Giorgio Armani, King of Milan Nightlife
Giorgio Armani has a side gig: moonlighting as a nightclub impresario.
At 82, the designer has become an unlikely hero to a new crowd in Milan, credited with rejuvenating the city’s fashionable night life with a private club called Giorgio’s.
Each Thursday, the Armani/Privé club in the designer’s compound turns into a members-only spot, with a dedicated entrance, intimate ambience and mix of international D.J.’s and live music. With performers like Róisín Murphy, Mia Moretti, the Atlantics and the Gypsy Queens, Giorgio’s has been tilting the city’s social axis since it opened in November.
“There hasn’t been anything in Milan since the 1980s that has created the same buzz,” said Alan Prada, deputy editor of the magazine L’Uomo Vogue and a member of Giorgio’s.
If elegance is refusal, as Coco Chanel used to say, Giorgio’s takes the mantra to new heights. A committee that includes Roberta Armani, Mr. Armani’s niece, and Michele Tacchella, luxury and fashion director at Armani, has issued membership invitations to about 600 people, including friends of the luxury Italian house, architects, chefs, entrepreneurs and gallery owners.
But according to a staff member, the designer himself has the final say over who should receive a golden membership card (encased in a leather box with a handwritten letter). Some cards flaunted on Instagram went to Enrica Ponzellini, editor in chief of Vogue Bambini and Vogue Sposa; Gianluca Cantaro, editor of L’Officiel Italia and L’Officiel Hommes Italia; and Eleonora Pratelli, a publicist. During the men’s wear shows in January, the singer Joe Jonas and the actors Richard Madden and Edward Holcroft came by.
Get past the discreet entrance below the Italian designer’s compound on the Via Manzoni, and you will spot the club’s red neon logo — which looks a lot like the title typography for “American Gigolo,” the 1980 movie that featured Giorgio Armani’s clothing.
Inside, the sight of the Milanese, a generally reserved lot, whooping it up on the dance floor on a weeknight is as unexpected as the designer’s liberalization of men’s tailoring was in the ‘80s.
“The Milanese are pretty Calvinist,” Mr. Prada said. “ They’re reluctant to appear like they’re actually having fun.”
The city is known as a place of work, with residents usually going to the country on weekends. But he added, “It’s becoming less about letting one’s hair down in St. Moritz or Portofino and more about Milan.”
The décor includes buttery leather upholstery, flattering lighting, a sprinkle of Asian inspiration. The main dance space, in a corner, has a small stage. For those who don’t want to dance, there are backlit areas furnished with leather armchairs and low tables.
Mr. Armani’s notorious obsession with perfection is evident even here: Dissatisfied with the club’s acoustics, he shut the place for renovations for a couple of weeks in January.
For for the most part, the music is uncomplicated — though the D.J. Graziano della Nebbia said it was an educational process to persuade guests to arrive on time for the live gigs, which kick off around 11 p.m. (The consensus is that the Italians consider it uncool to arrive before midnight.) One imagines Mr. Armani may soon recalibrate Milanese night life, especially because André Saraiva, the artist and entrepreneur who ran the nightclub Le Baron in Paris, will be directing a special lineup at Giorgio’s for fashion week.
For the most part, the clientele is heavy on the fashion industry. The designer Marta Ferri, a member, described the spot as halfway between a nightclub and a late-night cocktail bar, with one of its main attractions being “you’re always going to find someone you know.” And Viviana Volpicella, a stylist, said one of its merits is its central location, which entices hard-working creative people out on a weeknight.
But in an era when many night spots are soliciting social media “likes,” Giorgio’s asks members to refrain from posting, and for the most part, there were no glowing smartphones in sight on a February evening.
What should a member wear? “Something that doesn’t say you’ve dressed for the night,” Mr. Armani said. But aside from spotting the odd bit of tweed and a sweater (Loro Piana) tied around a waist, the guiding fashion mandate that evening appeared to be well-considered party wear on lithe bodies.
Perhaps in homage to the designer, some female guests worked slouchy soft-shouldered blazers, curiously crowding the small stage where the Atlantics were performing. As the musicians jumped off the stage, the flirting and flouncing stepped up a notch — although there was nothing outrageous about the scene. Compared with the usual run-of-the-mill nightclubs, Ms. Volpicella said, Giorgio’s appeals because “nobody appears sweaty.”