Before The Row, Lemaire and Brunello Cucinelli, there was Calvin, Donna and best of all, Giorgio. A fabric meister, rigorous deconstructor (before Margiela), uber-minimalist yet (contrary to expectation) anti-perfectionist, Giorgio Armani is the godfather of what we now call ‘quiet luxury’.
Fantastic Man has a, well, fantastic deep dive on the man himself in its latest issue, as well as a mention of Made In Milan, Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mini-documentary, that gives us a delicious glimpse into Mr Armani’s influences and philosophies.
Inspired by his not well-off, yet well-turned-out parents and 1920s Chanel ‘modernism’, Armani established his manifesto for soft power dressing as early as 1975. He ripped out the lining and inner construction of rigid men’s suits and translated his version in soft, drapey fabrics advocating for comfort and lightness to reflect the changing lifestyles and aspirations of the post-war male.
This preceded today’s streetwear, extreme casualisation and even gender fluidity by several decades. At the 9-minute mark of the documentary, you can see the moment where he yanks out the shoulder pads and lining from a jacket, then shows the look on a garconne model to explain how women co-opted the look by borrowing the jacket for themselves (below). (Two other don’t miss moments: Mr Armani rejecting a greige fabric swatch as “too loud”, and his impressive specificity in directing the make-up look for a fashion show.)
I love the classic styling and cinematic photography of his 80s and 90s ad campaigns. Suits, berets, gloves – yes please! The campaigns were shot by photographers Peter Lindbergh and Aldo Fallai, gently lit, androgynously cast and film still-esque in their ambience.
This is no accident, by the way. An ardent cinephile, Armani always wanted to be a film director. The closest he got was being asked in 1980 to costume Richard Gere in American Gigolo (below). The success of the movie brought Armani to the attention of the mainstream American consumer. As with Ralph Lauren and The Great Gatsby, Armani was now firmly cemented in Hollywood history and consequently a first mover in the growing confluence of film, fashion and pop culture.
When I say ‘fashion’, I do of course really mean ‘style’. Armani isn’t a hype brand, it doesn’t do gimmicks or viral TikTok trends. It does considered collabs (this one with Our Legacy is pretty tight). It seems to have eluded Instagram stylists. And yet its annual revenues are extremely healthy thank you very much.
On the subject of social media, Mr Armani says, “while there are benefits to social media – undoubtedly, in the way that it promotes connectivity and can be used to get messages out there in a way that was unimaginable in the past – it also contributes to a worryingly frenetic pace of life. In particular, it feeds the notion that newness and passing trends are crucial to being stylish, which, in my opinion, is a fallacy.”
The slow fashion mantle has been subsequently taken up by a cohort of smaller brands that are by accident or design gaining attention with the hype set. But if The Row is too expensive and Cucinelli hijacked by status-signallers, then try sourcing #oldArmani* for 80s and 90s gems. Or check out the new Armani unisex capsule collection which revisits its androgynous roots to give us relaxed tailored silhouettes in superlative fabrics.
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WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Peter Lindbergh 1989; Made In Milan x 4; Giorgio Armani AW 1990 by Aldo Fallai via My Armani Archive; Armani 1990 via Garmento Zine; Giorgio Armani AW92 by Peter Linbergh; American Gigolo via Classiq Journal
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links* and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here
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