Giorgio Armani: I fear for a world where the innocence of childhood is eroded by war and poverty

Share

My friend Martin Scorsese once made a film of Edith Wharton's great novel The Age of Innocence. As I sit here writing this letter, it is that phrase which keeps coming back to me, like an echo.

I make no claim to be an expert on world affairs, and I am entirely aware that, as a fashion designer, I am involved in an industry which many consider - quite rightly - to be essentially ephemeral in the impact it has on most people's lives.

I write this, therefore, as an ordinary man. And, like many ordinary men, I observe the world around me and some of what I see saddens me.

In particular, I see a place where the innocence of childhood is being eroded by hardship and sickness, by fear and danger and poverty. What I take from this is that we are witnessing the end of the "Age of Innocence". It may surprise you to know that I can relate to this phenomenon in a very personal way.

Though I now live a very comfortable life, it was not always so. As I child, I grew up in war-torn Italy. I used to play in the streets with my friends - children have an incredible capacity to enjoy themselves despite the most dire circumstances, it's one of the characteristics of childish innocence.

One day we were playing with an unexploded shell, when it detonated, killing my friend and burning me from head to toe. I briefly lost my sight and had to be kept in a vat of alcohol to soothe my skin. I still have the scar on my ankle where the buckle of my sandal was burnt into my skin.

To this day, that event has affected me profoundly, and, when the war was over, I had to watch my mother foraging for food and see my father thrown into prison, along with all the Italian men who had worked for the state. I had my childhood taken from me by the Second World War, and so I can empathise with the kids I see in the papers or on the television who are also losing that special piece of their lives.

For it seems to me that today too many children are growing up in situations where the innocence and naivety of childhood that is rightly theirs is snatched away too early through war, famine, poverty or disease. Every day we see images of children who have suffered this fate in Iraq, in Lebanon, in New Orleans, in Sudan - the list goes on. There are so many conflicts going on in the world, so many countries defined as being in poverty, so many children living with Aids, inherited at birth, so many others living with unclean water, or without enough to eat, so many orphans, abandoned to a cruel fate.

For all of these children there has been no age of innocence nor will there be. So when Bono and Bobby Shriver told me about their plans for the RED brand, I signed up straight away.

What a brilliant idea - sell people products they want and give a percentage of the revenues to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. In this way, maybe we can make a difference to the lives of some of those unfortunate children.

Surely if there is one thing we should all be able to agree upon, whatever our faith or race, it seems to me we have an obligation to protect the age of innocence for the world's children, today, and for all our tomorrows.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A study of 16 young women performing light office work showed that they were at risk of being over-chilled by air conditioning in summer  

It's not just air conditioning that's guilty of camouflage sexism

Mollie Goodfellow
 

Ted Heath: If a PM can be an alleged child abuser, who's left in a position of power to trust?

Jane Merrick
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen