Designer Profiles: Giorgio Armani
The premier Italian fashion designer
Giorgio Armani is an iconic clothing designer in fact regarded as one of the best the world has ever seen, who has expanded his empire to include restaurants and hotels. His popularity skyrocketed in America in the 1980s when his men's 'power suits' appeared frequently on the television series Miami Vice and in the 1980 film American Gigolo, which starred Richard Gere in Armani's signature garb. The name ‘Armani’ is especially highly regarded and is synonymous with style and sophistication in the US.
Giorgio Armani stated in an interview with Vogue “My work has one single goal: giving women the inner strength that comes with being at ease, with who they are and what they are wearing” By 2001 Armani was acclaimed as the most successful designer of Italian origin, and is credited with pioneering red-carpet fashion. In 2010, he opened the Armani Hotel in Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.
Becoming a fashion designer
Armani actually became a designer by chance - his first career choice was to become a doctor! He enrolled in the Department of Medicine at the University of Milan but dropped out to join the army. After completing his military service, he went to work at La Rinascente, a famous Milan department store as a window dresser. He remained there for seven years learning all that he could about fashion designing and marketing. He then joined the staff of Nino Cerruti as a designer. With the encouragement of his friend Sergio Galeotti, Armani pursued freelance design work and contributed his design for several other fashion houses like Allegri, Hilton, Bagutta, Sicons, etc.
Armani and Galeotti became business partners, founding Giorgio Armani S.p.A. in July 1975 which soon became one of the leading names in international fashion. The company's debuted its first collection - a men's clothing line the same year the company launched. Armani then launched a women's collection the following year, which received a warm reception. His clothes were revolutionary at the time, introducing a more natural fit and using a subtle colour palette. "My vision was clear: I believed in getting rid of the artifice of clothing. I believed in neutral colours," he stated in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily. The growing success of his designer clothing prompted him to expand his business to include underwear, swimwear, and accessories.
While his designs were popular in Europe, Armani didn't find success in America until 1980 when his clothes were worn by actor Richard Gere in the film American Gigolo, which helped generate a lot of interest in Armani. Soon, many top Hollywood stars started wearing Armani on the red carpet, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Jodie Foster, and John Travolta, among others. To this day Armani has designed costumes for more than 100 films which further established his popularity in Hollywood as well, even nowadays many Tinseltown beauties like Penelope Cruz, Anne Hathaway, Megan Fox, etc. wear his designs. His keen interest in sports led him to design the team kit of England’s national football team.
Back in the1980s, wearing Armani was a genuine symbol of success for many business professionals. They especially sought out the brand's "power suits." With demand high, Armani and Galeotti were able to grow the business, opening up Armani stores in Milan.
Armani, however, suffered a great personal and professional loss in 1985 when he lost longtime friend and business partner Galeotti to AIDS. While some thought that the business might suffer after Galeotti's death, Armani showed the world that he was just as talented as an executive as he was as a designer. The company went on to introduce to the world Armani Junior, Armani Jeans, and Emporio Armani lines. The Emporio lines consisted of more youthful and stylish products at a more affordable price, targeted at the social middle-class population.
Armani expanded his operations, opening his first restaurant in 1989. He also bought clothing manufacturer Simint S.p.A. and shares in other businesses. Not even legal troubles could slow down Armani's momentum. When in 1996 he pleaded guilty to bribing Italian tax officials in 1989 and 1990 he only received a suspended sentence and pushed forward to continue building his Empire.
As of today, the company sells not just apparel, but also perfumes, watches, and accessories. The company also operates a range of hotels, restaurants, and cafes worldwide and has diversified into the music and sports industry. Giorgio Armani is also the richest openly LGBT person in the world. During the recent pandemic, Armani donated millions of dollars to Italian hospitals, supported health care workers by using Armani’s Italian production plants to make single-use medical overalls, and turned the gym of his corporate Armani village outside the centre of Milan into the world’s most fashionable waiting room for nasal swabs. Perhaps more than anything else in recent history, the pandemic has forced Armani to think of the future of Giorgio Armani and the direction it is headed.