Born: Piacenza, Italy, 11 July 1934. Education: Studied medicine, University of Bologna, 1952-53; also studied photography. Military Service: Served in the Italian Army, 1953-54. Family: Life partner, Sergio Galeotti (died 1985). Career: Window display designer, La Rinascente department stores, 1954; stylist, menswear buyer, La Rinascente stores, 1954-60; menswear designer, Nino Cerruti, 1960-70; freelance designer, 1970-75; first Armani menswear collection, 1974; introduced womenswear, 1975; launched Emporio Armani and Armani Jeans, 1981; Mani womenswear debuted, mid-1980s; Giorgio Armani Occhiali and Giorgio Armani Calze, 1987; sportswear range and Emporio Armani shops selling younger collection opened in London, 1989; Giorgio Armani USA formed, 1980; bought Antinea, 1990; AX, Armani Exchange, boutiques with lesser-priced basics opened in the U.S., 1991; acquired majority stake in Simint, 1996; bought Intai accessories producer, 1998; forged alliance with Ermenegildo Zegna, 2000; launched website, 2000; opened new Hong Kong and SoHo stores, 2001; fragrances include Armani le Parfum, 1982, Armani Eau pour Homme, 1984, and Gio, 1992; Acqua di Gio, 1995; Emporio Armani (his and hers), 1997; Mania, 2000. Exhibitions: Intimate Architecture: Contemporary Clothing Design, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 1982; Giorgio Armani: Images of Man, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1990-91, traveled to Tokyo, Paris, London; retrospective Armani: 1972-92, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, 1992; Giorgio Armani, 25-year retrospective, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2000. Awards: Neiman Marcus award, 1979; Cutty Sark award, 1980, 1981, 1984; Gentlemen's Quarterly Manstyle award, 1982; Grand'Ufficiale dell'Ordine al Merito award, Italy, 1982; Gold Medal from Municipality of Piacenza, 1983; CFDA International Designer award, 1983, 1987; L'Occhio d'Oro award, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1994; Cutty Sark Men's Fashion award, 1985; Bath Museum of Costume Dress of the Year award, 1986; named Gran Cavaliere della Repubblica, Italy, 1987; Lifetime Achievement award, 1987; Christobal Balenciaga award, 1988; Media Key award, 1988; Woolmark award, 1989, 1992; Senken award, 1989; honorary doctorate, Royal College of Art, 1991; Fiorino d'Oro award, Florence, 1992; Golden Effie award, 1993; Aguja de Oro award, Spain, 1993; Academia del Profumo Award, Italy, 1993. Address: Via Borgonuovo 21, 20121 Milan, Italy. Website: www.giorgioarmani.com.
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Giorgio Armani is a design colonialist responsible for the creation of an aesthetic in both menswear and womenswear that had a firm grip on international style in the 1980s. Renowned for his use of fabric and expertise in tailoring, he is a world leader in menswear design responsible for the wide-shouldered look for executive women. His pared-down unstructured silhouette moved away from the standard tailored look epitomizing menswear since the 19th century; by eliminating interfaces, linings, and shoulder pads, Armani restructured the jacket, creating a softly tailored look.
Although Armani produces entire ranges of these functional, adaptable, flexible items of clothing that seem almost throwaway in their simplicity, they are, in fact, luxurious designs made of high-quality cloth. His clothes, however, although expensive, have their own understated glamour and could never be described as ostentatious. Neither trend nor tradition, the Armani style draws a fine line between the two. Eschewing change for its own sake, he believes in quality rather than invention. His collections are redefinitions of a soft, unstructured style, playing with layers of texture and color but constantly renegotiating proportions. Elegant and understated, they have a timeless quality, a classicism often emphasized in nostalgic advertising campaigns by Italian photographer Aldo Fallai.
Born in Piacenza, Italy, in 1934, Armani's first taste of the fashion industry was with La Rinascente, a large Italian department store chain where in 1954 he worked on the window displays. He then transferred to the Office of Fashion and Style where he had an invaluable training in the use of fabrics and the importance of customer profiling and targeting. After seven years he left to design menswear for Nino Cerruti, and for a month worked in one of the firm's textile factories where he learned to appreciate fabric, the skills that went into its production, and the techniques of industrial tailoring.
