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Q&A: Giorgio Armani Is Never Done Exploring New Ideas



Q&A: Giorgio Armani Is Never Done Exploring New Ideas

If you aren’t familiar with Giorgio Armani—it must be nice and cozy under that rock—here’s a brief primer of the 90-year-old style icon. He made Italian fashion the focal point of global good taste when he founded his brand in 1975, and has kept it there ever since. His knack for riffing endlessly on his signature style for different markets created the business playbook for pretty much every contemporary fashion brand. And his pioneering success in Hollywood­—he’s outfitted more than 100 movies since his debut, dressing Richard Gere for American Gigolo in 1979—propelled his cachet into the stratosphere. Maintaining a particularly close ties with actors, Armani is widely credited with establishing red carpet fashion as an idea, and the Hollywood machine would be nowhere without him. And he still has plenty to say about it.

Read on for his insights on timelessness, elegance, and how things have changed since he started his company nearly half a century ago. Happy birthday, Maestro.

Stefano Guindani/SGP

Armani with a few friends you might recognize.

What is your earliest style memory?

My mother getting us dressed in our Sunday best. We did not have much, but we had plenty of dignity, and that was a style lesson that stayed with me until this very day.

At what moment did you decide that fashion was the right idea for you, when did you know you were going to make a success of it.

It was a gradual process. While working as a window dresser at [high-end Italian department store] La Rinascente, I understood the power of clothes on people and the movements of society. It was a coup de foudre, but I immediately had the feeling I needed to express my point of view making them instead of using them. It was the moment Italian ready to wear was starting to flourish. I began working as a freelance designer until I landed at Nino Cerruti, which was my real fashion schooling. The meeting with Sergio Galeotti, who saw the full potential of my vision, led to the launch of the Giorgio Armani company in 1975. The rest, as they say, is history.

Are subtlety and intelligence—and even taste—endangered species?

They are, and yet they are the most endearing human qualities. We live in times that are way too loud, but I will keep working for the cause of subtlety—intelligence and taste are a result of it.


Courtesy of Giorgio Armani

How has your vision of men and women evolved over time?

It has evolved naturally and gradually, as the position of both in society shifted. I had the feeling of what actually happened—women getting to the forefront in the workplace, men accepting their soft side—early in my career, and that was the base of my success. Over the decades, those conquests have become a given, and so my vision of both men and women has become softer, at times more sparkly, even more fluid.

How do you address that in terms of clothing?

My vision of clothing has evolved staying true to the credo that the dress should highlight the person, not the other way round. My penchant for soft tailoring, considered decoration, and liquid lines is the same of the early days, but the proportions are continually renewed. I am considered a master of timelessness, but if you look closely at my work, things change constantly.

What is your idea of perfection in style and fashion for men or women?

Perfection in style, for me, is when the dress is so great, so elegant, so precise, you completely forget about it and you focus on the individual wearing it.

Is elegance an ideal? What does it mean to you?

Elegance is a manner, an attitude, a way of carrying oneself that’s totally unrelated to clothing. I have seen ordinary people on the street that looked way more elegant than certain celebrities. Elegance, to me, means effortlessness and kindness.

leonardo di capriogiorgio armani

Stefano Guindani/SGP

Armani with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Do you think fashion has been changed irrevocably by social media?

It has, and not in the best of ways. I abhor this culture of superficial, blatant visibility. It has little to do with style, and nothing with elegance.

Do you think it’s still possible to “design” fashion in the purest sense?

What we design, in the purest sense, is wearable objects. Fashion is the way such objects are combined and used within the social context.

Does Hollywood still hold the allure it did for you in the early years of your company?

In a way yes, but also not. Stardom is very different today: it has become a massified commodity, and part of the magic got lost. Still, there are movie stars—Cate Blanchett, Leo Di Caprio, to name just two—who are as fascinating and charming and unique as the old stars were.

Who are the stars who interest you now?

I won’t name names—that’s my rule which I actually broke in the answer above. I am interested in the stars who work hard on their career, who take time to hone their skills. I am not interested in flashes in the pan.

armani backstage

Courtesy of Giorgio Armani

Armani backstage.

Sport has played a big role in your career. Not only in your design, but in the many sports stars you have worked with. What is it about sport that appeals?

Sport is about dedication, training, and teamwork—truly bonding experiences that are a path of personal betterment. I stick the classic adage: healthy mind in healthy body.

In many ways your aesthetic has come to define a contemporary idea of “Italianness” to the rest of the world. Why do you think that is?

Deep down, I think it is the dignity that oozes from the things I design, the idea of doing more and a certain restraint that does not tame sensuality, but magnifies it.

How do you keep things feeling new in your design?

By exploring new ways around the topics that are close to my feeling, without desperately seeking new for the sake of new.

If you were to provide guidance to a talented young designer who is just starting out, what, for you, would be the most important ideas they should understand about design?

One simple thing: Clothes are not ideas, but objects that relate to the body. Work on new fits, and the movements they can allow, and you’ll have a personal recipe.

a group of people posing for a photo

Stefano Guindani/SGP

At his spring/summer 2024 fashion show.

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