Fewer parties could have made for a drab New York Fashion Week had Giorgio Armani not come to the rescue. Armani blew off the recession and opened his huge, expensive new Fifth Avenue flagship, a 43,000-square-foot emporium featuring several of Armani’s collections, an Armani Dolci bar and a restaurant serving modern Italian fare.

Created by architects Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas, the store’s focal point is a staircase reminiscent of the dinosaur skeletons in the nearby American Museum of Natural History. The Milanese designer intended the megastore as a way to thank New York and the U.S. for embracing his aesthetic almost from the get-go, and his continued belief in the American market, even though all financial news spells doom and gloom these days.

“Sophia Loren said grazie to America when she received the Oscar,” Armani noted. “This is my way of saying merci to the first market to open up to my world.”

In lieu of a splashy dinner party or runway extravaganza, Armani held a press conference at the store, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Caroline Kennedy, vice chair of The Fund for Public Schools, and Joel I. Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, to unveil a $1 million donation to The Fund for Public Schools. The fund will establish the multiyear Armani Arts Institute umbrella program to support arts programs in public schools in underserved New York City neighborhoods.

Armani’s good deed was rewarded with some equally good karma. Armani’s early evening soiree to introduce the store drew everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Alicia Keys, Josh Hartnett, Alison Pill and John Mayer— who were oohing and aahing at the store interior and schmoozing with the designer via his omnipresent translator, whose presence didn’t faze Victoria Beckham. “He speaks a lot more English than he lets on,” said Beckham, who just starred in the Emporio Armani underwear campaign. “And he’s really funny.”

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