In 1974 Armani launched his own label, which was to become incredibly successful—the biggest-selling line of European design in America. His first designs revolved around the refining of the male jacket, which he believed to be the most important invention in the history of dress, being both versatile and functional and suited to all social occasions. His idea was to instil the relaxation of sports clothing into its tailored lines. He later applied similar notions to womenswear, evolving a new manner of dress for women. He further developed a style for working women with an understated, almost androgynous chic.
In these years, Armani designs were very expensive, being made out of the most luxurious materials such as alpaca, cashmere, and suede. To expand his customer base and meet the increasing demands of a fashion conscious public for clothes with a designer label, he produced a cheaper womenswear range entitled Mani, made out of synthetics so advanced they could not be copied, together with the popular Emporio Armani range of sportswear. For men he produced definitive navy blazers, crumpled linen jackets, and leather separates, which he introduced in 1980, and oversized overcoats and raincoats. Impeccably tailored, with faltering cut, easy lines, and subtle textures, patterns, and colors, he introduced twists such as lowslung button placement on double-breasted suits for men and experimental blends of fabrics such as viscose with wool or linen with silk.
Like his contemporaries in the industry, Armani diversified into jeans, undergarments, neckwear, golf apparel, accessories, fragrances, and more recently, cosmetics. With more than a dozen clothing lines, the quality has not diminished, merely attracted a wider clientéle which in turn attracted the notice of luxury conglomerates LVMH and Gucci Group. Both approached Armani with acquisitive offers, but he refused. "Of course, I was flattered," he told Richard Heller of Forbes (12 November 2001), "But I decided to keep my independence." He is, indeed, one of a disappearing breed, without stockholders or backers to answer to—rather, he has increasingly bought his licensees and brought most Armani brand in-house.
If ever there was a doubt about how the world felt about Armani and his contributions to fashion, they were completley dispelled in November 2000 when the Guggenheim Museum threw a lavish gala to mark the opening of its Giorgio Armani retrospective in New York. Covering 25 years of Armani creativity and featuring 400 garments, the exhibition attracted a glittering crowd including Hollywood celebrities, athletes, and musicians. Giorgio Armani, now and forever, represents the finest in elegant, sophisticated style.
updated by NellyRhodes
Characteristically clad in jeans, a white shirt opened at the neck, and a navy cotton pullover, Giorgio Armani (born 1935) designs new fashions in his 16th-century palazzo in Milan. He is a recipient of the coveted Neiman Marcus Award, and has built an international reputation—as well as a fortune—on his revolutionary, unstructured jacket for men.
In April of 1982 Time magazine featured Giorgio Armani on its cover. Armani's first radically different blazer appeared in the fashion world under his own label between 1974 and 1975. His sartorial style exhibited a decidedly relaxed, even rumpled look. The designer softened these new jackets by pulling out the padding and lining and leaving out stiffeners of any kind. He combined thinner lapels with baggier pockets and longer jackets. "Armani's unstructured look makes even his English wool suits feel as comfortable as silk pajamas," observed a writer for People magazine. And in Esquire, Rita Hamilton credited Armani's suit jackets with "the kind of shape that defied the proper Italian establishmentarian look and mirrored the defiant, angry mood of political and social unrest." But, as American designer Donna Karan put it in the New York Times Magazine, "fashion evolves." And Armani's designs did change by the end of the 1970s. Creating what would eventually be known as the "wedge-shaped power suit," Armani extended the shoulders and even added padding to them. The lapels were widened, and the broadest point of the lapel, called the gorge, was lowered. The effect was similar to a style once worn by Hollywood sex symbols like Clark Gable. Still casual and comfortable, the new style was what the New York Times called a "second sartorial innovation" that endowed men with a "broad-shouldered, slim-hipped glamour."
In 1980, Giorgio Armani USA offered the American market a hybrid of the two styles. His more fluid sport coats of the first half of the decade could be compared to cardigan sweaters, with comfortable, sloping shoulders. These jackets were teamed up with T-shirts for a studied, informal look. The unmistakable Armani style evolved into an even more simplified version of the original groundbreaking blazer. In his spring 1990 women's collection, Armani "called attention to the generous flow of jackets by stripping them of superfluous detail," wrote Dan Lecca in the New York Times Magazine.
