Giorgio Armani was born in Piacenza, a small town outside of Milan, to a poor family (his father was a shipping manager). Giorgio and his two siblings experienced the hardships of the Second World War as children. He lived through difficult and challenging times, and years later, would say that the cinema in Milan was a refuge, where he fell in love with Hollywood glamour and the idealized beauty and style depicted on the silver screen. At a very early age, he developed an interest in anatomy, making dolls out of mud, which led to him going to medical school for two years. He had to take a break to complete his mandatory military service, and during a visit to Milan, he saw the Italian fashion scene there and knew that he wanted to enter the industry. Through a friend, he got a job at the renowned department store, La Rinascente, designing windows, and would eventually move to work for Cerutti.
Giorgio Armani is one of the most successful designers in history, having defined decades of fashion and made moves that have proven to be very successful from a business point of view. In his early years, before starting his own venture, he already had a very keen understanding of what customers wanted and could identify the societal and cultural changes taking place. He worked in La Rinascente for seven years, initially designing windows. His vision was ahead of its time, especially for the rather conservative Italian consumers, because he would design windows that were exotic, blending different cultures. But what his experience at the department store gave him was the chance to observe how customers dressed and purchased fashion. It was, however, his work as a freelance designer to Gruppo Finanziario Tessile (GFT), a company with a long tradition of working in textiles and making revolutionary innovations in manufacturing, that would serve as the turning point in Armani’s career as a fashion entrepreneur. As one of the largest Italian clothing firms, with the most modern structure, the company provided Armani with manufacturing skills which allowed him to fully exploit his creative talent. In fact, the unstructured jacket was the result of the partnership between Armani and GFT which began in 1978 and continued to be a key success factor in establishing Armani as a successful fashion business.
The unstructured jacket began it all back in 1978.
Photo source: Giorgio Armani
It was in July 1975, upon his friend Sergio Galeotti’s encouragement, that the two would partner and start the Giorgio Armani brand, initially launching a menswear collection followed, a year later, by womenswear. The revolutionary style of Armani’s clothes earned him widespread recognition. He introduced a natural fit, a casual elegance, and timeless classics with a subtle color palette. His was a unique style, which caught the attention of the fashion press and was also a great success with customers. Expensive and instantly recognizable, Armani would become the label of choice in the late 1970s and 1980s. His success was further fueled by the American consumer’s interest in his style; when Hollywood featured his clothes in movies, Armani would come to be the most sought after label. Such was Armani’s influence on the red carpet that in 1989 the Oscar ceremony was dubbed as the “Armani Awards”. His entrepreneurial vision was cemented when Armani extended his brand into lifestyle products. In addition to complementary products, such as beauty and homeware, he also ventured into hotels.
Key Success Factors:
In the years that followed the war, the Italian fashion industry was characterized by the dolce vita lifestyle and excess. When Giorgio Armani launched his label in 1975, it was the opposite of the extravagance that had come to define the Italian fashion designers. His unstructured jacket attracted the attention of the fashion press and the public, helping him to be noticed as a revolutionary fashion designer of the time. Armani’s minimalist style stood out in a sea of maximalist culture. Armani fashion shows were also a respite from the extravagant runways that were a norm in the industry in that era. He presented wearable, chic clothes with neutral palettes. His ability to underplay yet, at the same time, appear highly desirable and immaculate was the key to his success.
Giorgio Armani Fall/Winter fashion show 2021-2022. Photo Source: Giorgio Armani