The Good Life : What did Giorgio Armani’s Milan look like in the 1970s?
Giorgio Armani : This decade paved the way for a bustling city. It was possible to bring his ideas to life and come true on a young and bubbling stage. Different disciplines intersected. I felt it was the right time to get started. Working in fashion in Milan at that time meant taking the path of modernity: industry and not the workshop, working women and not ladies. In short, follow innovation. Everything was ready, all it took was the spark of the economic boom of the 80s to trigger the phenomenon. It turned out to be the winning choice.
The Good Life : What brands did you collaborate with when you started out?
Giorgio Armani : Thanks to the great experience I had acquired with Nino Cerruti as designer of the Hitman men’s line, in 1972 I started my activity as a freelance fashion consultant for Allegri, Bagutta, Gibò, Hilton, Montedoro, Sicons, Spirito, Ungaro and Ermenegildo Zegna, as well as Loewe. I was bursting with ideas and had a deep desire to express them.
The Good Life : What was the strategy of the Milanese fashion companies?
Giorgio Armani : This capacity, intrinsic to made in Italy, to industrialize the artisanal process. This has always resulted in products of unique quality, to which we designers have added style. In the 1970s, Italians were not yet aware of their pioneering role in ready-to-wear, while we were in many other areas after the war. I was trained on the job, the best of schools. Nino Cerruti was, in particular, an example for me, for the consistency of style and intuition. He taught me the basics of my job, the search for a new classic style: fluid, far from any rigidity. I also learned to draw with him. I trained on the sketches of Yves Saint Laurent, who seemed to me to be the most dashing at the time, the most distant from the school of fashion designs, so lively and in perpetual motion. On his models, I forged my own style. Sometimes I had doubts and wondered if I had started on the right path, but Nino Cerruti always gave me confidence, with strength.
The Good Life : How did you understand that you have to mix men’s ready-to-wear and tailoring?
Giorgio Armani : The new lifestyles in 1970 demanded a comfortable and relaxed approach, adapted to the time. Clothing had to be updated, starting with men’s clothing, and then applying the same principles to women’s clothing. So I deconstructed the made-to-measure jacket, eliminating padding and linings, and working with lighter fabrics from new technologies. I thus obtained a fluid and elegant look, androgynous, suitable for both sexes. I wanted to break the standards, until then so strict, of the outfit while drawing on the roots of haute couture. I offered women clothes adapted to their new roles, to assertiveness, which distanced themselves from the domestic and family context. At the same time, men also found themselves less strict than their fathers, openly taking care of their bodies. It is not a precise aesthetic, rather an approach centered on “power dressing”: the fact of dressing to gain strength and security.
DATE : What would be your definition of made in Italy?
G. A. : Great products with thoughtful design, made to be used. Fashion cannot be satisfied with being imagined: it must be worn! In Milan, everyone understood this. Our fashion is inspired, concrete, with excellent workmanship that makes all the difference. The country cultivates a long tradition of elegant design through the architecture and furniture design of Gio Ponti, the automotive design of Pininfarina, the graphic language of Olivetti. I am proud to be part of this school of thought. I think this crisis gives us the opportunity to re-appreciate local know-how and craftsmanship, and reminds us of a precious truth: luxury needs time to be realized and appreciated. Fashion should work in a more human way, promoting creativity and good practices. Perhaps also this rare craft has survived because we are so proud of our history and our heritage.
“It is not a precise aesthetic, rather an approach centered on power dressing: the fact of dressing to gain strength and security. “ Giorgio Armani
DATE : Looking back, do you think Hollywood has helped make you known?
G. A. : My clothes materialized a fairly universal need. Hollywood did the rest. The 1980s marked huge changes among young actors who refused the theatrical side of the old Hollywood red carpet. Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro wanted audiences to feel close to them and wanted to be people before they were stars. It was a time of transition. Today too, there is that deep desire for authenticity that replaces superficial or provocative glamor.
DATE : In 2021, could a young designer be deployed as intensely as you?
G. A. : I usually give this advice: have a vision, believe in it, pursue it, work hard, listen to others while staying true to yourself, having the courage to make your own decisions. In my opinion, it is essential to cultivate a point of view to overcome the twists and turns, ups and downs, as well as the inevitability of the unforeseen like the current economic situation. I don’t know if the current conditions can allow a youngster to achieve the same results as mine, but I haven’t built everything in a year. Patience and diligence are great virtues.
DATE : What would be the things to improve in Milan?
G. A. : The 2015 Exhibition proved how much investment can contribute to rejuvenating a city, keeping it modern by making it interesting through cultural attractions. In fact, in 2015, I inaugurated Armani / Silos, which exhibits my collection permanently as well as temporary presentations. This is my gift to my city. For Milan to maintain its international stature and a community spirit, more initiatives are needed. Sometimes Milan seems sectarian to me, just like Italy is. I would like that we find this interdisciplinary link of my beginnings.
“I haven’t built everything in a year. Patience and diligence are great virtues. » G.A.
DATE : What does the coronavirus crisis inspire you?
G. A. : It gives us the opportunity to slow down and realign everything; to draw a more true horizon. We all have responsibilities to the Earth and its creatures, human or not. It’s up to us, designers, to create beauty, to produce less and better, to adopt more sustainable rhythms. This frantic cycle is harmful for creativity, consumption and the environment. By uniting ourselves, we will have to imagine different formulas to effectively reach the consumer and find solutions to relaunch the sector. Likewise, the way we dress has been influenced by the obligation to stay at home. Perhaps we are starting to appreciate the comfort and convenience of our outfits. This is to my advantage, since it is a fundamental element of my work, and my latest collections are also a hymn to the joy of dressing.
DATE : How do you see the future of your empire?
G. A. : My business still revolves around me, but I already have his succession in mind. In 2016, I established a foundation which, in addition to dealing with projects of public and social interest, will guarantee the stability of the group over time and its consistency with respect to the principles of paramount importance to my eyes: autonomy and independence, a correct and ethical approach to management, conducted with integrity and honesty, and innovation, without forgetting excellence and sustainable development. I consider, in fact, that a carefully considered sustainable strategy must lead a company not only to create wealth, but also to last over time, by managing to exploit renewable resources. A question of ethics much more than of strategy. I have constantly strived to make the Armani group adhere to a series of clear values that characterize its actions and products.