Armani's feminine version of the menswear jacket looked like it was borrowed from Greta Garbo's closet, or so imply some fashion critics. "My first jackets for women were in fact men's jackets in women's sizes," he told Time magazine. But it's Armani's use of strategically modified menswear fabrics and tailoring in women's suit jackets that is his "special contribution," stated Geraldine Stutz, president of Henri Bendel department store in New York City, in the same publication. "No one had ever done that before." While the jacket forms the foundation of the Armani empire, the Italian designer does create a variety of other garments as well. In 1982, for example, his fall collection featured felt hats, gaucho pants, and light suede hooded sweatshirts in what were described as "jelly bean" colors. Jackets were gold lamé for evening and longer for daytime wear. Fabrics included silk-lined cotton and mixtures of velvet, silk, wool, and linen, in a plethora of patterns and stripes. Whatever Armani chooses to offer in a collection, he is praised for that sense of relaxed comfort. "It's the fit of the armhole," pinpointed Dawn Mello in Vogue. And "somehow his clothes never seem to wrinkle." The man with the steel-blue eyes is not only a brilliant designer, he is also an astute businessman. A writer for Forbes magazine noted that, in general, Armani "sets prices to maximize profits rather than minimize output." The company Giorgio Armani SpA made $350 million in the international market in 1988, $90 million of which came from the United States. The designer has targeted several different markets while maintaining high profit margins. In Italy, Vestimenta sells the priciest line for Giorgio Armani Via. In 1988 it was possible to spend $1,800 for one of Armani's best American suits for men. Blouses ran for between $30 and $400, and blazers ranged from $650 to $800, made by Gruppo GFT. Designed for the 20-years-old-and-up crowd, the Armani label appeared on less pricey suits and sport coats: $700 and $360 respectively.
To capture the younger market, Armani opened a line of stores called Emporio (or Emporium, in English), first in Italy, then in the United States. These boutiques debuted in 1981 to offer quality designs for slimmer pocketbooks. Local merchandise produced in quantity kept the prices low. For example, in 1982 a leather jacket could be purchased for between $250 to $300, skirts went for from $40 to $60, and blouses were priced at around $35. Jay Cocks wrote in Time magazine that "One would be hard put to tell the difference, in fact, between a leather jacket from the Emporium and one from the couture line, without resort to the price tag; an X ray would come in handy too." Armani first stocked the Emporio with jeans, T-shirts, and brightly colored cotton bomber jackets. Many of these items were made of extra fabrics from the design studio. And despite the Armani eagle logo (i.e., his initials form an eagle), this clothing had a decided American flair to it: It was even referred to as "Rafaelo Laureno" after Ralph Lauren in the United States. But this style evolved, too, and became more truly Armani. He added dressier and more classic selections, borrowed from his couture line—but at a fraction of the cost. And the jackets alone became available in 250 fabrics and 25 styles by 1989. In that year, Armani opened an Emporio on New York City's Fifth Avenue offering many more items than just clothes. He added a wide selection of accessories, underwear, products for the home, and leather goods. Well-organized and hard-working, Armani has also been described by some of his employees as a "maniac," noted the New York Times Magazine. He puts in 12-hour days at the design studio, devoting meticulous care to each phase of his work. In New York magazine, he explained, "The more you expose yourself, the more attentive you must be to details." Just before the showing of a new collection, for example, Armani can be found revamping a model's makeup and making other finishing touches. In Milan, he is known as "the Maestro." "A seemingly stoic man who is often silent with strangers," observed Charles Gandee in House & Garden, "he is compulsive about using time constructively."
A writer for Vogue magazine described Armani as "business class to the tips of his fingers," qualifying this by adding that that's the "class where all the action is." The designer had originally set out to become a doctor, but only studied for three years toward that goal. His mother has been credited with saying he couldn't take the sight of blood. But apparently Armani claims he simply couldn't sit still long enough to do all the reading required of him. If he could start his career all over again, Armani has said he would become a director of plays and films.
After leaving college, Armani fulfilled his requirements in the Italian army by serving as a medical assistant. Three years later he took a job at the Rinascente department store (which has been described as the Sears of Italy) in Milan. There he gained experience as a window dresser and in the style office. And he got to know fashion buyers. From there he moved on to an experimental in-store boutique, where he tested new clothes for the store. Eventually he became acquainted with Nino Cerruti, who was looking for assistance in creating new menswear. Armani designed men's clothes for Cerruti for eight years. Then Sergio Galeotti, an architectural draftsman at a prestigious firm in Milan, convinced Armani to go into business with him. The two became equal partners in various ventures. By the mid-1970s, the team was ready to offer menswear under the now-famous black label of Giorgio Armani. Armani has also done free-lance work on two menswear collections for Emanual Ungaro. This experience taught him the importance of fine tailoring. And he has designed fashions for Zegna, Sicons, Mario Valentino, and Erreuno. By 1984 Armani was designing 29 collections for himself annually. And supplemental to his lines of clothing, he has garnered licensees for a wide scope of accessories, jeans, and perfume.
