NEW YORK — Giorgio Armani’s personal “thank you” to New York City is well beyond his just-opened 43,000-square-foot flagship on Fifth Avenue.

On Tuesday, Armani disclosed that in honor of the store opening, he is making a $1 million donation to The Fund for Public Schools, which seeks to bring in private investments in school reform and works to inspire more involvement by New Yorkers in the local school system. Armani made the announcement at a press conference in the store, in the presence of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; Caroline Kennedy, vice-chair of The Fund for Public Schools, and Joel I. Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.

This story first appeared in the February 18, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The grant will establish the multiyear Armani Arts Institute umbrella program, which will support arts programs in public schools in underserved neighborhoods, with an emphasis on schools in the Bronx. In fact, the Mayor said the designer even took the subway up to the borough on Tuesday.

Armani wanted to make the donation in lieu of throwing a big dinner, saying that at this time, he didn’t think it was appropriate to use the store opening as an occasion for “caviar.”

Bloomberg lauded Armani for his vote of confidence in New York. “By opening this store, he makes sure he has a front-row seat in our recovery,” the Mayor said. The donation is the single largest individual retail donation to the fund.

Kennedy, meanwhile, praised Armani for his move to open a “giant store” in New York in this far-from-ideal moment, but then, rather jokingly, added she wasn’t exactly the best person to talk about ideal timing. Kennedy recently withdrew her Senate bid after a short and somewhat ill-managed campaign.

Asked about the number of jobs the store would create and its cost, Armani said, “I still don’t have an idea of how much the store cost because my main goal was to create a beautiful store.”

Armani even got a chance to voice his view of America under President Obama at the press conference.

“I wouldn’t want to be in Mr. Obama’s shoes,” the designer said, adding change isn’t easy. Yet he remained enthusiastic about Obama, calling him “a young president, looking good.…He moves like a young person,” Armani added.

Meanwhile, ABC’s “Nightline” is reporting on the designer’s new flagship for a segment scheduled to air this week. Armani is expected to talk about opening on New York’s busiest stretch of retail real estate during the recession, and how the economy is affecting his business.


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