By  on April 18, 2007

MILAN — The Salone del Mobile furniture fair officially kicks off today, but Giorgio Armani already stirred some controversy over fast fashion in presenting his new Casa collection on Tuesday.

Speaking about the possibility of launching a lower-priced furniture line in the future, Armani commented disparagingly about the collaborations of fashion designers or celebrities with fast-fashion brands such as H&M.

"H&M is fantastic, but this kind of strategy is depressing because it plays with people's sense of inadequacy, treating customers as schmucks because they need the endorsement of a high-profile person to feel worthy," said the designer.

Armani discussed the merits of Ikea, confessing half his yacht was furnished with the pieces from the Swedish giant. "Ikea is exceptional, and I sometimes imagine a category of products within my Casa line that will still give emotions but are less costly," said Armani, adding there were no concrete plans for the project.

The Casa collection Armani showed at his Tadao-Ando designed headquarters was anything but low-cost. Although prices were still unavailable, the pieces evidently target the uber-affluent. Cases in point: On the steel Adelchi desk for Him with a Thirties touch, metal plates with a satin finish are each applied by hand to the surface, creating a patchwork effect; a black metal structure has inserts in gilt lizard-skin on the Aida desk for Her. "In furniture, too, there is glamour and luxury that must be apparent, so that it differentiates itself — and justifies the price tag," said Armani, who underscored the relevance of the made-to-measure element of the Casa line, which reflects his focus on his Privé couture collection.

In a snail-like structure with winding and curved walls reproducing an actual home, Armani conceived rooms for Him and for Her, symbolic male and female residents, who live together, but maintain their own separate spaces.

The rounded structure displayed a chaise longue and the Antoinette dressing table, which, when closed, looks like a cylinder clad in a champagne-colored fabric. "I like the idea of fluidity, without barriers, walls or doors," said the designer, adding this was the concept developed for his first hotel in Dubai, due to open at the end of next year under an agreement with Emaar Properties. Nature and the East were still strong inspirations, in delicate patterns of bamboo or lacquered surfaces.Armani presented a bathroom in 2005 and a kitchen in 2006; the designer this year introduced a made-to-measure walk-in wardrobe, with a shoe rack for Her, vertically designed to reveal the shoes at a glance. Needless to say, the shoe rack for Him was a much more subdued affair. The broad sliding doors come in double glass panels framed in aluminum with a vinyl fabric inner insert.

Although the color palette was in the past often accented by vivid reds and oranges, this year it revolved around hues of champagne, platinum and pear for Her and gray, satin metal and black nickel for Him. "Nobody can say I didn't use Armani colors," joked the designer.

Launched in 2000, Armani Casa last year reported retail sales of 33 million euros, or $44.7 million at current exchange rates, up 13 percent compared with 2005. The company plans to open 20 stores this year in cities such as Shanghai, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Dubai and a second store in Moscow. Furniture accounts for 60 percent of sales.

Today, Versace is slated to introduce its first helicopter in collaboration with the Italian group Agusta Westland. In March, the luxury goods house unveiled a deal to design and manufacture made-to-order Versace brand helicopters. In addition to designing yachts, Versace has already linked itself with Techniques d'Avant Gard to personalize private jets and with Lamborghini for cars. On Tuesday, Versace previewed the limited edition Jet Seat. According to the company, this is the first armchair ever produced with a highly technological ceramic structure and a satin finish. The seat is upholstered in white leather embroidered by hand with Versace's iconic Greek fret motif, which distinguishes the brand's Couture collections.

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