The private life of Giorgio Armani is "absolutely banal," he told an interviewer in Vogue. Perhaps he was referring to the fact that he is a vegetarian who eschews smoking and alcoholic beverages. (He was once a bodybuilder, too.) It is still somewhat difficult to believe that Armani's life could have any commonplace aspect to it, considering that he lives and works in a 400-year-old palazzo (or palace) and owns two other Italian getaway homes (one in Forte dei Marmi and the other on an island near Sicily, called Pantelleria). The palazzo not only encompasses the design studio and Armani's bi-level apartment; it also has its own indoor pool, an apartment for Armani's widowed mother, and an apartment for his partner, Galeotti. And there is a columned amphitheater where Armani can show his latest collections. Now modernized, it was a ballroom in another era.
Twice a year Armani has his studio redecorated, "to suit the style, spirit, and coloring of the season's collection," Gloria Noda reported in Vogue. And after having his apartment redesigned by American architect Peter Marino, Armani still wanted to make some refinements. Describing his rooms, he shared these thoughts with House & Garden writer Charles Gandee: "I would like to have the time to fill them with personal objects, pictures, which can remove that aesthetically 'too perfect' look. And I would like as well to have the possibility of making some mistakes, thus bringing it closer to human nature." This philosophy is inherent in Armani's clothing designs as well. He fosters a sense of individuality and human sensuousness in his collections. Talking about style, Armani told an interviewer in Self magazine that "Each face, each hair texture requires a personalized look." He went on to describe individual style as the "correct balance of knowing who you are, what works for you and how to develop your own character."
The 1991 spring collection of women's clothes by Armani seemed to be designed to enhance the wearer's sense of well-being. The collection included a softly tailored white silk and linen jacket with matching pants. There was also an off-the-shoulder dress paired with shorts, again in a combination of linen and silk, in a muted multiprint fabric design. For evening wear, Armani offered "molten dinner suits and dresses paved in sequins, small crystals and pearls," as described in the New York Times Magazine. Cap-sleeved dresses with A-line skirts were also part of the new collection. In another article for the same magazine, Armani told Carrie Donovan that his goal in 1991 was to offer a look that's "just a bit more modern and young."
The 90s have been a busy time for Armani. He has been convicted of bribery (of tax officials in Italy), opened his chain of Armani Cafes, and developed a new fragrance. Giorgio Armani Neve is Armani's men's and women's skiwear and ski casualwear line, developed in 1995. His 1991 project, A/X: Armani Exchange, has been thus far disappointing in terms of sales. The chain of stores represented Armani's attempt to break into the American mass market, offering lower prices for the relaxed chic clothes.
Celebrities still count on Armani to make them look good for Hollywood's major events. Whoopi Goldberg told People, Armani "just makes me look elegant." Other star fans of Armani include Jodie Foster and Jack Nicholson.
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Giorgio Armani SpA
Giorgio Armani has been a major fashion influence on both sides of the Atlantic since the early 1980s. He challenged traditional designs by creating elegant clothing that emphasized the body, becoming in the process one of the most respected creators of apparel for both men and women. His fashions are in great demand among celebrities and have also changed the way average Americans approach fashion.
Giorgio Armani was born on July 11, 1934, in Piacenza, Italy, a small town southeast of Milan. He was the second of three children of Maria and Ugo Armani, who managed a transport company. Though Armani never had any formal art training, he has said that growing up in Italy helped foster his aesthetic sense because it afforded him so many opportunities to see excellent design in architecture, interiors, sculpture, and painting.
Armani entered the field of fashion in an indirect way. To please his parents, he began studying medicine at the University of Bologna in 1952. He quickly realized, however, that becoming a doctor was not for him because he could not stand the sight of blood. After briefly pursuing photography and then serving in the Italian Army, he took a job as a window dresser at Milan's La Rinascente department store. Armani remained there for seven years, learning the nuts and bolts of merchandising and discovering that he had a flair for retailing that enabled him to work his way up to the position of menswear buyer and later fashion coordinator. He eventually went on to become a major success in the fashion world.
