Giorgio Armani: history of the man who redefined global fashion

by Marzia Parmigiani
11 minutes read

In the world of high fashion, few names are as recognizable or carry as much prestige as Giorgio Armani. Known for his clean, tailored lines and understated elegance, Armani has not only transformed how we think about clothing but also profoundly influenced the relationship between fashion, celebrity culture, and personal identity. This article delves into the legacy and the history of Giorgio Armani, exploring his journey, the evolution of his brand, and his indelible impact on both Italian and global fashion.

“80% percent of what I do is discipline. The rest is creativity.”

Giorgio Armani

Giorgio Armani history: early life and entry into fashion

Giorgio Armani was born on July 11, 1934, in Piacenza, Italy and later becoming a staple of Milanese culture. Giorgio Armani initially pursued medicine, a field he left behind in 1957 after withdrawing from the University of Milan. His foray into fashion began modestly, working as a window dresser at La Rinascente, Italy’s first department store, where he played a crucial role in shaping its visual identity. This role sparked his passion for aesthetics, leading him towards a more creative pursuit in clothing design. Armani’s career in fashion design officially kicked off in menswear with a significant stint at Cerruti for the Hitman brand starting in 1964, continuing until 1970. This period was crucial in honing his skills and style. In 1974, he made his mark as a freelance designer at the Sala Bianca of Palazzo Pitti in Florence. By 1975, the stage was set for the launch of Giorgio Armani Spa, an independent label that began with menswear and expanded to include womenswear by 1976.

Vogue Fashion’s Night Out Sept.10 2009 MILAN. The owner of Olimpia Milano Giorgio Armani together with some players, including the American Morris Finley and the Argentine Ariel Filloy.

Giorgio Armani history: the birth of the Armani Brand

In 1975, Armani founded his own company, Giorgio Armani S.p.A., with his friend and business partner Sergio Galeotti. The brand quickly became known for revolutionizing menswear with its unstructured jackets, a stark contrast to the stiff and formal designs that were prevalent at the time. These jackets were not only a hit in Italy but also caught the eye of consumers worldwide, redefining professionalism and poise in menswear.

Giorgio Armani history: expansion and diversification

Armani’s vision went beyond menswear. In 1979, he launched a women’s line that mirrored his menswear’s themes: simple, elegant, and fluid, removing the excess and focusing on the practical yet elegant. His contributions to womenswear were also significant; he is credited with popularizing the deconstructed jacket for women, which was both sophisticated and comfortable. The 1980s marked a period of vast expansion for the Armani brand. Recognizing the power of cinema and celebrity endorsements, Armani ventured into Hollywood, designing for various film productions. This move ingrained his label in American culture and solidified his association with celebrity and glamour. Perhaps most famously, Richard Gere’s wardrobe in the movie “American Gigolo” became iconic and is credited with launching Armani into a household name. When discussing Giorgio Armani, the term “designer” seems almost too narrow. He is often hailed as the “King” of fashion, a title that has never been more fitting than during the recent pandemic. Armani’s leadership and conscientious actions throughout this period have earned him the moniker “Lord of Fashion.”

Giorgio Armani history: path to achievement

The journey of the Armani Group is a testament to a fashion empire that has expanded well beyond its origins in ready-to-wear clothing to include haute couture, eyewear, leather goods, fragrances, as well as home decor, florals, confections, children’s apparel, and even luxury hotels and restaurants in Milan and Dubai. Armani’s stylistic flair quickly became an international sensation, characterized by his innovative reinterpretation of menswear for women’s jackets and chic yet relaxed menswear. Notably, his introduction of deconstructed jackets transformed the traditional lined jacket by removing internal reinforcements like padding and interlinings, repositioning buttons, and altering traditional proportions. These jackets became symbols of a new era in Italian fashion. Armani’s style, influenced by the monochromatic aesthetics of 1920s and 1930s American cinema, is known for its sharp, clean lines and a palette dominated by cool hues such as greys, deep shades, and greige—a blend of grey and beige—with a signature emphasis on blue, often paired unconventionally with black. Yet, he also embraces the classic elegance of black and white attire, elevating it to new heights of sophistication. His designs reached a broader audience when he featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1982 and outfitted Diane Keaton for the 1978 Oscars, where she won a statuette for her role in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall.” Moreover, his designs were showcased in the 1980 film “American Gigolo,” where Richard Gere’s portrayal in Armani suits captivated audiences globally.

