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Market Movers

WWD delves into Arab Fashion Week’s role and influence on fashion apparel and the luxury industry in the region, with an interview with Wissam Al Mana to set the scene and get a deeper insight into the direction of fashion and retail in the Middle East. The spotlight special edition is also available online at wwd.com

Stating that Wissam Al Mana’s eye for design is in his genes would be an easy way out in describing his unshakeable perspectives on the fashion industry within the Middle Eastern market. Taking the lead from his father who started the Al Mana Group has invigorated the company to broaden its reach in not only growing revenue, but also innovative ventures. His vision reaches beyond traditional acquisitions – under his watch the Al Mana retail portfolio has grown to include a range of companies from interiors to jewelry brands such as Hermès,Armani Group and Kering Group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How would you describe the current Arab Market?

There has been a shift in perception but also a transition of pattern and customer behavior. The Arab market covers such a vast area from North Africa to the Levant concluding its borders in the GCC, which means regional trends have reshaped global economic power quite simply in our favor.

With the current geo-political climate as well as a rapid urbanization especially within the GCC, growth is fast and investment is high. Technology has leaped tenfold and these factors have contributed to a changing trend. The region is evolving and with falling oil prices, the market has taken a fall but will recover.

Millennials are key contributors and opinion leaders resulting in a new generation of consumers and a new type of strategy in retail. We have started to move away from the traditional approach of how we do business and who we do business for.

The Arab market is becoming a leader and no longer a follower on the global economic stage. What are new initiatives and projects developed in the market? What will be the results?

Overall increased investment in infrastructure particularly in the UAE and Qatar must support the recovery in non-oil activity this year. Both countries have firm deadlines by which they need to deliver world class events that require substantial new infrastructure. I would say one of the biggest projects is Expo 2020, which will be held in Dubai. With an expected number of visitors to reach 25 million over the six-month period, the global platform is a key player in terms of regional development across a number of different sectors. The effect on the market will be an apparent one and the results of such investments apparent almost instantly – this is already the case. Tourism and increase in infrastructure paves the way for a reversal domino effect, linking and raising opportunity predominantly in real estate, investment and retail.

How is Arab Fashion Week evolved in its importance for the industry?

Its relevance is simply putting Arab talent on the map and there is. From raw materials to textile, manpower, engineering and strength in economic hosting the countries that compose this Arab market have all the tools needed to expose home-grown talent but also welcomed international talent and represent their skills in an ever-growing and powerful area. Arab Fashion Week is an opportunity (and I use that word with great importance) to showcase the significance of what we are about, what we are capable of and shed light on the preponderance of the expertise that often gets lost amid louder topics and quiet often negative interpretations and misconceptions.

How do you think the market will evolve in the coming months and years?

We foresee technological breakthroughs on all fronts. With online retail growing at such a rapid pace, the market leaders need to be innovative in order to survive this technological era. Consumers are better informed than ever.
The market will continue to grow steadily and e-commerce will rise both from local and international platforms. Customers today want a more personalized shopping experience and such an experience, as a whole will be the main factor in the success of a brand within the region.
Smaller niche brands are being embraced and we are seeing a very common trend: less branding and less logos meaning that innovation in the communication of a brand is key. The regions consumers seek uniqueness and quality all the while carefully paying attention to prices.

Hermès Mall of the Emirates – Opening Night

Hermès Middle East celebrated the inauguration of its fourth store in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, 26th October 2016 at Mall of the Emirates, Dubai.

Florian Craen, Hermès Executive Vice President and Wissam Al Mana, Hermès Middle East Managing Director welcomed the Middle Eastern press at a brunch in-store to kick off the day that ended in a night of jungle enchantment, welcoming guests from across the region.

hermes-moe-6-of-257In keeping with the year’s theme: ‘Nature at full gallop’, the rest of the evening hosted by Wissam Al Mana, was a whimsical array of jungle sounds, animal surprises and a light show for the senses.

From Beethoven to Debussy, a 45-piece orchestra serenaded the guests with euphonious elegance accompanied by friends of the jungle peeping out in the most unusual of places. With zebras wooing the harps and lions dancing amongst the violins, the evening was a true exotic marvel.

