By  on February 20, 2002

MILAN -- Armani Collezioni is in rollout mode -- and a firmly independent Giorgio Armani couldn't be happier.

A very upbeat Armani presented the newest Armani Collezioni flagship here Monday and enthused about the new direction of the collection. The 13,000-square-foot store, located on Milan's fashionable Via Montenapoleone, is the largest Collezioni store in the world. "With this boutique, we are launching a new retail concept and clearly differentiating the Armani Collezioni from the Borgonuovo line," said Armani.

The designer is also opening a Collezioni boutique in Frankfurt, Germany, this week and another one next month in Paris, on Avenue George V, where Armani is mulling the idea of opening a restaurant as well. In addition to these, there are seven Collezioni stores in the world, of which four are franchised.

The expansion of Collezioni represents further proof of a revitalized Armani, who 18 months ago was flirting with selling his firm and retiring from fashion. Now he's glad he didn't sell and seems more engaged than ever.

"I am happier than a year ago," Armani said. "At the time, I decided to turn down very flattering offers for my company and now I am happy I did it -- also considering what has happened in the meantime to other groups. This weekend, I was here checking the lights; this is my job and my life."

Armani described Collezioni as a "contemporary line; clothes that you can wear daily, all day-long, aimed at a very heterogeneous clientele." Collezioni is priced 20 percent lower than the Borgonuovo line, which the designer described as his "expensive toy, a more creative and sophisticated line."

Collezioni replaces the former Mani line, which was discontinued two years ago.

It is produced in-house by Armani: the women's division by Antinea and the men's collection by Trimil, the company's joint venture with Ermenegildo Zegna.

"This is a totally changed line in terms of product, quality and image," said Armani of Collezioni. "Mani was sort of an exploitment of the Armani ideas, a surrogate which I designed with my left hand," said the designer.

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