Armani lives what he calls an "absolutely banal" or dull life in his 400-year-old palazzo (palace) in Milan. This building houses his studio, his two-level apartment, an indoor pool, and apartments for both his mother and for his partner, Galeotti. At the center of the palazzo is a ballroom where he puts on fashion shows. While he is known in Milan as "The Maestro," Armani is a shy man who prefers not to be in the limelight. A vegetarian, a non-smoker, and a nondrinker, he describes himself as a workaholic who oversees every detail of production at his company, from designing to advertising. He considers his employees his "family."
The various positions Armani held at La Rinascente enabled him to obtain an extensive education in the complex world of retailing and marketing. After leaving La Rinascente, Armani took a job at the textile and garment firm Nino Cerruti, where he developed an understanding of fabrics and industrial tailoring.
In 1974, Armani launched his own design label with money that he and a partner raised by selling a Volkswagen. The new company, named Giorgio Armani SpA, had a working capital of only $10,000. From the very beginning, Armani's styles were distinctive. As he explained in an interview with Playboy, his goal was to change the rigid, boxy jackets that had until then dominated men's fashion. "They turned out the jackets like cars—they all looked the same," declared Armani. Instead, he emphasized fluid lines and achieved his characteristic "unstructured" look by eliminating interfacings, shoulder pads, and linings. "I invented a type of sports jacket that's relaxed, informal, less stiff," he observed. "The body moved easier in a suit made of soft fabrics."
Though Armani's styles were expensive, their elegance was undeniably appealing. Within a year, he was designing for women as well as for men after observing that they were shopping for themselves at his menswear stores. In 1976, only two years after Armani's designs debuted in Italy, Barney's of New York introduced the Armani line in the United States. Combined sales of Armani clothes reached $90,000 that year, and soon other designers had begun to imitate his distinctive style. In 1979, the designer launched a second line of clothing. It was more traditional but still focused on elegance of structure and material. That same year, Armani received a Neiman-Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion. In 1981, more than 600 American fashion writers chose him to receive a Cutty Sark Award as outstanding international designer.
In 1980, Armani opened Giorgio Armani U.S.A. in New York City. Employing mass production techniques from the Italian firm Gruppo Finanziorio Tessile, he was able to lower the prices of his garments significantly while retaining their high quality. Featuring men's suits priced in the range of $275 to $400 instead of $700 or $800, the Armani line began attracting a wider range of customers. That same year, Armani designed the wardrobe worn by actor Richard Gere in the film American Gigolo, which brought him even greater visibility. By 1982, his company's estimated total revenues were $135 million, a figure that represented a 60 percent increase over 1981 sales.
In 1982 Armani became the first fashion designer to be featured on the cover of Time magazine since Christian Dior. During the 1990s, he dressed several prominent movie stars for Oscar night ceremonies, imbuing Hollywood with "drop-dead glamour." According to the Fashion Page web site, in 1998 his company boasts sales of almost $1.7 billion, with 2,000 stores selling Armani products worldwide. His products now include not just clothing but perfume, accessories, and even umbrellas. Armani believes that the future of the fashion industry lies in lifestyle marketing. As he told the Daily News Record, "I would like to develop new product applications that could be used for interior design, such as furniture, lamps, and other objects .... The designer has entered our lives in all sectors—people just won't accept a mundane object anymore."
Social and Economic Impact
Armani considers his greatest achievement to be the creation of a more casual, relaxed image for men. "I always believed that men needed to be as comfortable in their clothes as women were," he told the Daily News Record. "I think I will be remembered as someone who, to a certain extent, broke the rules."
By eliminating the superfluous, focusing on comfort, and acknowledging the elegance of simplicity, Armani has changed fashion for women as well as for men. His flowing, neutral-toned jackets for career women replaced the austere, "dress-for-success" suits that aped what businessmen typically wore. He introduced beautiful fabrics and subtle tailoring, following his own inspirations rather than a rigid fashion formula. For example, a trip to Japan inspired much of his 1981 collection, and an Italian motorcycle sport influenced his "Easy Rider" collection of 1982. "Drastically imposed a fashion . . . would mean having no respect for the consumer," he once explained. "As far as I am concerned, I do just the opposite: if I catch sight of a man or woman on the street dressed in a way that strikes me as uniquely elegant, I might interpret it for my collections. The goal I seek is to have people refine their style through my clothing without having them become victims of fashion."