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Disguised in customized leafy green masks, the regions most genteel and dapper ended the evening on the confetti-filled dance floor.

Hermès Mall of the Emirates is located on the 1st floor in the Central Galleria.

For more information visit: www.hermes.com

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Future Unlimited

As published by H Magazine – Issue 002 – September 2016
By Max Berlinger

Ten years is a long time —120 months, 520 weeks, 3,650 days, 87,600 hours, and so on. And this decade, from 2006 to now, has felt especially long with the advent of social media helping to change the way we understand the world around us, changing the way we understand time itself. This has been a particularly long decade for those who work in the art world, a decade where everyone with an iPhone camera and an Instagram following fancies themselves an artist and where likes and filters have come to mean more than paint strokes and ideas. It’s the decade that changed everything.

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Naturally, the art market has been rocked by these developments, and it’s reflected in the record-setting auction prices and a new generation of artists who bring a digital energy to their work. It’s an unstable, thrilling time and it’s the era in which Steve Lazarides has owned his gallery in London, aptly called Lazarides. This year, he celebrated his first decade as a gallery owner and art dealer in perhaps the most tumultuous art market ever known. He started his business just as the global financial markets faltered, and he’s survived nonetheless. “It’s a miracle that we are still here,” Lazarides remarked, acknowledging that there’s a certain renegade luck in his gallery’s success and longevity. “Every step of the way we were told by the art world that what we were doing was impossible, and it would never work. But you know, we’re still here.”

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Lazarides is known to many as the man who first took street art, graffiti art, off the streets and into the gallery to spectacular effect, and for having represented the mysterious artist Banksy until 2008. “He pioneers artists in the early stages of their careers, Banksy being just one example, which shows what a great eye he has for emerging talent,” the gallerist Oliver Cox has said about Lazarides. To Lazarides, “Art is a basic human need whether it’s in a mud hut in Africa or on the walls of a penthouse in New York.” He is a non-conformist, challenging the norm of what is acceptable and championing adventure, freedom and equality in the art world. He has full faith and confidence in the public’s appreciation of art. “I tend to have quite a populist eye,” he explains. “I’m trying to appeal to 30 million members of the public, not 30 critics.”

To look at Lazarides’ roster is to see that he prefers bold, dynamic artists who have a palpable connection to the street, perfect visuals for a world that views everything in pixels on a screen. Artists like Ron English, Robert Proch, Oliver Jeffers, Sickboy, the Miaz Brothers, Conor Harrington, Chloe Early — they share a sense of irreverence and rebellion that is integral to Lazarides gallery. “If there had been one individual responsible for whipping up and sustaining the fever around urban art, and who stood to lose most from its demise, it was Steve Lazarides,” the Financial Times has proclaimed about the maverick gallerist.

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“I think that money has become the be all and end all of the whole thing, and it seems that for everybody from the artists through to the collectors and everyone in between, money is the main motive,” he reflects. “When I started out, it was just for the sake of it, because we only wanted to make art.”

Earlier this year, Lazarides opened a special anniversary exhibition provocatively titled “Still Here, A Decade of Lazarides” which celebrated his pivotal role promoting those artists thriving outside the conventional contemporary art market. His survival against all odds proves that success is not limited to conforming to the rules and following a beaten path. “I think that’s what I’m aiming for… and global domination of course,” he says. While that last bit may sound cheeky, he’s forged a partnership with Qatari business mogul Wissam Al Mana, a signal that Lazarides is serious about continuing his work in the art world in a major way.

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“I have been interested in opening an art gallery for quite some time,” Al Mana told us regarding his new connection to the gallery. “As an art lover and collector, owning a gallery seemed the next thing to do, so when Steve approached me to partner with him, it was a great opportunity to penetrate the art world by being part of a successful and renowned gallery with a potential to take it to the next level.” The investment by Al Mana will, in part, fund a move to the Mayfair district, and an e-commerce component to the business.

