Giorgio Armani is poised to leave his mark on Tokyo’s Ginza.
This story first appeared in the July 12, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The designer has unveiled his concept for a new Armani/Ginza Tower in the high-profile shopping district of Japan’s capital — about 65,000 square feet over 12 floors and two basement levels. Set to open in November, the space will feature the Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani and Casa collections, along with the brand’s first spa, an Italian restaurant and a Privé bar. There also will be showrooms and the new corporate headquarters of Giorgio Armani Japan Co. Ltd.
“Over the last five years, Ginza has become one of the world’s unique fashion retail destinations, quickly joining the likes of New York’s Fifth Avenue, London’s Bond Street, Milan’s Via Montenapoleone and Paris’ Avenue Montaigne as a fashion and luxury shopping destination,” Armani said in a statement. “It is literally an intersection that is now attracting a diverse and international cross section of fashion consumers who are attracted by the energy and excitement that has been created there.”
Located opposite the Gucci store and next to Dior, Armani joins the rush of luxury brands intent on raising their profiles in Tokyo. In the last 10 months alone, Gucci, Bulgari and Bottega Veneta have opened new complexes there. Tom Ford just signed a deal with Lane Crawford Joyce Group for major Asian expansion, including Japan, and Anna Sui expanded her deal with Isetan for a line aimed at Japanese teens. And Swatch Group is making its largest single investment outside of Switzerland in Ginza.
These moves have come as the growth in the Japanese market for major luxury and fashion brands has slowed from its peak, although executives believe the country still offers significant potential.
Izumi Sasano, chief executive officer of Giorgio Armani Japan, pointed to the nature of Armani’s business as an asset in helping it to weather any bumps in the Japanese economy. He said Armani is a company with loyal customers who provide stability in the marketplace. Sasano appeared at a news conference at Tokyo’s Italian Institute of Culture on Wednesday to present the store design and kick off the countdown to the opening.
A company spokesman said the development of the accessories category will help boost Armani in Japan.
“We have been more active in the accessories segment over the past five years, a segment that is very important in Japan,” the spokesman said. “We have not yet tapped this category in that market and we see a big opportunity to grow it there.” The tower’s street level floor will be entirely dedicated to accessories for both the Giorgio and Emporio Armani lines.
On Nov. 6, Armani will be in Ginza for the lighting of the building. The next day, the store will officially open and the designer will celebrate with a fashion show, presenting his spring-summer 2008 Giorgio and Emporio Armani collections, and a music event at the iconic Nippon Budokan venue in Imperial Park.
Armani is investing 15 million euros, or $19.5 million at current exchange, in the tower, a company spokesman said. At 183.7 feet, the structure will be the tallest in Ginza, standing at the maximum allowed height. The space, which Armani is renting, replaces a building that was demolished.
“The distinctive new building was conceived to be seen as one of the district’s most significant architectural landmarks,” said the company in the statement. It was designed by famed architects Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas.
The opening will mark Armani’s 20th anniversary in Japan, which is the company’s third biggest market after the U.S. and Italy, the spokesman said. The company does not break down sales by geographic market.
There are 12 Giorgio Armani boutiques in Japan, along with two Armani Collezioni stores, 14 Emporio Armani, two Armani Jeans and two A|X Armani Exchange stores.
The architecture uses traditional Japanese materials, such as bamboo, and combines them with the contemporary, such as frosted Plexiglas. Armani said bamboo’s “quality as a delicate yet enduring material” was a “perfect expression of the seeming contrasts” of Japan and chose it as the design’s recurring element.
A bamboo motif will run across the facades of the first three floors of the building’s gilt metal frame. The bamboo leaves will be covered with a film of frosted Plexiglas.
The Giorgio Armani boutique covers the first three floors. Products will be displayed in areas defined by partitions made with platinum-colored metal mesh placed between two sheets of clear glass. Floors will be covered in black marble tiles and ceilings will feature gloss black-lacquered steel panels. Gilt metal and transparent Plexiglas display units on the walls, finished with frosted glass, will evoke bamboo tree forests, with relief leaves as supports and shelves.
The Emporio Armani store, on the two basement levels and part of the ground floor, is directly accessible from the Ginza subway station. For the Ginza store, Armani exclusively designed a capsule, limited edition collection of Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani apparel and accessories, eyewear and watches inspired by the building’s gold and black color theme and featuring a special Armani/Ginza Tower label.
“This is very representative of the demand for special items,” the spokesman said.
The building will also have the first Armani/Spa. “I dreamed of a place where the body and the being are revitalized together in a nurturing and liberating experience,” Armani said.
Modeled after ancient Roman thermal baths, the spa will provide three private treatment suites. Obsidian, a volcanic rock extracted on Italy’s island of Pantelleria, Armani’s longtime vacation retreat, will be the core material for creams, scrubs and tools at the spa. The designer’s new skin care line, licensed to L’Oréal, is based on obsidian and the first face cream, Crema Nera, will hit stores in September.
To pamper guests, a special three-hour Armani Ceremony treatment will be available. The spokesman said this spa will be the model for ones in Armani hotels in Dubai and Milan. The Armani/Ristorante and the Armani/Privé are on the 10th and 11th floors, respectively. Armani has tapped famed chef Enrico Derflingher, who operates the Officina di Enrico restaurant in Tokyo’s Omotesando district, to head the restaurant, which will serve Italian cuisine. The 120-seat restaurant will also feature tables in gloss black-lacquered wood, surrounded by panel screens with brushed gold finish and perforated bamboo leaf patterns. The 40-seat Armani/Privé will open onto a garden terrace overlooking the city.
The tower is the fourth megastore for the designer, following the opening of the Armani/Manzoni store in Milan in 2000, which carries the Emporio and Armani Jeans collections, the Casa line and features a Nobu restaurant, an Emporio Armani Caffe, an Armani Privé nightclub, a flower shop and bookstore and a fragrance and cosmetics counter.
Other such venues are in Hong Kong (Armani/Chater House), which opened in 2002, also designed by the Fuksases, and in Munich (Armani/Fünf Höfe), which launched in 2003. The designer also plans a 47,000-square-foot multifaceted retail destination on New York’s Fifth Avenue next year.
In the statement, Armani underscored the relevance of each location and the importance of differentiating each one: “I have always thought of myself as a democratic designer, which I express through the variety of my collections. Locations such as the Armani/Ginza Tower provide the possibility to express this belief in a retail environment where a cross section of customers can have access to a mix of my designs. I think this reflects the way the world is moving today as it becomes ever more cosmopolitan, international and multicultural.”