Chronology: Giorgio Armani
1954: Began working at La Rinascente department stores.
1954: Joined Nino Cerruti as menswear designer.
1974: Introduced first Armani menswear collection.
1975: Cofounded Giogrio Armani SpA and added women's designs to Armani line.
1976: New York retailer Barney's introduced Armani line in United States.
1980: Designed Richard Gere's wardrobe in American Gigolo and launched Giorgio Armani U.S.A.
1985: Won the Cutty Sark Men's Fashion Award.
1991: Awarded Honorary Doctorate from Royal College of Art
Fashion critics have praised Armani's designs for their elegant simplicity, prompting New York Times writer Bernadine Morris to refer to him as "the world's master tailor." Celebrities such as John F. Kennedy, Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jodie Foster regularly wear Armani clothes. In the music world, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt has modeled his fashions, and Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers has become known for his trademark black Armani suit. Thus, more than two decades after launching his own line of clothing, Armani continues to shape the worldwide fashion industry.
Sources of Information
Contact at: Giorgio Armani SpA
Via Borgonuovo 21
Milan, 20122 Italy
Business Phone: 02-723181
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Spindler, Amy M. "Couture Skips the Revolution." New York Times, 4 February 1997.
Ward, Melanie. "Armani in America." Harper's Bazaar, September 1996.
Giorgio Armani, one of the most authoritative names in Italian ready-to-wear design, was born in Piacenza, Italy, in 1934. He became interested in fashion in 1957, when he left the school of medicine at the University of Piacenza to become a buyer for the La Rinascete chain in Milan. In 1964 Armani met Nino Cerruti, owner of Hitman, the Italian men's clothing producer. After a brief period to see how Armani worked with materials, Cerruti asked him to restructure completely the company's approach to clothing. Armani worked with Cerruti for six years, developing a simplified form of menswear that could be reproduced in series.
In the late 1960s Armani met Sergio Galeotti, which was the beginning of a relationship that lasted for years. In 1973 Galeotti persuaded him to open a design office in Milan, at 37 corso Venezia. This led to a period of extensive collaboration, during which Armani worked as a freelance designer for a number of fashion houses, including Allegri, Bagutta, Hilton, Sicons, Gibò, Montedoro, and Tendresse. The international press was quick to acknowledge Armani's importance following the runway shows at the Sala Bianca in the Pitti Palace in Florence. The experience provided Armani with an opportunity to develop his own style in new ways. He was now ready to devote his energy to his own label, and in 1975 he founded Giorgio Armani Spa in Milan with his friend Galeotti. In October of that same year he presented his first collection of men's ready-to-wear for
spring and summer 1976 under his own name. He also produced a women's line for the same season.
The secret of Armani's great success seems to derive from his having introduced, at the right moment, a new approach to clothing design that reflected the changes in post-1968 society, which was composed essentially of a middle class that could no longer afford to wear couture clothing but at the same time wanted to construct a distinctive image for itself. With this in mind, Armani established an innovative relationship with industry, characterized by the 1978 agreement with Gruppo finanzario Tessile (GFT), which made it possible to produce luxury ready-to-wear in a manufacturing environment under the attentive supervision of the company's designer. In 1979, after founding the Giorgio Armani Corporation, Armani began producing for the United States and introduced the Mani line for men and women. The label became one of the leading names in international fashion with the introduction of several new product lines, including G. A. Le Collezioni, and Giorgio Armani Underwear and Swimwear, and Giorgio Armani Accessories.
In the early 1980s the company signed an important agreement with L'Oréal to create perfumes and introduced the Armani Junior, Armani Jeans, and Emporio Armani lines, followed in 1982 by the introduction of Emporio Underwear, Swimwear, and Accessories. A new store was opened in Milan for the Emporio line, followed by the first Giorgio Armani boutique. Armani's concern for the end user culminated in the development of a more youthful product with the same level of stylistic quality as his high-end line, but at a more accessible price.
