There is a whole new generation that will never see Giorgio Armani the way I saw him when I was growing up. When I was in college Armani was the hot youngish designer, easily the most important and directional designer in the world (for both men’s and women’s, no one currently can say that) but still a small business. At the same time Yves Saint Laurent was an aging design superstar who was reaping the rewards of having built an empire but now held little allure to the younger fashion-sensitive generation. At the time I couldn’t imagine any girl I knew wearing anything from the YSL runway, I also couldn’t imagine not wanting every single item from the Armani shows.
With his Fall 2006 collection Armani has officially accepted the torch of “grand old designer.” I cannot imagine any recent Parsons graduate panting over the uptight/uptown ladylike looks that dominated Armani’s runway this season. Don’t get me wrong, Armani is still a master but it just doesn’t speak to that young customer the way Marc or Prada do currently (actually it has been slowly happening for years, but this season Armani has now officially “jumped the shark”).
Armani’s biggest challenge is not lack of or waning talent but the lack of motivation to change. He is so hooked-up in China and other emerging markets that the bottomline will keep bouncing along nicely regardless of what is happening in the press reviews. The only thing that these shows will effect is his legacy but it is not easy to walk away, just ask Brett Favre (did I stump you?). I have a crazy idea, Helmut Lang designs Emporio Armani and when Giorgio is ready to retire Helmut takes the lead, could you think of any recent de-companied designer that could potentially do a better job?