By Claudia Cristoferi
MILAN (Reuters) - Italian fashion legend Giorgio Armani, 86, hinted at succession plans on Monday, saying he was preparing his future with his closest aides after showcasing his latest menswear collection.
Armani, who in February 2020 was the first Italian fashion designer to close his shows to the public as the coronavirus pandemic struck Italy, was one of the few to hold live shows during the current Milan fashion week.
"I love doing it here, where I started, this is my home," he told journalists in the garden of his Via Borgonuovo headquarters in central Milan where he hosted the show for his Spring/Summer 2022 menswear collection.
Known as King Giorgio in the fashion world, Armani sent some of his models on the catwalk wearing face masks.
"We must be careful, we could easily fall back into the abyss," he said.
Armani, dressed in his usual dark blue t-shirt and matching trousers, greeted and thanked his audience at the end of the show, holding hands with his right-hand man Leo Dell'Orco.
"A large part of the collection is his doing. Leo has worked with me for 67 years, over the years he's become more mature but also more hard-headed", Armani joked.
"He's good with menswear as (Armani's niece) Silvana is with womenswear. I'm preparing my future with people close to me," Armani added as if to reassure about Armani's continuity.
In April, he rekindled speculation about the future of his group by mentioning the possibility of joining forces with an Italian partner in an interview with Vogue, having previously insisted Armani should remain independent.
Bankers and analysts say Exor, the holding company of Italy's Agnelli family, could be a good candidate to take a stake in the group, a possibility on which both Exor and Armani have declined to comment.
Armani also reassured reporters about his health after rumours that he had been hospitalised.
He said he had spent two weeks in hospital after breaking his arm by tripping on a step when leaving a movie theatre after the recent lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.
(Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi; Writing by Valentina Za; Editing by Alexander Smith)