MILAN — Moscow, make way for Giorgio Armani.

This story first appeared in the June 19, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In his first trip ever to the Russian capital, Tuesday night the designer staged a runway show of his fall collection for 600 guests, including Glenn Close, Lady Helen Taylor, Rachida Brakni and Irina Gorbachev.

The event coincided with Armani’s announcement to open his first Armani Casa store in Russia on Moscow’s Tretyakovskji Proezd, a 19th-century building that has become home to top fashion boutiques. It will bow in September as part of a retail expansion program for Eastern Europe, which also includes the opening of a 3,456-square-foot freestanding Armani Collezioni store in Kiev, Ukraine, this fall.

“Over the last two years, since we launched Armani Casa in Milan, we have received an enthusiastic response to the collection from Russian visitors, so I am naturally delighted to have found such a wonderful location for our first Armani Casa store in Moscow, right next to our existing Giorgio Armani boutique,” said Armani. “The store openings in Russia and the Ukraine, combined with the limited wholesale distribution we have already started in Croatia and the Czech Republic, demonstrate our commitment to Eastern Europe as a region offering significant growth potential for the Armani Group in the coming years.”

The new 3,726-square-foot Armani Casa store, the seventh in the world, will carry the complete home collection — furniture, tableware, lighting, linens and decorative objects — and is a franchising agreement with Mercury SA.

The Armani Collezioni store in Kiev will be operated under a new franchise agreement with Andriy Shevchenko, a top soccer player on the A.C. Milan team.

Giorgio Armani designed the Moscow Armani Casa store in collaboration with a team of in-house architects.

Other Armani Casa store openings scheduled for fall include Hong Kong, Beijing and Zurich.

Russia, particularly Moscow, has been seeing an upsurge in fashion awareness and consumption in the past couple of years. As the economy has begun to stabilize and more consumers have greater disposable income, Western brands have started to flood in. As reported, in the next three years, 26 shopping malls are scheduled to open in Moscow alone, adding nearly 11 million square feet of retail space.

The names that are coming are high-end, too, including Burberry, Givenchy, Max Mara, Etro, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Tiffany, Chanel, Fendi and Baccarat. And last month, Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, was skulking around Moscow on a secret trip, touring GUM galleria with the owners of Jamilco, proprietor of Moscow’s Dior and Hermes boutiques, and Bosco, proprietor of the Givenchy and Kenzo shops. The Russian rumor mill has LVMH opening its own Louis Vuitton store — Russia’s first — in Moscow at the end of the year.”

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