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Giorgio Armani, has taken New York City by storm. In the 48 hours that he is in town, the legendary designer is scheduled to stop by the new Armani flagship store under construction on 5th Avenue, to take a peek at a Saks store window unveiling and to accept an award from the Couture Council. Lucky for me, I was able to catch part of his whirlwind tour, as he addressed (with interpreter in tow) some 300 students of F.I.T. yesterday.

In a small auditorium, Armani, dressed in all black, sat down on stage, gave a brief intro (calling New York a rare place where you can almost “eat fashion) and then fielded some questions from students on everything from his basic principles of design, inspirations for past designs and possible future ventures. Here is a synopsis of what the fashion icon imparted with the room full of aspiring designers.

Q: What are your basic design principles?

A: Don’t take advantage of people because they are willing to live and pay for fashion. The goal of the profession is to improve people’s images through fashion, and not to be fueled just by our own creativity and fantasy. Clothes need to be made for the streets, not just for the imagination. That being said, creativity needs to also play a big part, but in a subdued and tempered way. At the end of the day, clothes are products that must be marketable and saleable.

Also remember that not everything that is “new is beautiful. Remember that the human body is to be made more attractive, and ridiculous shapes and styles that are experimental and novel (like a jacket with three sleeves) are not necessarily an improvement.

Q: Did you always know that you wanted to go into fashion?

A: No, I ended up in fashion by chance. As a young child, I saw that there were many aesthetic things in the world that I was not happy with , including how my mother set the table , so I was sort of a victim of destiny. Over time though, I realized that it was my destiny and so I came to embrace it.

Q: How have you been able to develop fashion into such a long and successful career?
A: Versatility. I recognize that there are many different commercial realities, from the young college student who can only afford to spend so much on a pair of jeans (Armani Exchange) to the celebrities and wealthier people who can spend $4000 on a suit (Couture and Armani Prive). Being able to cater to all of the different markets at the same time has helped me continue in this marketplace, especially as women’s tastes have changed over time and now like to mix and match between high and low end.

Q: Do you have any regrets on any steps that you’ve taken along the way?
A: I can not re-neg on what I’ve done. In any case, even mistakes have helped me in my career. For example, over ten years ago, when my show in Paris was cancelled only two hours before the show, I could have easily given up, but instead it turned into an advantage. When the press said that perhaps the French cancelled the show because they were afraid of me because I was competition, it helped to propel me in my career.

Q: What are some new ventures that you are working on?
A: In general, I am working on womenswear and menswear collections that are about to arrive, as well as the Prive collection in Paris. But, I am so busy that I try to ignore what is to greet me in the morning. To say the least…there are a lot of surprises!

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