“Art, to me, is just so rich and diverse,” Al Mana continues. “From the old masters to today’s most renowned street artists, I have always been fond of viewing different art forms and disciplines, the feelings they arouse and the fulfillment of actually owning great pieces that can be cherished in one’s home. Loving the piece is really the most important factor when deciding what to own, I don’t care for buying pieces that are considered a good investment if I don’t like them … I actually never sell anything. The piece must provoke something inside me.”

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Provocation in the art world is harder and harder to achieve, but if someone can do it, it’s Lazarides, with his canny sense of who can balance nuanced thought and present it with striking visual élan. And while it’s a tired (and juicy) tale now — Lazarides helping to discover Banksy and catapult him to fame before they ultimately went their own separate ways — it’s a story that helps demonstrate Lazaride’s attraction to talent.

No one ever gets to the future by dwelling on the past, and neither Lazarides nor Al Mana seem to be spending too long looking in the rear view mirror. This partnership is the foundation on which to build a formidable gallery with the sort of pull that it deserves.

“I hope to bring financial strength and retail experience to the gallery,” Al Mana says. “I actually really love working with Steve and we are working on several very interesting projects together to expand on the gallery offer and strengthen our position in the market.”

“Building a brand is what I love most,” Al Mana says, before adding, “Look out for ‘LAZinc’ coming soon.”

Foundation for Ethnic Understanding

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) unveils ‘Muslims Are Speaking Out’ MASO – a national initiative to highlight and combat Islamophobia in the United states.

The event was held at the New York home of Epic Records Chairman Antonio L.A. Reid and his wife Erica Reid on Thursday, May 26.

Although Wissam Al Mana, a patron of the cause, was unable to attend, other FFEU ambassadors and key figures including New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and Congressman Andre Carson were among the guests. National leaders of American Muslim, Jewish and Interfaith organisations all joined the nexus of this great cause led by Chairman Russell Simmons and President Rabbi Marc Schneider.

The pioneering milestone that is MASO – ‘Muslims Are Speaking Out’ is anticipated to launch nationally on the 27th June, 2016.

www.ffeu.org

Wissam Al Mana

Empire State Of Mind

As published by L’officiel – Issue 09 – March 2016
By Hassan Al-Saleh. Photographer Solaiman Fazel

Fashion mogul Wissam Al Mana has transformed the family business with his sartorial vision for high end retail in the Middle East and is now on the cusp of reinventing himself as a multi-disciplinary artist.

“I always strive to achieve the best in whatever I commit to and have learnt so much from my travels across the globe. These two qualities have helped me reach where I am today in my professional life, and for that I can only be grateful.”

Despite his family patronym, a household name in the Middle East, Qatari fashion tycoon Wissam Al Mana is a lone wolf – or fox as he later describes himself – always maintaining a low profile. As the Managing Director of Al Mana Retail, he has built a luxury empire representing some of the most celebrated brands in fashion including Hermes, Giorgio Armani, Balenciaga, Chloe, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Giuseppe Zanotti and Dolce & Gabbana.

The protégé of his late father who started the family business over 60 years ago, the London-bred visionary turned his dream into reality by expanding the company’s retail division into luxury goods and what better way (as well as the epitome of chic) to make his mark in the industry than with the opening of the first Hermes flagship boutique in Dubai in 2004. Today, the division operates more than 40 stores across the Gulf with eyes set on greater expansion. In a rare sit-down interview, we get to know the real man behind the name as he opens up about his innate love for fashion, how he turned his passion into a thriving business and his personal aspirations for the future.

Wissam is a very private individual but I was thrown off guard by his candour. Wherever he goes the rumour mills are in overdrive and were ignited when he wed one of the most influential music artists of the modern era, Janet Jackson. But who is Wissam up close and personal? “I’m a perfectionist and a man of the world,” he said. “I always strive to achieve the best in whatever I commit to and have learnt so much from my travels across the globe. These two qualities have helped me reach where I am today in my professional life, and for that I can only be grateful. I enjoy mastering patience; I say mastering because it is something that I believe will be a work in progress throughout life. Humility, honesty and integrity play an integral role for me and in everything that I do. I play fair, always.”

