July 11, 1934– Giorgio Armani:
“I use my creativity to help people live my style – a simple, elegant style. Fashions purpose is to make it easier and more elegant to live. Otherwise, what is it about? It’s just a game. Worth nothing.”
I’m a jeans and work shirt sort of guy. But, I always thought that if I were to have had any success in showbiz, I would have liked to have been dressed in Armani for those red-carpet moments. I dig the simplicity and elegance.
Italian designer Giorgio Armani’s name is synonymous with sophistication and luxe style. In addition to clothing, his spectacularly successful business empire includes lines of jewelry, cosmetics, fragrances, eyewear, and even hotels. And, I mean spectacular; he now oversees 11 Armani lines and has a net worth of more than ten billion dollars.
The young Armani drowned out the sound of Allied bombing in Northern Italy by going to the movies, and it was his clothing for Richard Gere in the film American Gigolo (1980) that had most people taking notice of him. At least I had never heard of him until then.
Born into a humble family, Armani attended the local public school and developed a deep love for the theatre and film. To please his family he studied to be a doctor, but in 1957, he took a job at the Milan department store La Rinascente. He worked briefly as an assistant photographer, before accepting a promotion to its style office, where he was a buyer, importing products from India, Japan, and the USA.
In 1964, without any formal training, Armani designed a line of men’s wear for Nino Cerruti. In 1970, Armani was encouraged by his lover/partner, architect Sergio Galeotti, to become a freelance fashion designer. Galeotti, 11 years younger than Armani, moved to Milan to be with him.
In 1975, the couple founded Giorgio Armani S.p.A. with an initial small investment, part of it provided by the sale of their VW Bug. Armani immediately introduced an innovation that has become a signature of his work, the “unconstructed” suit jacket, which he offered in both men’s and women’s collections. Armani removed the lining and padding that had previously been standard in suit jackets and created a garment in soft fabric. The fluid lines created a look that was at once smart and sensual, flattering to both sexes.
In 1974, Armani presented, to great acclaim, bomber jackets that treated leather as an everyday fabric. This penchant for using materials in unexpected contexts and combinations came to be known as the defining characteristic of his style.
In the 1980s, the Armani “power suit” for men and women came to represent an era of international economic boom. In 1982, Armani became the first fashion designer to appear on the cover of Time Magazine since Christian Dior in the 1940s. He was one of the first designers to approach celebrities to wear his designs, beginning with LA Lakers coach, Pat Riley, in 1988.
Armani is a lifelong film fan, and Hollywood returned the affection. Armani has designed costumes for more than one hundred films, including the impressive men’s suits for Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) and the gorgeous period clothing for otherwise dreadful De-Lovely (2004), a messy screen biography of gay composer Cole Porter. Critics praised the costumes as the perfect reflection of the taste of the sophisticated set in the 1920s and 1930s, but also as timelessly classic in design. Armani also enticed Hollywood stars to wear his designs at the Academy Awards, becoming the de facto designer for Michelle Pfeiffer, Richard Gere, and Jodie Foster. He has also designed theatre costumes, dressed Italian and British soccer teams and Alitalia airline flight attendants. Chris Pine is the current face for Armani Code Profumo; I’d like to get a whiff of that.
The Armani look is unmistakable, refined and elegant, yet, at the same time, suitable to everyday life. Inspired by the black and white movies he loved as a youth, and the American fashions of the 1920s and 1930s, his clothing features clean cuts and shades of cold colors: beige, gray and greige, his own shade somewhere between gray and sand, and especially the Armani-Blue. Another inspiration for Armani has always been the Arabic and Asian culture: evident in mandarin collars and djellaba coats. Even the Armani Home collection is made with prints inspired by Islamic architecture, and Ming and Qing porcelain.
In 1985, Armani suffered a profound personal and professional loss: Galeotti died of HIV complications at just 40-years-old.
An intensely private person, Armani generally reveals little about his personal life, but did state: “Sergio helped me believe in my own work, in my energy. It is he who gives me the strength even now to continue, he is always there in the home that we shared.”
He has acknowledged that he considered retirement after Galeotti’s death but decided instead to persevere rather than abandoning “all the hopes of Sergio“.
In 2015, Armani told an interviewer:
“A homosexual man is a man 100 per cent. He does not need to dress homosexual. When homosexuality is exhibited to the extreme, to say: ‘Ah, you know I’m homosexual,’ that has nothing to do with me. A man has to be a man.”
His remarks went down badly with many gay guys.
Armani also said that he never liked the super-muscular male bodies either.
“I don’t like muscle boy. Not too much gym! I like somebody healthy, somebody solid, who looks after his body but doesn’t use his muscles too much.”
With five decades in the business, Armani has enjoyed a lengthy career as a designer. He ranks with fashion greats like Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. Armani turns 84-years-old today and he continues to work and he still stands as one of fashion’s most distinguished designers. He seems almost presidential.