Jessica Chastain, Sophia Loren, Kerry Washington Turn Out for Giorgio Armani in Venice

VENICE — While running the risk of swerving into cliché-territory, there’s no other way to describe how Giorgio Armani takes on his projects — putting his heart and soul into them. So much so that the designer showed deep emotions at the Arsenale location ahead of his Privé show on Saturday evening here as part of his latest One Night Only event.

“It’s difficult to hold back the tears, when you see young and old people of all different walks of life come up to me, asking for a photograph, and equally moved,” said Armani, visibly emotional, citing an episode that took place the evening before when the designer held a cocktail aboard his Maìn yacht, which drew several celebrities, from Kerry Washington and Sydney Sweeney to Regé-Jean Page.

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Anchored not far from the city’s famed San Marco square, the stunning and expansive yacht caught the attention of many walking by and “an 85-year-old woman who may have never worn an Armani dress in her life was trying to get a photo of me from below, so I decided to walk down and pose for a selfie,” said the designer, who turned 89 in July. “She was in tears, embracing me, and this repays me of all the efforts I have put into my job,” he said, thanking the press for supporting him through the years.

He attributed his “authenticity, honesty and frankness” to this outpouring of affection, elements that “bring up hidden feelings” in people.

Consistency has also always characterized Armani and, asked on the sidelines of the event what he thought of the increasing polarization in fashion, as luxury groups continue to grow through M&A, versus his long-defended independence, he responded firmly: “There are two paths — big foreign groups have decided that they want everything. I have not, I only want what is mine — and that’s it.”

His drive and determination have contributed to the growth of his namesake company, which closed 2022 with revenues of 2.35 billion euros, up 16.5 percent compared with the previous year.

Sales including licenses exceeded 4.5 billion euros, while retail sales turnover are estimated to exceed 6.5 billion euros.

The Venice One Night Only event, which has so far hit London, Tokyo, Beijing, Rome, New York, Paris and Dubai, coincided with the Venice Film Festival, and while the list of actors that took in the show, including those who attended the cocktail, ran long — from Armani’s longtime friend Sophia Loren, Jessica Chastain, Benicio Del Toro, Lili Reinhart and Sadie Sink to directors Ang Lee and Luca Guadagnino, to name a few — would be quoted or released comments due to the ongoing actors’ and writers’ strikes in the U.S.

The 500 or so guests at the storied complex of former shipyards and armories attended a repeat of the spring 2023 Armani Privé couture show previously unveiled in January in Paris. Armani admitted that shortly after that first show he started to think of presenting the collection’s colorful, harlequin-inspired motifs in Venice as he saw it fitting with the location and he wanted it “to live in a different context.” He added or modified some details — a Pierrot-like collar here and dainty hexagon-shaped hair accessories there, “to be in sync with the spirit of the city.” Of note, after the hours-long cocktail the evening before, while his guests were at a dinner, Armani, ever the perfectionist, was at the Arsenale checking out final details — including the evening light.

Armani has often defended his right to explore new territory out of his comfort zone, lamenting what he perceives as a general inattention to his more eccentric side, as he did when he staged the “Eccentrico” exhibition in Milan in 2012.

Here, again, the designer said he allowed himself “to have some fun” and overturn the perception that he is rigorous. “I had fun,” he said of putting together the collection. “There may be hats that not everyone will like, but it’s the atmosphere that interests me. I put a lot of attention and time on the details and I ask you to look at this show as if it were a coup de foudre [an unexpected love at first sight].”

He also explained his interest in the diamond motifs, standing out in several art works, including, famously, by Picasso.

Backstage at the Armani One Night Only in Venice.
Backstage at the Armani One Night Only in Venice.

Repeating a previous show is also in line with Armani’s choice to limit the offering of new collections, responding to the current moment, and aligning clothes in stores to the seasons.

Armani said he had not returned to Venice for about 15 years and praised the “exceptional location” of the show and “the extraordinary city,” which has inspired so many authors. As he did in previous One Night Only events, the designer organized special morning visits to special and exclusive locations in Venice, such as the music conservatory to see an Antonio Vivaldi original manuscript or meeting the only remaining violin-maker in the city.

The collection, which ranged from pretty little jackets with lozenge shapes in relief and sequined cardigans to evening gowns exquisitely beaded and embroidered, reflecting the incredible craftsmanship behind the designs, were sure red carpet hits and pointed to Armani’s lifelong connection to movies and his company’s links to Hollywood.

This is a return to Venice for Armani, reaffirming his connection with the film festival, which began in 1990 with the world premiere of the documentary “Made in Milan” directed by Martin Scorsese, in which the designer discussed his creative process, his family and the role of the Italian city in his work. He admitted he remembers his early red carpet walks fondly, when “everything was so promising.”

He said he recently rewatched the 1980 hit “American Gigolo.” “I enjoyed seeing Richard Gere place my designs on his bed,” he said simply of the clothes he provided for the film, which contributed to turning him into a household name.

“My parents loved the movies and this was passed on to me. I have always envied directors creating films that live on in time, or the actors that bring so many feelings to life,” he said.

The designer once again renewed the partnership of Armani Beauty as the main sponsor of the festival.

The One Night Only Venice 2023 event has been specifically designed to have minimum environmental impact, in compliance with ISO 20121.

The Armani Group will offset all residual greenhouse gas emissions linked to the event by supporting environmental projects that aim to preserve the ecological equilibrium of the Venetian Lagoon and restore its ecosystem and biodiversity.

Mark Ronson DJed the party that closed the evening.

Launch Gallery: Front Row at Armani One Night Only in Venice

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