Because of the democratic nature of the Emporio line, Armani felt that he had to make use of new and unconventional advertising methods. These included television spots and enormous street ads, together with a house magazine that was sent out by mail to consumers, faithful Armani eaglet wearers. Armani also felt that a relationship with the cinema was essential, both for promotional reasons and for the stimulus to creativity. He designed the costumes for American Gigolo, directed by Paul Schrader (1980), the success of which led to a long-term collaboration with the world of film. Armani designed costumes for more than one hundred films, one of the most important of which was The Untouchables, directed by Brian De Palma and released in 1987.
In 1983 the designer modified his agreement with GFT. They began to produce both the Mani line for the United States and his high-end ready-to-wear line, rechristened Borgonuovo 21, after the address of the company's headquarters. During the late 1980s, despite Galeotti's death (1985), Armani continued to expand commercial horizons and licensing agreements. He opened Armani Japan and introduced a line of eyeglasses (1988), socks (1987), a gift collection (1989), and a new "basic" men's and women's line for America known as A/X Armani Exchange (1991). After the frenetic expansion of the 1990s (sportswear, eyeglasses, cosmetics, home, and new accessories collections), the year 2000, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the brand, saw a flurry of investment activity, including stock sales and the acquisition of new manufacturing capacity intended to increase Armani's control over the quality and distribution of his products.
Style and Innovation
There is a common thread running through Armani's stylistic development that is closely associated with the change in contemporary society. It led to the creation of clothing and accessories that aimed at a clean, simple style, beyond fashion, designed to enhance the personality of the person who wore it. When, in 1976, the designer presented the first unstructured jackets for men, unlined and unironed, the product of years of experience in production design, they were intended to lower labor costs and simplify tailoring. But in introducing them Armani opened a third way in men's clothing, an alternative to the traditional approach of English tailoring and the expectations associated with Italian made-to-measure clothing, realizing an innovative synthesis between formal wear and loose, flexible sportswear. With the invention of the blazer worn as a pullover, Armani offered men a new identity that rejected rigid professional divisions and allowed them to present themselves as young, attractive, and vaguely feminine. Referred to as the "first postmodern designer," by several Italian newspapers, for his radically unstructured garments, Armani had simply softened men's wear and made women's wear more concise and modern, transforming changing social roles into an "Armani look," making the casual look authoritative.
Official recognition of his fame came in 1982 when he appeared on the cover of Time magazine, only the second fashion designer, after Christian Dior, to do so. Armani had freed women from their stiff suits, providing them with soft jackets without collars and with comfortable pants. Although initially somewhat severe, as if intended to assist women in their climb to professional credibility, these outfits greatly enhanced a type of femininity that, because it was not ostentatious, was ultimately more real. Armani sought to establish an image of a woman who was strong but not harsh (a mix of the film stars Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich in modern dress) and who could be practical and indispensable as well as glamorous. Over time the jacket has continued to remain the centerpiece of the Armani wardrobe, changing year by year through the use of new materials, new proportions, and new colors. For Armani the "greige" (somewhere between gray and beige) of 1997 remained the most typical element in a palette often centered on shades of white and black, soft earth tones, dusty blues, and occasional unexpected bursts of color.
The search for fabrics has always been one of the distinctive elements of Armani's collections for men and women, becoming a key design element in 1986, together with embroidery and the return to evening wear that he brought about. Here the look was precious and exclusive but always in a minimalist key, demystified through the use of low-heeled shoes or sneakers. An attentive analyst of past cultures and Eastern influences, Armani's clothing has never been a collage of banal ideas. Throughout his career he has always succeeded in providing new images of how men and women dress and in translating elegant, decorative patterns into a unique but accessible style.
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Giorgio Armani, 1934–, Italian fashion designer. He designed menswear at Nino Cerruti (1964–70), then worked freelance until 1975 when, in partnership with Sergio Galeotti, he opened his Milan design house. Armani was soon acclaimed for elegant, relaxed clothes, especially for fluidly tailored, understated suits for men and women, made of luxuriant fabrics in muted colors and often featuring softly lined
jackets. This approach was reflected in his wardrobe for Richard Gere in the film American Gigolo (1980). In the 1980s he became the favorite designer of the
for both sexes. Armani remains an important fashion designer, and has introduced a series of successful lines, including jeans, fabrics, underwear, fragrances, eyeglasses, housewares, sportswear (opening A/X in 1991), watches, cosmetics, and (in 2005) haute couture.
See studies by R. Martin and H. Koda (1990) and G. Celand and H. Koda (2000); Biography: Giorgio Armani (video, 2001).