In the early 1980s, Armani launched Emporio Armani, a more experimental line geared towards a younger demographic, integrating sportswear elements into the foundation of this second-line brand. He inaugurated his first boutique in Via Sant’Andrea, Milan, in 1983, and by 1987, in recognition of his brand’s growth and influence, he was honored with the title of Knight of the Republic. Armani’s designs also drew inspiration from Eastern and Arab cultures, introducing shirts with Mandarin collars and coats resembling the djellaba, coinciding with the cinematic release of “The Sheltering Sky.” The Armani Casa collection, launched in 2000, features designs inspired by Art Deco and modernism, with minimalistic shapes influenced by Asian aesthetics—a nod to his fascination with Asia, which also inspired the opening of Armani/Nobu, a restaurant within his Armani/Manzoni 31 store that fuses Japanese and European culinary traditions. Over time, Armani has expanded to include Armani Hotels in Milan and Dubai, as well as cafes, a confectionary line, and a bookstore, further cementing his brand’s diverse luxury footprint.

Giorgio Armani history: Armani in the international limelight

Over the decades, luminaries from the worlds of film, music, sports, and entertainment have gravitated towards the distinctive yet classic style of Armani. Notable figures such as Richard Gere, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Laura Pausini, Christian Bale (who was outfitted for “Batman Returns”), Cate Blanchett, Jessica Chastain, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, and most recently at the 2020 Oscars, Renée Zellweger and Laura Dern, have all adorned Armani creations. Many of these celebrities have grown to become personal acquaintances of Mr. Armani, affectionately referring to him as “Giorgio.” Armani has been pivotal during a dynamic era of fashion innovation that surged in the sixties, seventies, and eighties. In the past decade alone, Armani has not only cemented its presence in fashion capitals like Paris and New York but also extended its reach to Beijing, Japan, and Russia. This expansion reflects Armani’s adventurous spirit and commitment to exploring new territories, contributing to the brand’s continuous growth and earning it accolades from prestigious international entities. Notably, the Guggenheim Museum in New York honored Armani with a retrospective in 2000. His dedication to creating timeless yet innovative elegance has also garnered him numerous accolades, including the Légion d’Honneur and an honorary membership in the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2008. Today, Giorgio Armani is not just a fashion icon but a cultural landmark. His name marks the entrance to Milan’s Brera district where the iconic Emporio Armani Billboard has been a fixture since 1984, and at Linate Airport. He owns the historic Milanese basketball team, Olimpia, and is a staple of the Salone del Mobile week. In 2015, he opened the Armani/Silos museum and also cultivates his passion for viticulture at his villa on Pantelleria, the inspiration behind the renowned fragrance Acqua di Giò, launched in 1995. This scenic island is also his preferred vacation retreat.

Richard Gere in American Gigolò

Giorgio Armani history: brand philosophy and cultural impact

The core of Armani’s philosophy is the belief that fashion should enhance an individual’s lifestyle, not dictate it. His work is often seen as the intersection of everyday functionality with high couture, a concept that has resonated with his audience. Armani once said, “I was the first to soften the image of men, and harden the image of women. I dressed men in women’s fabrics, and stole from men what women wanted and needed—the power suit.”

Beyond clothing, Armani expanded into the realms of accessories, perfumes, and even home decor, each bearing the hallmark of understated elegance and quality. The brand’s foray into hospitality with the launch of Armani hotels further demonstrates the holistic vision Armani has for lifestyle branding.

Giorgio Armani history: legacy and future

Today, Giorgio Armani remains a pivotal figure in Italian and global fashion. His approach has always been forward-thinking yet respectful of traditions, making him a respected figure not just among designers but also his countless patrons worldwide. As the fashion industry faces new challenges like sustainability and digitalization, Armani’s adaptability suggests that his brand will continue to evolve and inspire. The story of Giorgio Armani is not just about clothing but about challenging norms and creating new paradigms. From a department store window dresser to a renowned global designer, Armani’s journey reflects his profound understanding of fashion’s role in expressing identity and culture. His enduring impact is a testament to his vision that true style transcends passing trends and is as much about the individual as it is about their attire.

The bottom line

Giorgio Armani’s legacy is an intricately woven part of global fashion’s narrative. With his innovative designs and cultural understanding, Armani has not just dressed bodies; he has shaped identities and influenced how we perceive and interact with fashion. As we look towards the future, the elegance of Armani’s designs remains timeless, reminding us that fashion is a powerful form of personal and cultural expression. Indeed, Armani stands as a tri-colored emblem, recognized globally: a man who has consistently championed his independence of thought. In May 2023, he was awarded an honorary degree in Global Business Management from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in his hometown of Piacenza.

Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.