When I am on board Maìn I make sure that I forget all about work commitments. This helps me recharge my batteries and come back to Milan happy to start work again full of enthusiasm,” says Giorgio Armani.
A glance at his diary this summer reveals just how much recharging is needed. In the space of five weeks earlier this summer, he hosted a giant fashion spectacular in China, ‘One Night Only in Beijing’. Featuring a catwalk show that presented the world of Armani to 1,000 guests, it was an international display of brand power. Three weeks later he was presenting the new S/S13 menswear collections for his Mainline and Emporio brands to the international buyers and press in Milan, and the following week he was in Paris showcasing his exclusive Giorgio Armani Privé line to the likes of Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale and Avatar’s Zoe Saldana at the haute couture collections.
Armani masterminds a slickly organised empire (in 2011 the group’s total turnover reached €6.731 billion at retail value), but that doesn’t alleviate the pressure of constantly having to promote his vision to his global clientele. Understandably, at 78, Armani seeks refuge each summer away from the critical eye of the fashion world somewhere in the Mediterranean, and for that he uses his 65-metre Codecasa Maìn.
Although he has houses around the world, Maìn is his biggest indulgence by far. It is all down to his love of the sea. “Ever since I went to the beach resorts for the first time when I was four or five years old I have loved the water,” he says. “I still remember how the feeling of the smooth, cool sand under my feet filled me with joy as evening came. I have loved the sea ever since, and I still love and respect it greatly.”
The Mediterranean remains his favourite cruising ground. He calls it ‘Mare Nostrum’. “It’s a safe sea, it’s our sea,” he says. “After all, we live on the Mediterranean shores, and it’s a sea that allows you to go to uncontaminated places such as the Aeolian Islands.” Where would he like to explore? “Many places, such as the Azores, and along the coast of Africa, but my holidays are never long enough.” In the winter, however he does take Maìn to the Caribbean. “Maìn is my private refuge,” he says. Although he hosted a soirée for 100 guests during the Cannes film festival a couple of years ago, he admits that he doesn’t enjoy big, crowded parties on board. “But I do like spending time with well-chosen friends and guests with whom I have a lot in common,” he adds.
Slicing through the waves, with its tapering bow stretching forward over the water, angular lines and unusual dark-green colour, Armani’s yacht has the imposing profile of a lean-and-mean war machine rather than a plump and jolly pleasure cruiser. Yet it is the perfect expression of the designer’s rigorous eye and highly tuned aesthetic. He designed the whole yacht, from the hull to the interiors, which took 30 months to build at the Codecasa shipyard and was delivered in June 2008. Having spent the past 37 years living to work, he feels he can rationalise this indulgence now.
He explains that he wanted a bold, compact image for the boat, “not weighed down by that dazzling white enamel that can be seen from far away, making you exclaim, ‘There’s so-and-so’s boat’”. Exhibitionism is not his style, and Maìn is much more subtle. Dressing the yacht in green he saw as a way of camouflaging it. His fashion designer’s eye for colour observed how the sea “is rarely what we call sea-blue; it is most often green or dark blue or turquoise. Green camouflages the boat with the sea, so that it does not stand out too much”.
Maìn is Armani’s second yacht. His first, Mariù, was also built by Codecasa and launched in 2003. “‘Maìn’ was my mother’s affectionate nickname when she was little. ‘Mariù’, also in the dialect of Piacenza, was her nickname as a young woman. I always like to remind myself that I come from a simple family, from the petite bourgeoisie, where the greatest luxury was owning a Lambretta, and cars did not come along until much later. Recalling my mother’s name meant maintaining my ties with the world I used to love,” he says.
Charcoal grey and a little smaller, at 50 metres, Mariù featured interiors created by Armani. The feeling was elegant, drawing on his own taste as well as on the experience of launching his Armani/Casa three years earlier in 2000. Having previously chartered yachts for holidays, he had some idea of what to expect of a modern yacht, though it didn’t always please his discerning eye. “I saw too much white, too much lighting, too much marble, crystal and mahogany,” he says. “It felt as if they were hotel suites on the sea. I wanted to limit the excess, so I could really experience living the ‘sea’ without being distracted.”
Fittingly, Maìn is designed to his exacting standards. He made some changes to the specification during the construction. “This was because I wanted function to find a new response in form. And so I attempted to free the decks of all the superstructures you normally see on them, such as tenders and other technical parts, which might break up the purity of line,” he says. In the overall design he looked at certain military vessels that looked practical, and at the way space was optimised on older ships. The tenders and toys are tucked away in a garage beneath an imaginatively designed grand teak staircase at the stern that descends right down to the water as though connecting the yacht with the surrounding elements of sun, sea and air.
The stealth boat appearance is enhanced by the sweeping angular lines of the exterior, framing enormous louvre-slatted windows that filter the light in. Looking like Venetian blinds and made of birch wood, when closed they seal off the interior and provide the sort of privacy that is indispensable on board a yacht. “I designed them to stop the strong sunlight reflecting off the sea from entering the interior violently.
I wanted to give the interiors a toned-down appearance,” he says. One effect is that Maìn looks as though it has no walls. “You can see the inside of the yacht from the outside, and you can see the entire view from the inside,” says Armani.
The generous windows enhance the spacious interior, which is dressed in Armani’s favourite suit shades of grey and beige, set off with light birch wood floors and dark green lacquered walls that match the hull. “I definitely aimed for comfort, arranging spaces that leave plenty of visual freedom, so that one never feels closed in a box with low ceilings,” he says. The cool interiors feel casual and unpretentious. Working with his design team at Armani/Casa, Mr Armani explains how he has put in everything that he considers important at sea and also makes it feel like home. “I designed not only the sunbed and the dining area, but the part where people really live, the most private parts of the boat,” he says.
The living area extends over almost the entire surface of the main deck and includes two separate areas with different levels of formality, one with custom-made sofas and a coffee table, the other with oversized cushions around a low-level table. It illustrates Armani’s eye for space, balance and harmony. The area is enriched by a central birch table with soft cushions in place of chairs. Almost all the pieces on Maìn are made to measure or variations on pieces in the Armani/Casa collection, such as the chairs covered with green leather, and the sofa across from them with its green lacquered base.
So closely interrelated are his personal and professional life that Armani is taking inspiration from his own design solutions on Maìn, and the lighting and Japanese touches seen on board may turn up in future Armani/Casa collections. The yacht has six spacious guest cabins, plus hot-tub, indoor gym, cinema screen and a giant sundeck. This veranda with dining area is the part of Maìn he likes best, and comes from an idea that worked on Mariù. His other favourite area is his own cabin, which has panelling in precious materials and an antique Japanese cabinet.
Not surprisingly, the organisation of the yacht is calibrated with the precision of a Swiss watch. “I really like cruising, with the crew moving around in a certain way at certain times,” says Armani. “There is a rhythm of work that starts in the morning and ends in the evening, which gives me a sense of continuity, and certainty means few surprises. I don’t like surprises. This is why I have marked out specific routes on board for the cabin crew, who need to organise the yacht’s operations without interfering with the guests’ lives. All I ask of my guests is that they make themselves at home, but with respect.”
It’s a routine that works; he describes every day on board as “perfect”. “Owning this yacht has brought me the greatest pleasure. It’s the certainty of serenity, a taste for the rhythms of the sea, which is at one with our most profound inner nature.”
Words: Francesca Fearon