Giorgio ArmaniArmani's HistoryThe Exhibition25 Photographers Celebrate 25 Years of Armani

Armani's History
Order the Catalogue Born in 1934 into a humble family in Piacenza, a small town near Milan, Giorgio Armani went to the local public school and developed a love for the theater and cinema. After a short stint at the University of Milan medical school, 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 bought and exhibited quality products from India, Japan, and the U.S., and, in so doing, helped to introduce foreign cultures to the average Italian consumer.

In 1964, without any formal training, Armani designed a line of menswear for Nino Cerruti. Encouraged by his partner Sergio Galeotti, Armani left Cerruti and in 1970 became a freelance fashion designer and consultant. He soon made his mark. In 1973-74, at the prestigious Sala Bianca fashion show in Florence, he presented to great acclaim bomber jackets that treated leather as a regular, everyday fabric. This penchant for using materials in unexpected contexts and combinations came to be known as a defining characteristic of his genius. In 1975, Armani and Galeotti started their own company, Giorgio Armani S.p.A., and founded the Armani label. That July, Armani launched a revolution in fashion with his unlined and unconstructed man's jacket. Completely loose and informal, the blazer offered sensual hints of the body beneath, marking a major departure from, on the one hand, the stuffy suits that straitjacketed men in the 1960s, and, on the other, the sartorial abandon of the hippie generation. The rumpled jacket was an immediate success, and a new breed of tailoring was born. Three months later, he unveiled an unstructured jacket for women. Made with traditional menswear fabrics, it was as simple and soft as the man's and bore a masculine authority. With this alternative to long, flower-child skirts and classic French tailleurs, Armani joined Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel as an emancipator of women's fashion.

(Left to right) Man's sports jacket ensemble, spring/summer 1991; man's suit, spring/summer 1990. Photo by David Heald.

In the 1980s, the exquisitely tailored Armani "power suit" for men and women came to symbolize an era of international economic boom. With broad padded shoulders and widened lapels, the look was inspired by the glamour of 1940s Hollywood. Paul Schrader's film American Gigolo (1980) exemplified this trademark combination of power and sensuality with the now-famous scene in which Richard Gere pulls from his closet and dances with an extravagance of shirts, jackets, and ties as he chooses the perfect ensemble. The film secured Armani's fame with the general public and marked the beginning of a long and fruitful history of collaboration on films, most recently John Singleton's remake of Shaft (2000). Armani has also created costumes for theater, opera, and dance.

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 then Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley in 1988. Armani also invited Hollywood stars to wear his designs at the Academy Awards, winning devotees such as Michelle Pfeiffer and Jodie Foster. Today Armani extends his talent diversely, dressing Italian and English soccer teams and Alitalia airline flight attendants.

TOP LEFT: Man's suit, fall/winter 1979-80. Photo by Aldo Fallai.
TOP RIGHT: Woman's suit, fall/winter 1984-85. Photo by Aldo Fallai.