Italian designer Giorgio Armani is synonymous with sophisticated, stylish fashion. In addition to clothing his spectacularly successful business empire includes lines of jewelry, cosmetics, fragrances, eyewear, & even hotels.
The young Armani drowned out the sound of Allied bombing with movies & it was his clothing for Richard Gere in American Gigolo that made Armani a household name.
Born into a humble family, Armani attended the local public school & developed a deep love for the theatre & film. 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 imported products from India, Japan, & 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 SpA with an initial investment of $410,000, part of it provided by the sale of their VW.
Armani immediately introduced an innovation that has become a signature of his work, the "unconstructed" suit jacket, which he offered in both men's & women's collections. Armani removed the lining & padding that had previously been standard in suit jackets & created a more supple garment in soft fabric. The fluid lines created a look that was at once sophisticated & 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 & combinations came to be known as the defining characteristic of his style.
In the 1980s, the Armani "power suit" for men & 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 movie fan, & Hollywood returned the compliment. His work has been seen in more than 100 movies, including the otherwise dreadful- De-Lovely, 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 & 1930s & also as timelessly classic in design. Armani also inticed Hollywood stars to wear his designs at the Academy Awards, becoming the de facto designer for Michelle Pfeiffer, Richard Gere, Stephen Rutledge, & Jodie Foster. He has also designed theatre costumes, dressed Italian & British soccer teams & Alitalia airline flight attendants.
In 1985 Armani suffered a profound personal & professional loss: Galeotti died of HIV complications at 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." He has acknowledged that he considered retirement after Galeotti's death but decided instead to persevere rather than abandoning "all the hopes of Sergio."
Armani: "It is he who gives me the strength even now to continue, heis always there in the home that we shared.”
With 4+ decades in the business, Armani has enjoyed a long career as a designer. Some compare him to fashion greats Coco Chanel & Yves Saint Laurent. Armani turns 78 years old today & he still stands as one of fashion's most distinguished designers. He seems almost presidential- wise, serene & comfortable.