How closely linked is the architecture of a building, compared with designing for the body? Interestingly, Mies van der Rohe referred to his work as ‘skin and bones’ architecture, as if he were creating a body. I think there are parallels – in both cases you are imagining a form in three dimensions, but of course with clothing you have the additional element of movement: how will these designs flow and drape and work with the body? That aside, when I think of my ideal for clothing it is to do with creating beautiful, elegant garments that are also comfortable and functional. My interiors are conceived to deliver the same results: beauty and elegance, combined with comfort and function.
If an Armani item of clothing is a form of individuality, what do Armani Hotels & Resorts say of the people who decide to stay or live there? The kind of person who chooses to stay at an Armani hotel or resort or live in an Armani residence will do so because he or she is looking to find the Armani aesthetic realised there. People who wear my clothes feel relaxed and confident and comfortable in them, and this is exactly how an Armani hotel or resort or residence will also make them feel.
What type of person will stay in Armani Hotels & Resorts? Initially I imagine it will be someone who is familiar with my fashion designs or my Armani/Casa interiors collection. These people are typically international travellers with good taste. I wanted to design living spaces that would allow this collection to create a complete mood and atmosphere. Over time I expect I will introduce new customers to the world of my fashion collections through their experience of staying at one of my hotels or resorts.
What is the most vital component of this unique Armani project and why? I have never really enjoyed staying in hotels, as they often have décor that I don’t like and they don’t always have the level of service one would expect from a luxury establishment. So I embarked on my Hotels & Resorts programme out of a desire to give my customers an experience similar to that which they would have were they house guests of mine at home. What you will get at an Armani hotel or resort is great décor, great hospitality and a relaxing experience.
Where do you start on a project of this scale? The parameters are set by the developers. They provide the floor plans, and from these I will work out how I wish the interiors to look. It is a huge undertaking, but I find that if you get the details right, the rest will follow. How difficult is it to maintain such consistency in quality, style, differentiation and popularity? Consistency is, I believe, the key to my success. I have a very consistent approach to the aesthetics I aspire to and I follow my own path. If you have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve, then it is not difficult to remain consistent. Quality and style are central to Armani, differentiation comes from my personal design vision and popularity is something I am lucky to enjoy, perhaps as a result of the fact that I respect my customers and want to produce things that people will use and wear. I have never believed in design for design’s sake.
What is the difference between designing clothes for men and women and designing the rooms they will live in? Menswear has many more conventions than womenswear, so designing for men is all about playing with those conventions. Womenswear is a different discipline – it is easier to let your imagination roam when designing for women. However, in both my work for men and for women my fashion collections aim to deliver style and substance – beauty and comfort. When it comes to designing rooms for people to live in, these same principles apply.
What is the appeal of this iconic, supertall building as a showcase for your hotel design? Man has always been fascinated by tall buildings – they stand as testament to his ability and ambition. Who would not be inspired by Burj Khalifa? It is as if a structure from the future has been transported back to our age.
When you see Burj Khalifa now, what goes through your mind? I am very excited – it is an incredible structure. And my part in it is the realisation of a dream I have had for many years.
What individuals from history would have stayed there? Anyone who loves simple, elegant and timeless design. So definitely our old friend Mies van der Rohe. And his colleagues Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. And then Frank Lloyd Wright and Eileen Gray. And of course my mother, who taught me all about minimalism.
If I describe Armani fashion as being part of a lifestyle brand, do you agree this is your intention? Absolutely. For a long time I have wanted to create the notion of a multi-faceted Armani lifestyle through the diverse products I design. Today, more than ever before, fashion has expanded to encompass our way of life – not just how we dress, but where we live, which restaurants we eat at, what kind of car we drive, where we go on holiday and which hotels we stay in. So the Armani Hotels & Resorts programme is in its own way a fashion-related project.
Can you describe the interiors of Armani Hotels & Resorts? Elegant spaces in which people can really relax, with made-to-measure furnishings and soft lighting. Notably they also offer the latest in smart technology, to provide real convenience for the modern traveller. Designing spaces which fulfil different functions is not so difficult for me, as there is a unity in my approach which enables me to switch from conceiving a spa, to a bar, to a bedroom quite easily – they all share common materials and finishes and colour palettes.
Does your background influence your work, or do you depersonalise? My background and life experiences are absolutely central to my work. Armani is the product of my personal vision. It is not an exercise in marketing. I started the company because I felt I had something to say as a designer.
If you could have designed an Armani Hotel or Resort in any other building in the past, what would it have been? That’s a difficult question to answer. Maybe the Empire State Building when it was first built.
How do you define style? It is a personal thing, and linked to character, rather than merely a question of appearance. For me style is all about being elegant and sophisticated. I aspire to a timeless quality, rather than anything that follows transient trends.
What is you favourite part of Armani Hotels & Resorts? I particularly like the lighting, as it creates a relaxed and subdued mood. Though the furnishings and furniture for the Hotels & Resorts have been designed specifically for the project, people can recreate the look with pieces from my Armani/Casa collection.
With your clothing you established a new way of dressing by changing the relationship between structure and movement, body and garment. Can you explain how this is transferred to your Burj Khalifa project? There are many similarities between my fashion collections and my designs for furniture, furnishings and interiors. The colour palette for both is neutral, and the textiles and finishes used in the interiors also often echo what I am doing in my fashion collections. But above all, the look and feel of my spaces in Burj Khalifa will be typically Armani in that they will be linear and geometric, minimal and unfussy, and not overtly gender-specific.
When you saw the project coming to life, did it feel like everything you imagined it would be? Yes, it did. I wanted to create a place that would make me feel at home, that blends the comfortable with the modern, the beautiful with the functional. I am pleased to see we have achieved this special combination of qualities in Burj Khalifa.
What aspect of Giorgio Armani is most visible in the project? The entire experience of staying at Burj Khalifa should be an Armani experience. Perhaps the most immediate sense of Armani that the guests will notice is the colour palette of natural neutrals – this palette of mine has been dubbed ‘greige’ and it is something I am well known for.
You deconstructed the jacket in the 1970’s. In what way has this process been applied to this project? When I started experimenting with deconstruction my aim was to produce tailored clothing that was comfortable to wear. It seemed to me that we were still making tailoring using the techniques that our grandfathers had used. In my interiors I have a similar desire to make the living environment as comfortable as possible.