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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

Caught in the web of legal imperialism

The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
Bruce Robinson: Creator of Withnail and I on his new book about Jack the Ripper

'Jack the Ripper has accrued a heroic aura. But I'm going after the bastard'

The deaths of London prostitutes are commonly pinned on a toff in a top hat. But Bruce Robinson, creator of Withnail and I, has a new theory about the killer's identity
Fifa presidential election: What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards