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Giorgio Armani infront of one of his flagship storesEach year, over two million people buy an item of clothing or an accessory in one of the more than 2,000 Armani outlets in countries all over the world, generating revenues in excess of $700 million. This is the profile of a company that has enjoyed continued growth since it was established in 1975 and still shows no signs of slowing down. Loyal to a philosophy of design that has produced his trademark style of simple yet refined elegance, Giorgio Armani has not only weathered the vicissitudes of time, he has thrived on them. The secret of this remarkable success is the clean design that gives his creations a timeless quality, which transcends fashions and fads—the surest mark of a master.

As a young man, Giorgio Armani gave up his medical studies when he realised that he had a greater affinity for design. After several detours, he found his true vocation in the hectic and exciting world of the Milan fashion industry, where his first notable design, now almost 35 years ago, was a button for a jacket by Nino Cerruti, his erstwhile employer. Displaying a unique personal touch at a very early stage in his career, Armani plunged wholeheartedly into the unknown, breaking new ground and shirking no challenge in the process.

It takes a truly creative mind to be inventive in design, be it fashion, architecture or industrial design, as even the subtlest innovations require a fundamental re-interpretation of space, form and aesthetics. Redefining the relationship between these elements on many an occasion, Giorgio Armani has been a revolutionary force in the world of fashion. His ‘revolution’ has been a quiet, consistent one in which he universalised trousers and applied the architectural creed ‘less is more’ to fashion design. Armani is a pioneer, but one who lacks the dogmatism of those who feel compelled to change the world in their wake. His ability to alternate daring avant-garde designs with sumptuous classical creations does nothing to detract from his pioneering credentials, but rather attests to his versatility as a designer and creative thinker. The simple grace of his designs and his treatment of materials and colours have elevated him to the pinnacle of his trade and won him a loyal following among the world’s rich and famous.

Adept at the art of marketing, though, he has not rested on his laurels but directed his company towards change and creativity, not just reacting to changes in the market but anticipating them. More than that, he has become a master at shaping modern fashion trends. An example of this is the way he responded to the growing demand for mid-priced designers labels in the early 1990’s by launching a line of pret-à-porter clothing, marketed through the Emporio Armani chain of outlets. This concept was expanded upon with the launch of the Easy Pieces range for women. Recognisable by blue labels, Easy Pieces consist of a line of affordable and easily combinable clothing aimed at young women and designed to bring style and comfort to everyday clothing. This integration of light, sporty elements into designer clothing has enabled Armani to break moulds and redefine fashion. As he himself says, “I have always had a pragmatic attitude. At the end of the day, the people who wear my outfits require them to combine good looks with utility. This is why I don’t believe in the so-called ‘pret-à-porter revolution’ which dictates that you have to change your entire collection every six months. I concentrate on the styling and let the collections evolve gradually, giving people a chance to evolve along with them and change their wardrobe at a more natural pace.”

Since he opened his first boutique in Milan, in 1981, Giorgio Armani has dedicated himself to his notion of ‘Democratic Fashion’; bringing style, quality and personalised clothing within the reach of a broad public. In so doing, he has been at the forefront of a transformation in trends; now, almost twenty years later, new generations of consumers shun standardised, mass-produced clothing and insist on designer labels that not only provide status but also the opportunity to express one’s individualism through dress.

Always looking for new challenges and mediums through which to express his design philosophy, Giorgio Armani has moved into interior decoration with a range that is the product of two years of hard work. The range, which bears the unmistakable Armani mark, reflects his desire not just to design furniture and household items, but to extend his philosophy of form and space to them. He has created a world centred on the main elements of a home—the sofa, bed and table. Armani Casa startles the senses with an interchange of concepts in which nothing is the way it seems: natural forms belie a dedication to comfort whilst the most modern designs harbour an unexpected touch of nostalgia. “I embarked upon this huge project, knowing that it would involve a lot of hard work and risk-taking. I asked myself: what can I do to create designs that are innovative and modern, yet contain references to the past and are unmistakably Armani? I found the answer in a determination to remain true to the daring, creative spirit that marked the beginning of my career, when I came up with basic designs based upon radically new concepts.”

The Armani store in MilanHis stylised forms are softened by the quality of the materials he uses. Armani has introduced colours that are new to the world of decoration: grey greens, grey tones of beige and anthracite with a shimmer of lapislázuli. His decorative pieces display none of the usual style versus content dilemmas designers commonly battle with, but are the product of a symbiotic relationship between style, aesthetics and utility.

But the man doesn’t stop there; most recently, he has extended his fragrance line and branched out into other cosmetics, with luxury products and accessories for the face, eyes, lips and nails. Bravely calling himself the ‘Master of Beauty’, Armani says, ‘Make-up is definitely part of the fashion world. Elegance doesn’t mean being noticed, it means being remembered.” With an emphasis on weightlessness and luminosity, the line boasts subtle colours, unparalleled textures and ingredients inspired by nature. This is no more true than of Crema Nera, Armani’s latest anti-aging face cream. Ultra-expensive, the cream is made with the obsidian rock formations found on the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria, just off the coast of Sicily. A glossy black stone that’s said to stimulate cell metabolism for ultimate skin regeneration, Armani seems to have got it just right yet again.

The man who fits out industrialists, royalty and most of Hollywood has also built up a reputation as one of the greatest innovators of the post-war era. Having reached two milestones—the 25th anniversary of his fashion house and his own 65th birthday—Giorgio Armani shows no signs of reduced enthusiasm or energy: “I am proud of the contribution I have made to fashion in the 20th century and it is my wish to continue to make such a contribution for some time into the 21st century.”

“My designs are characterised by simple forms because I believe simplicity harbours the purest form of beauty”

“Fashion design, like all creative processes, depends upon the ability to keep rediscovering and re-inventing your subject matter.”

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