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Fashion designer Giorgio Armani donated $1 million to New York City public schools this week. The money will fund the Armani Arts Institute, supporting art education in the city’s disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The donation is a new initiative under the Fund for Public Schools, an organization that has raised more than $240 million since 2003. Armani’s gift is the single largest retail donation to the fund.

Armani announced the gift during the opening of his new flagship Armani/5th Avenue store, coinciding with New York City’s Fashion Week. Speaking in Italian, he described his donation as “an investment in the future generations of New York City. . . we are giving young kids a chance to dream.”

Caroline Kennedy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Joel I. Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, lauded Armani’s investment in the city during challenging economic times. The fashion designer said, “An entrepreneur shows his true colors in a period of crisis, not in a period when everybody is having success.” Kennedy, vice-chair of the Fund, commented that Armani’s gift was one of the “largest personal donations” to the fund.

Armani and Kennedy traveled to the Bronx visit one of the recipient schools.

Armani explained that because of the economic climate, he toned down the opening of his store, substituting the school donation in place of a fashion show or dinner. But his new 43,000-square-feet glass-cube emporium is hardly drab. Four stories of luxury Armani items, from shoes to chocolate, are connected by a curved staircase lined in white plastic.

Everybody in NYC at Store Opening

During the opening party, editors for top fashion magazines such as Vogue, Town& Country, InStyle Group and Elle jockeyed to get a word with the 74-year-old fashion billionaire. As described by Joanna Coles, editor of Marie Claire, “Clearly, everyone in New York is here.”

Customers of Mr. Armani also turned out for the event, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Alicia Keys, Ricky Martin, Liam Neeson, Josh Hartnett, Solange Knowles, Chase Crawford, John Mayer and Natalia Vodianova.

Victoria Beckham, a sometimes model for Armani underwear, was in town for NYC’s Fashion Week to introduce her Victoria Beckham Dress Collection. About her former boss she said, “I have so much respect for Mr. Armani—you know, I can dream.”

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