How did you first get into fashion design? Haisam Younes SARASOTA, FLA.
It happened accidentally. I was doing my military service and I had 20 days off on vacation in Milan. A friend said, "Do you want to work for two weeks for a photographer in a department store?" and I said yes. I started assisting the photographer, designing the windows and things. Soon after that they asked me to oversee the fashion. And I thought, Why not? It was creative work. It involved teamwork. After a few years I realized that this was really what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
As a fashion designer, do you ever think that people worry too much about their appearance? Alyssa Goodman KING OF PRUSSIA, PA.
I should say, "We are never concerned enough with our appearance!" But it has become so important, how we look to others. Sometimes it is too much. We can be fine in life without the latest Armani dress. We can be happy just seeing a film with friends. But this is the trend now, to worry about our appearance.
Does the Armani brand suffer a lot of damage because of counterfeit products? David Remenyik, BUDAPEST
Personally, I think counterfeit products are good because their existence shows that we create something people want to copy. Professionally, it causes big problems because it creates products with your name on them that are not controlled by you.
What is the worst fashion statement you have seen to date? Sarosh Shaheen, OTTAWA
The most negative trend is that we designers forget that a dress or suit is not necessarily going to be worn by a professional model who is 6 ft. [183 cm] tall. We often forget that fashion should be designed for real people who live real lives.
What new green fabrics or products are inspiring your fashion? Marilou Petlowany KYLE, TEXAS
I did an ecological collection a few years ago. Some ecological fabrics don't do much for the woman or man who wears them. But we have to think of the world we live in, so we have to think about using these fabrics more.
How would you have dressed First Lady Michelle Obama for the Inauguration? Madea Metcalf NEW YORK CITY
It's important that she doesn't overdress because she has a very strong presence. She should make herself seen, of course, but hide herself a little too.
What do you still wish to accomplish in your lifetime? Elizabeth Chapman PRINCETON, N.J.
Get back my personal freedom! I have done so many things in my work to satisfy the public. This kind of commitment means I have lost my private life. Would I like to make a film someday, or travel more or write a book? Sure. But my work in fashion has kept me from doing these things. That is my only regret.
Are you planning on appointing an heir to take over your responsibilities upon retirement? Luca Zanzi, ALLSTON, MASS.
I don't think so. I am going to continue to teach the people who work for me as a team. That's how we work now; someone creates the jackets, someone else creates the jewelry. It should be the house and the brand that matters.
What advice would you give to aspiring young designers in the current economic climate? Ahmad Aboushagor BATH, ENGLAND
If you want to be known as a designer in your own right, do something to make a mark, then work every day at it and create your style. In this economy it is very difficult though.
You recently accused Dolce & Gabbana of copying one of your designs. Do you plan to pursue this claim in court? Alice Goodman, SYDNEY
No. This happened at the end of a small press conference. One of my colleagues brought me a photo of this pair of pants. I said, very nonchalantly, "Look--great designers like Dolce & Gabbana copy us!" I was joking, it was not serious, but naturally the press picked up on it and splashed it all over the headlines.