PARIS — A new couture collection was not the only unveiling masterminded by Giorgio Armani this week. On Friday, the Italian fashion designer — who was on the 2018 Forbes list of the world’s billionaires — was scheduled to announce plans to redevelop his Giorgio Armani boutique at 760 Madison Avenue in New York City, creating not just a new flagship but, above it, the interiors for 19 new luxury apartments.
It will give fresh meaning to the phrase “living above the shop.”
The deal, in partnership with SL Green, New York’s largest commercial property owner and the building’s owner, is hardly Mr. Armani’s first foray into the world of property development and interior design. The Armani/Casa Interior Design Studio arm of the Armani empire was introduced 16 years ago, and has been behind a host of blockbuster projects, including the Armani Hotel in Dubai (opened in 2010) and residential offerings in cities including Miami, Istanbul, London, Mumbai and Beijing.
However, the latest project in New York is one of the most significant yet, and reflects the shift by many wealthy shoppers away from luxury handbags and gowns and toward experiences. Global spending on the so-called experience economy, which is being driven primarily by millennial consumers, is expected to reach $8.2 trillion by 2028, according to the market research firm Euromonitor.
The latest Armani announcement came six weeks after LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury group, said it would buy Belmond, owner of such storied properties as the Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro and the Orient Express rail service. The deal, valued at $2.6 billion, further underscores the growing importance that opulent experiences are expected to play in what traditionally has been a product-driven market.
“Through interior design projects I can transform my vision into a total experience, into something enveloping and every day for clients,” Mr. Armani, 84, said from Paris. “They are an important vehicle for my business because ultimately they can lead to purchases through greater awareness of lifestyle.”
Imagine it: There are few other ways to ensure new and established customers alike remain immersed in a 360-degree brand world than by creating the spaces in which they live, breathe and sleep. Especially when those clients also can have retail experiences a few short steps from their front doors.
For CookFox, the New York-based architects hired for the project, the challenge will be to ensure that the 97,000-square-foot terraced brick and limestone development remains in keeping with its Upper East Side surroundings, while also incorporating the neutral tones and essence of the Armani aesthetic, which has done much to shape fashion and design culture at large.
For Mr. Armani, the project will add yet another task to a vast portfolio that includes apparel, accessories, eyewear, watches, perfumes, furniture and home décor.
“Fashion is undoubtedly on a faster schedule. Interiors require time and a great deal of dedication,” Mr. Armani said. “But in both fashion and furnishings, at the basis is an idea, a careful work on shapes, fabrics, volumes and the ability to mix beauty, comfort and functionality in equal doses.”
To prove his commitment to the Madison Avenue project, Mr. Armani said he planned to live in the building, becoming a neighbor of those who ultimately buy the multimillion-dollar apartments. (Armani would not disclose the exact price of the properties at this stage of the project; work is expected to begin next year and be completed in 2023.)
What’s next, well, after his cars, cafes and condos (all of which Mr. Armani has done)? A theme park? A spaceship? At this point, only time will tell.
Elizabeth Paton is a reporter for the Styles section, covering the fashion and luxury sectors in Europe. Before joining The Times in 2015, she was a reporter at the Financial Times both in London and New York. @LizziePaton
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