Giorgio Armani suggests brand may be ready for partner
Now more than ever, the Italian luxury market has become a focus for intense speculation. With Dolce & Gabbana denying rumors of a possible tie-up with Kering, while also declaring that they are open to "a broader Italian project," Giorgio Armani has now said that, for the first time, he is considering a potential partnership between his company and an investor.
The news is all the more surprising given that the 86-year-old designer has always said that his brand would remain independent. In an interview with Vogue, the couturier said that this principle of independence "is not so strictly necessary" and that "one could think of a liaison with an important Italian company," not necessarily from the fashion sector.
Without providing further details, Armani did highlight that "a French buyer is not in the cards," meaning that LVMH and Kering are not being considered. With this in mind, all eyes are on Exor, the holding company owned by the Agnelli family, which recently acquired a 24% stake in iconic footwear brand Christian Louboutin. At the end of 2020, the company also bought Shang Xia, the Chinese luxury group created in 2010 through a partnership between designer Jiang Qiong Er and Hermès.
Besides being an Italian company which is not directly active in fashion, the group, which is the controlling shareholder of automotive manufacturers Stellantis and Ferrari, as well as of The Economist media group and Turin-based football club Juventus, appears to have the requisite structure for taking on an operation of this size. In 2019, the Giorgio Armani group achieved revenues of 2.16 billion euros.
In order to prepare for his succession, Armani created a foundation in his name in 2016. As he explained in an interview with Corriere della Sera at the end of 2017, he hoped to transfer some of the shares in the holding company that controls his group to the foundation, so as to avoid the risk of a takeover or dismantlement. His plan, as he confirmed to Vogue, was to "pass down much of the business to his family."
Although he has no children, Armani does have two nieces, Roberta and Silvana Armani, who both work at his company. His nephew, Andrea Camerana, who is also a member of the Agnelli family, was seen as the designer's heir for a time, but left the company in 2014. On top of this, there is Armani's long-time assistant Pantaleo Dell'Orco. The king of fashion has always designated these options as his potential successors. However, as he told Vogue, what's still missing is his direct replacement: "someone who says yes or no. There's still no boss."
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