Dubai

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