The very name has come to signify impeccable taste from the red carpets of the Academy Awards to corporate boardrooms worldwide. Starlets smile and coo to television audiences, "Of course, it's an Armani". A throwaway line in the movie-French Kiss-"He's Euro-trash in an Armani suit"-becomes a catch phrase for the trendy. Celebrities from Richard Gere to Gwyneth Paltrow to Donald Trump to Warren Buffett have closets dedicated to the man. Even the Guggenheim Museum in New York recognized Armani with a retrospective exhibition.
For fashion czar Giorgio Armani, it turns out, a yacht is just as essential to business as-well-a perfectly cut gray suit. Armani uses his yachts to entertain clients, to enhance his visibility at events such as the Cannes Film Festival, to gather his managers for secluded planning sessions and, of course, as a private getaway from the pressures of his far-flung empire.
So when Giorgio Armani designs a new yacht, it has the same ripple effect throughout the nautical world that the near-white colors of his new summer collections had on the fashion runways this year. For an alleged minimalist, he casts a long shadow.
For those who have been on a desert island for the past thirty years, Giorgio Armani is both the company and the man. Having just celebrated his 70th birthday, Giorgio Armani and his company are at the top of their game. Three decades ago, Armani and a partner launched their business with an investment of $10,000. Today-tanned, fit, and looking far younger than his years-Armani is worth an estimated $2.2 billion, which puts him 247th on the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest people.
But even those numbers are a guesstimate, because Armani is the sole shareholder (his partner died of AIDS in 1985) for a burgeoning empire that now reaches into eclectic categories ranging from cosmetics to jewelry, furniture and housewares to sunglasses. He's even reported to be considering an Armani line of hotels.
When choosing a yacht, interestingly enough, Armani bypassed the full custom route and, instead, selected a semi-production 163-footer from the Codecasa yard in Viareggio, Italy. A proven design with several sisterships, these 50-meter yachts have steel hulls, aluminum superstructures, and an interior flexibility that allows Armani to place his imprimatur on the finished product.
And that is exactly what he did. As a styling exercise, Mariú (named for his mother) is a radical departure from the norm, and yet it fits Giorgio Armani's needs and tastes perfectly.
Outside, the yacht is striking for its color scheme, which Armani aficionados will immediately recognize as his trademark "greige, a dark, anthracite gray with just a trace of beige for softening. The superstructure, on the other hand, seems white until you look closely, when it shows the glow of mother-of-pearl.
Inside, the yacht immediately bids adieu to traditional interior design. Some will love it for its minimalism, others will see it as a rude finger down the throat of classic elegance afloat. Mariú polarizes everyone who views her, and no one is neutral about her style.
As a starting point, Armani threw out luxury mainstays such as marble and crystal. In their place, he used teak and titanium.
Teak, you ask? What's untraditional about teak? Well, Armani not only planked the exterior decks of Mariú with teak, he also used that material for flooring the entire interior from the saloon to the master suite to the guest staterooms.
To Armani, the expansive use of teak adds to the tactile sense on board. Step out of bed in the morning aboard Mariú, and your bare feet will feel the satiny smoothness of flawlessly burnished planking. This makes the yacht feel casual instead of affected, and it also creates a feeling of freedom with long seamed planks stretching into the distance. The only area where Armani relented was in the veranda on the aft deck, where a coarse area carpet defines the sitting area.
Almost all of the loose furnishings aboard Mariú are, surprise-surprise, from the Armani Casa furniture line, including black leather box chairs and squarish-beige couches in the saloon, rounded creamy leather chairs with leather-covered end tables on the veranda, and black-lacquered tables throughout.
Continuing in the face of yachting tradition, Armani chose titanium for walls and overheads rather than the usual exotic woods. Brushed titanium finishes add a texture to the walls while overhead panels are a satiny titanium that reflects a cool glow from the large windows. Stairs between decks use brushed steel frames for both strength and accents, and even the support beams are titanium-toned.
Like the décor, the layout is uniquely Armani. The master suite fills the forward main deck with an almost Zen-like simplicity and, for guests who are lost, is differentiated with a large "1 on the door. The bed sits atop an oak base facing a black étagère and cabinet in a space that even a monk would find sparse. Wood blinds cover the windows, and a pair of canvas-covered ottomans are next to golden support beams; there is not a picture in sight. In fact, you'll notice as you look at the photos of Mariú that there is no artwork at all: the yacht is its own work of art and your focus is directed at colors, textures and lines. (In other words, you notice the clothes, not the model.)
One change from the usual is the addition of a guest stateroom next to the master suite with its own entrance aft, but the remaining four guest staterooms are on the lower deck, with a pair of matching queen-sized cabins and another pair with twin beds, all en suite.
The saloon stretches aft and, in one continuous flow of teak, morphs into the veranda. Taking an area often dedicated to tender storage and/or line handling, Armani had it enclosed with glass to create an all-weather conservatory for casual entertaining or for enjoying the passing parade when Med-moored. (The tenders are in a transom garage and on the foredeck.)
The upper deck includes the pilothouse (with attached captain's cabin) and the skylounge, which draws on Casa Armani for chairs and couches. The top-level sundeck is just that, a guests-only expanse protected by cantilevered shades and populated with teak Casa Armani lounges and tables.
If you can tear yourself away from the styling long enough, you'll find that Mariú is powered by twin 2200-hp Cats which give her a top speed over 17 knots and a cruising speed of 14. Perhaps suggesting future travel plans, she has a transoceanic range of 4,600 nautical miles-you may see her anchored off the Hamptons one day.
In fact, the futures of Giorgio Armani (the man) and Giorgio Armani (the company) remain in question. Both Louis Vuitton and Gucci have made buy-out offers that Armani declined but, at 70, he must be considering how long and how hard he continues to work. Armani has no heir apparent for his throne, although his sister is involved with the company and his nieces are said to be favored as his successor.
Still, with a sumptuous villa on the island of Pantelleria off Sicily and now a yacht that reflects his sense of style, Giorgio Armani faces only good choices.
One thing is for sure, however. Mariú may not suit everyone (pun intended), but Giorgio Armani has made his mark on the yachting world-just as surely as he has on fashion.
Contact: Cantieri Navali Ugo Codecasa, +39 0584-383221; www.codecasayachts.com.