Wissam recites Aesop’s “The Fox and The Hedgehog” fable. A fox swimming across a rapid river was carried by the force of the current into a very deep ravine, where he lay for a long time very much bruised, sick, and unable to move. A swarm of hungry bloodsucking flies settled upon him. A Hedgehog, passing by, saw his anguish and inquired if he should drive away the flies that were tormenting him. “By no means,” replied the Fox; “pray do not molest them.” “How is this?’ said the Hedgehog; “do you not want to be rid of them?’ “No,” returned the Fox, “for these flies which you see are full of blood, and sting me but little, and if you rid me of these which are already satiated, others more hungry will come in their place, and will drink up all the blood I have left.”

The moral of the story? Better to bear a lesser evil than to risk a greater in removing it. When asked which one he resembles the most, Wissam confidently replies, “I am a fox not a hedgehog.”

There is no denying that fashion is part of his DNA. For Wissam, it’s not about the labels and brands; it’s more about quality, fabric and comfort. He exudes a cool, confident swagger and is definitely comfortable in his own skin. Wissam puts it perfectly in three words, “state of mind”. He explains, “I was raised in London and I’d say that definitely played a huge part in my love, interest and passion for fashion and retail. I had my first job when I was 15 in a multi-brand fashion store on the Kings Road. I loved it. It was such an exciting time for fashion. Designers like Jean Paul Gaultier were blasting out into the scene, with energy and designs that were so unique. The experience remains with me and has led me to continue and be where I am today. I still think about those times, especially when I walk into one of my stores, I have this urge to start folding things!”

Working at the age of 15? One would presume he was born with a silver spoon but working hard for a living is something that he has always aspired to, something that has been ingrained within him from a young age. “Wealth is not about money,” he says. “Knowledge is wealth. I want to learn more, I want to gain more knowledge of the world

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“The journey continues to be rewarding and exciting. I would however say that the sense of fulfillment and the enjoyment I get from enriching other peoples’ lives is pretty high up there. Be it from the end user or a member of my team, you recognize how blessed you are to be able to give such a feeling.”

around me, of my passions, of how to elevate myself both intellectually and spiritually.”

As I quickly learn, Wissam is an artist in his own right but why retail? “Retail is really about touching the end user. It’s the satisfaction of being able to inspire others. I wanted people in the region to have an opportunity to express themselves in the way they dress. Our first store was about 22 years ago when we opened Kookai. It was still taboo for women to wear pants. I was buying pants and they weren’t moving. I kept on buying pants and they still weren’t moving but I knew that one day they would and they did. Women were wearing jeans under their abayas.” He goes on to say, “Being in this industry is another way of voicing yourself, a little like art. When I buy and put collections together, I’m allowing people to understand what I like and feel. It’s a subconscious way of expressing myself and at the same time giving this variety and opportunity to others through my expertise. It was a sense of responsibility to my fellow countrymen and the GCC really. Why travel thousands of miles away from home to shop? It didn’t make sense. I wanted to bring fashion here, to us.”

Almost 11 years later, Al Mana represents some of the biggest names in fashion and is the largest global distributor of Hermes. “The journey continues to be rewarding and exciting. I would however say that the sense of fulfillment and the enjoyment I get from enriching other peoples’ lives is pretty high up there. Be it from the end user or a member of my team, you recognize how blessed you are to be able to give such a feeling.”

Throughout his career, he has met and rubbed shoulders with numerous personalities in fashion, music and art but says he has deep respect and admiration for Giorgio Armani. “It’s his hands-on approach and I mean really hands-on approach,” says Wissam. “He can be seen in his stores, in his showrooms, always working, observing, being in touch with every aspect entailed in a business, be it good or bad, he is there. I have a lot of respect for his ability to create a fashion house, which penetrates every price point successfully without jeopardizing the Armani brand image and name.”

He adds, “I also have a lot of admiration and respect for Veronique Nichanian. I personally love her style. Her collections are timeless, I have pieces that I wear today and that I know I’ll be wearing in 20 years’ time, which is a true talent/achievement as a designer. Veronique has this ability to create such beautiful products that you truly want to keep forever, whether it be a cashmere sweatshirt, a white cotton shirt, they all take up full residency in your wardrobe! She is also a very nice and down to earth person, which is quite rare in this industry!”

“Rick Owens is such a great label and I personally love what he does. He features immensely in my wardrobe. My friend Giuseppe Zanotti makes amazing sneakers, they are just so old school.”

But it’s not just the big players that he champions, it’s also smaller, emerging fashion labels. “And then there is Yohji Yamamoto, the coolest looking designer in the world, whom I had the honor of meeting in Tokyo recently. What a kind and humble man, a true master in his own right. I have been wearing Yohji since a young age and will be wearing him when I am an old man! Timeless fashion with so much character.”

With the past few years being a very exciting time for menswear, I am curious to know his personal views. “Menswear is growing in the region,” he says. “The local population is dressing up, understanding and adopting trends. I feel that they’re grasping the concept of expressing themselves through fashion, more than ever before.”

But how does he reconcile the traditional aspects and demands of Middle Eastern attire with his appreciation of more contemporary, Western sartorial trends? “Culture and heritage – these two words define the uniqueness of this region. The respect and presence of our local attire as part of our everyday life is proof of that. No other country,

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region and culture remains as true to their local dress as we do. I myself, for example, I wear local attire when I’m in the Gulf and I do so with pride. This multi-faceted style is also very much a reflection of my cross-cultured background. We should also remember that style (bar the local dress) is very much in its infancy and so this scope for style evolution and enhancement is huge. That’s exciting.”

For those who really know Wissam, it will come as no surprise that hoodies are his most prized possession. “I love them! You could call it an obsession. I have short hair…” he laughs rubbing the side of his head, “And, well, my head gets cold! Hoodies keep me warm, and the rich fabrics give this warmth and sense of comfort. Especially when I travel.” And travel he does! By his own admission, he is very rarely in the same place for more than two weeks at a time. “Yes, it’s true I travel a lot. I often have pilots and crew saying that I must have more miles than they’ve flown! I’ve travelled to more than half the countries around the world and it’s great because I know I still have a whole half to discover. I love New York for its energy and at the same time I love the tranquility of being in the desert in Qatar. They both have such different energies but are just as fulfilling as each other in their own way.”

Wissam always set the bar high for himself and for the people who work with him. From a business standpoint, Al Mana aims to reach 500 stores in the next three years in retail alone and is currently in the process of developing malls and amazing entertainment experiences such as next generation cinemas. Having recently signed with HMV for the region, he says “I have a soft spot for music – film – technology and want to take this to another level here in the region. I love to push the boundaries of the retail experience. Offering the most amazing ice cream to the finest of jewelries, my eyes never cease to set… let’s see what comes up next!”

Business aside, I am more interested to know more about his personal aspirations. “Growing up I listened to all types of music, from reggae to rock and roll to jazz, hip-hop, the blues and today I make my own music. I love it, everything about it.” He’s not a vocal artist but rather a producer and mixes electronic sounds with old soundtracks and classical music samples that he sources from vinyl. “I would describe the music I create as experimental electronica. It doesn’t fit in one category. It varies from ambient to soulful and progressive. When I heard Watussi by Harmonia for the first time, I just couldn’t believe it was a track from 1974, they were way ahead of their time. I am fascinated by all things timeless including sound.” He admits that his works are mostly unfinished as he gets excited about the next project and moves on. “Another passion that I am also consciously involved in putting to practice is working on my art abilities. I see myself eventually creating an art collection that I can present to the world. This will

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“The essence of my life involves the fulfillment of my highest potential. It’s the relentless desire to use all my abilities to achieve and be everything that I possibly can”.

probably be during the latter stages of my life, when I have more time to spare.”

Wissam tells me that he is getting bored of fashion and the industry’s diktats but says that it has played an instrumental role in shaping who he is today. In addition to music and art, he has eyes set on architecture and is enjoying various remodeling and interior design works of his properties. He describes it as an evolution. “Architecture and design: what a beautiful way to communicate mood and style. Interior design is therapy for me, it allows me to step out of the world of commerce and create spaces that I truly want to live in and share.”

On a deeper level, Wissam is all about self-reflection and self-actualization – being all that he can be for himself and for others. “The essence of my life involves the fulfilment of my highest potential” he concludes, “It’s the relentless desire to use all my abilities to achieve and be everything that I possibly can”.

Lazarides Art Gallery Wissam Al Mana

LAZARIDES X AL MANA

The news of the Lazarides | Al Mana partnership announced on Tuesday 9th February 2016, was followed by celebrations at the Fitrovia gallery to commemorate ten years of exhibitions with a spectacular group show titled Still Here opening to the public on the 12th February. The evening welcomed guests from across the art spectrum as well friends of both Steve and Wissam to mark the auspicious occasion.

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In Lazarides’ own words, “We may be an odd couple, but we approach art from the same perspective and have a common goal for the future of the gallery.”

Investor, Wissam Al Mana is a prolific art collector, and strong supporter of the style and manner in which Lazarides has done business. His support prompts a paradigm shift in the gallery’s ambitions.

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Opening February 12th 2016 at 11 Rathbone Place, London, Still Here will feature new work by many of the gallery’s most sought-after artists including Jonathan Yeo, JR and Invader.

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The new partnership with Al Mana opens up a wealth of possibilities for a gallery that has never lacked zeal or vigor. Lazarides is ‘Still Here’ after ten years – now he and Wissam Al Mana intend the following decade to be even more significant.

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Hermes Wanderland Dubai

Wanderland Dubai

Thursday 22nd January 2016 welcomed a day and night of utter ‘Wanderland’ to Dubai.

The morning press launch hosted by Wissam Al Mana, Hermès Middle East Managing Director and Henri Louis Bauer, Hermès Chairman of the Board, welcomed journalists from across the region as well as China and Russia. In a spectacular and monumental location, The Dubai Fountain Lake, guests were given the opportunity to discover Wanderland – an exhibition to mark the french luxury house’s theme of the year ‘La Flânerie: the art of strolling and wandering.

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Dubai was chosen as the exceptional location as it successfully evokes and edifies the idea and inspiration of this exhibition. Elements are brought together to give the wanderer a sense of discovery and a continuous desire to peek through the next corner. The exhibition is a universe of Hermès in all its wonderful shapes and forms. With artifacts from the Emile Hermès collection, as well as hand-picked items chosen by the curator Bruno Gaudichon, which were then brought to life in a setting designed by scenographer Hubert Le Gall, the resounding sense of marvel was eponymous to the event.

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The evening was honored with the presence of His Royal Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Her Excellency Ms Laila Mohammed Suhail, CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment.

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Wanderland welcomed the public from the 23rd January 2016 until the 7th February 2016.

For more information visit: www.hermes.com/wanderland

Hermes Silk Ball Al Mana Dubai

Hermès Silk Ball

On Wednesday 3rd June, Wissam Al Mana hosted the Hermès Silk ball, a fantastical and exuberant celebration of Hermès Maison’s most colourful métier: Silk!

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Over 700 guests attended a myriad of eye catching and splendid displays of silk in the most imaginative of ways. From scarf readers to a ballerina in a silk theatre, the guests enjoyed music, entertainment and heritage at what has been described as ‘the GCC’s best event of the year’.

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Giorgio Armani 40th Anniversary

Giorgio Armani Celebrates

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Giorgio Armani celebrated 40 years of his life’s work at his headquarters in Milan last month. The event was a beautiful focus on consistency and grace highlighting past collections, the stark pioneering of the Armani Privé collections as well as the impact of how four decades have come together and embossed the fashion world.

Wissam Al Mana and his wife Janet Jackson were among the guests present to pay homage to Italy’s master of creation. Both very big fans of Armani’s work, the couple enjoyed an evening of deserved ovation for the esteemed designer.

The setting stood tall at what was also the opening of the Armani/Silos, a museum on Milan’s Via Bergognone 40, a stunning architectural marvel almost testament to the structural minimalism of Armani’s creations. The humility and ‘less is more’ statement synonymous with all things Armani was so elegantly apparent.