The country may be in a recession, but don't tell that to Giorgio Armani. The multifaceted designer officially debuted his stunning Fifth Avenue emporium (or "A5A," as the new flagship's been dubbed) on Tuesday evening with an all-out cocktail party that drew Leonardo DiCaprio (who arrived at the tail end, just in time for a private dinner), Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Ricky Martin, January Jones, and Liam Neeson. "He was so nervous and so excited, and I think his little baby for many years was this store," said Eugenia Silva, the model-cum-actress who's been an Armani ambassador for years. "He's not just a brand, but a world."
As part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, in which hundreds of eager fans lined Fifth Avenue and 56th Street to get a glimpse, Armani was joined by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; Caroline Kennedy, vice-chair of the Fund for Public Schools, and Joel I. Klein, Chancellor of the New York Department of Education. His fashion house pledged 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 is making a tremendous move in dire times," Kennedy said. "Hopefully his generosity will create a positive ripple effect."
Armani's 43,000-square-foot "thank you" to New York City was some sight for sore eyes. The multilevel shrine to the world of Armani, from his top-tier clothing lines to his boutique chocolate offerings, provide something for every customer on any budget. This night, however, the guests tended to lean toward the upper echelon. "How's the new chef?" one guest was overheard asking another. "Excellent," was the reply.
As deejay Coleman Feltes spun "chic disco" tunes from the second-floor mezzanine, Armani made his way up to the third floor via the visually mesmerizing, if not somewhat comparable to the Guggenheim, staircase. Holding court at the top of the store, movement quickly ground to a halt as guests poured in to offer their best wishes. "It's quite the workout getting up here," huffed and puffed Sarah Wynter as she made her way up. "He made a coat for me, too, but I thought the dress was too special to have it covered," offered Mira Sorvino. As for Victoria Beckham, the petite powerhouse, who's the newest face of the Emporio Armani Underwear campaign, left little to the imagination with her flapper-esque micromini. "It's utter heaven," she said. "That's a word I've been hearing a lot lately — but by no means is it a reference to me."
Jim Shi was born in Brussels, Belgium, and grew up in Paris before moving to New York City. For the past four-and-a-half years, Shi was fashion news editor of IMG's fashion and media industry publication The Daily, and editor of its sister Website, Fashion Week Daily. He has covered Fashion Weeks in New York, Milan, and Paris.