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

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes