Posted on February 11 2020
Introduction to the designer
Rising to prominence in the 80s, Giorgio Armani is a household name across much of the world. By developing a name for himself as an inventor of red-carpet dressing and designer of clothes for cinema icons, his enduring legacy still stands today and is revived again by the thriving second-hand market for his vintage designs. Throughout a stratospheric career, Armani developed many friendships with celebrity associates and fellow creatives including Andy Warhol, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jodie Foster and many, many more which in turn propelled him further into the limelight. Defined by the relaxed, ready-to-wear yet luxurious style which can be seen throughout his collections, it’s fair to say Armani is a cultural phenomenon.
Born in Piacenza, Italy, 1934, Armani originally trained to be a doctor before dropping out of medical school and instead working as a buyer for a Milan department store. It was here that he began his fashion career, experimenting with design and production, before launching his own ready-to-wear label for men and women in 1975. In the years since, not only has he dressed some of the world’s most famous people in unique designs but has also developed a series of iconic fashion lines which endure today as modern and vintage treasures. Today’s labels - such as Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, Armani Jeans and Armani Exchange - are a streamlined version of the original Armani lines but still retain their core values of style and comfort.
A portrait of the designer
Armani in film
Armani’s pop culture relevance can be traced back to his costume design for the 1980 film American Gigolo. By dressing leading man Richard Gere in a flattering combination of loose yet structured tailoring, he set out a mission statement from which he rarely strayed; luxurious, minimalist, effortless style. Armani describes himself at this time as being “motivated by a desire to modernise menswear”, removing structural elements such as linings and fillings from suits and leaving the softer, unstructured fabrics to create his signature look. Following the success of American Gigolo, he was called on again and again to produce costumes for films ranging from 1987’s The Untouchables to The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013. Throughout each film, his clean-cut, straight edged tailoring is easily recognisable.
Having built a name and reputation in Hollywood menswear, the effortless elegance conveyed by his clothes became widely popular with celebrities and the general public alike. In 1983, after being approached by Armani with the request to dress her for Hollywood events, Michelle Pfeiffer famously quipped “Why do I want someone to dress me? I can dress myself, and who is Giorgio Armani?”. Thankfully unperturbed, Armani and Pfeiffer are now long term friends, with Pfeiffer even modelling for his campaigns and wearing many of his designs at red carpet events.
It was during this period that Armani truly began to experiment with red carpet dressing. The first of many celebrities to grace the red carpet in Armani tailoring was Daine Keaton in 1978, wearing an oversized Armani jacket to collect her Oscar for Best Actress. After Keaton’s appearance, the ball kept rolling and more actors and celebrities found themselves draped in the sophisticated tailoring of Armani; in 1989 Pfeiffer wore a navy silk cocktail suit by the designer to the Oscars, in 1990 Julia Roberts and Keifer Sutherland both wore his menswear suits to the Golden Globes, and in 1992 Jodie Foster accepted her Best Actress Oscar in an Armani evening suit.
Thirty years on from his debut, Armani designs still make regular appearances at red carpet events and his legacy continues as a high end designer of both haute-couture and ready to wear collections.
Armani menswear in American Gigolo
Armani in culture
Having made a name for himself in the world of fashion, Armani’s pop culture relevance was solidified when he met artist Andy Warhol in 1980. The artist created a portrait of the designer in his world-famous pop art style which was then sold to Italian clothing manufacturer GFT and created a friendship that endured, with Warhol taking Armani out to experience New York’s wild nightlife despite the language barrier between the two. Armani himself described the feeling of being immortalised in a Warhol portrait in the following way; “I felt that, somehow, in having my portrait painted by the master of pop culture, I had become part of that culture for the first time. And if I am honest, I found this idea rather flattering.”
Since being welcomed into the cultural mainstream, Armani has rarely strayed from this path. It could be said that he defined a new type of cultural mainstream - one where menswear was no longer restricted by utilitarianism but instead embraced sensuality and style. It was this reimagining of not only men's fashion, but men's lifestyles and aspirations, that encouraged Armani's commercial success and longevity within the public realm.
As a womenswear designer, he used similar concepts of liberation from structure as he did in menswear, informing workwear style for decades to come. Instead of untailored florals, as had been the style, Armani opted for chic, deconstructed pantsuits for the modern woman. This culture of workwear power dressing prevails in offices today, with professional women often opting for the sleek androgynous style of Armani designs.
Giorgio Armani's portrait by Andy Warhol
A success story
The Armani empire now reaches across the globe, with over £2.9 billion in revenue each year and over 7,000 employees. From one man designing clothes after a brief stint in the fashion industry to a global fashion behemoth, it is reasonable to call Armani one of the most successful designers in the world. With a prestigious history and plenty of hard work, Armani continues to break the boundaries of modern fashion and, as vintage clothing comes back into the mainstream, a roaring trade in vintage Armani is sure to run parallel. Unmatched in his success, Armani clothing is a solid investment in quality and high fashion design.
Shop our vintage collections of 1980s and 1990s Armani here:
Image 1: www.businessoffashion.com
Image 3: https://www.interviewmagazine.com/fashion/giorgio-armani-1