Armani in the Land Down Under

Talk about a weekend getaway. Tacked onto last week's launch of his new Tokyo mega-boutique, Giorgio Armani has just wrapped a whistle-stop, 48-hour Sydney side trip...

Giorgio Armani and Russell Crowe

Giorgio Armani and Russell Crowe

WWD Staff

SYDNEY, Australia — Talk about a weekend getaway.

Tacked onto last week’s launch of his new Tokyo mega-boutique, Giorgio Armani has just wrapped a whistle-stop, 48-hour Sydney side trip, his first-ever visit to Australia. And heads are still spinning.

The trip revolved around a meet-and-greet dinner designed to honor Armani’s new commitment to the Sydney Theatre Company. In what is being touted as the biggest single financial donation to an Australian theatrical institution, Armani is the company’s new patron — a connection that comes courtesy of unofficial Armani ambassador Cate Blanchett, who is due to take up the artistic reins of the STC in January, together with scriptwriter husband Andrew Upton.

“Cate enjoys my aesthetic and over the years I have known her has chosen to wear my designs for various red-carpet events,” Armani said. “That loyalty is important to me and has encouraged me to reciprocate in offering my support to the Sydney Theatre Company. It is about friendship and respect for each other’s work more than anything.”

Held at The Wharf restaurant on Walsh Bay’s Pier 4, the STC’s harborside home, Friday night’s black-tie dinner for 200 was attended by a swag of Sydney luminaries who gave the designer a standing ovation after his speech in Italian, translated by niece Roberta Armani. Those luminaries included the company’s outgoing artistic director Robyn Nevin, art director Catherine Martin, Ian Thorpe and actors David Wenham, Jacqueline McKenzie and Justine Clarke.

But the STC dinner wasn’t the only thing Armani got up to in Sydney. Afterward, he checked out the city’s latest nightclub, Trademark. Earlier in the day, he had popped into his Australian flagship in Martin Place to meet 100 of his VIP Sydney customers, before lunching at hip restaurant Est and visiting his concept boutiques inside department store David Jones.

On Saturday morning, the designer headed to Maroubra Beach to meet up with another friend, Russell Crowe, and half the South Sydney Leagues Club football (rugby) team, aka the Rabbitohs, which Crowe now co-owns. Armani dressed both Crowe and his bride, Danielle Spencer, for their 2003 wedding, and recently designed the off-field uniforms for Crowe’s team — which was dubbed “the Armani army” in a recent local documentary.

This story first appeared in the November 13, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Then it was back to Bondi for coffee and juices at celebrated eatery Icebergs and to Woolloomoolloo’s Finger Wharf for lunch at Crowe’s waterfront apartment. From the wharf Armani was then whisked off by James and Erica Packer, Australia’s richest man and his new bride, for a Sydney Harbour cruise aboard their private yacht.

Armani then squeezed in a walking tour of the Sydney Opera House and The Rocks, before heading to Paddington restaurant Buon Ricordo, on Blanchett’s advice.

He left Sydney on Sunday morning, laden with Rabbitohs’ footballs, caps, jerseys, bunny mascots and an Aboriginal Yawkyawk water spirit sculpture — a gift from the Armani team in Australia.

“I have been overwhelmed by my visit to Sydney — a sophisticated but incredibly relaxed city,” he said. “It has been a longtime dream to visit this wonderful country and I hope to come back in the near future to visit the theater and watch a rugby game!”