The Phenomenon Called Mr. Armani
Fashion’s living legend and the ultimate powerhouse of sophistication, Giorgio Armani talks to Kamna Malik about his lifelong belief in sustainable fashion
When I think of ‘Armani,’ I instantly see this image of someone powerful, but in an understated manner. Rather, let me be honest here, I think of George Clooney looking sexy and suave! Apart from being a huge fan of Giorgio Armani’s work, he is also someone who intrigues me – I see him as a rule-breaker. Back in February 2020, when no one had imagined the prolonged pandemic, Armani powered the tough decision of hosting his upcoming show behind closed doors. Despite months of planning the live show, he led the revolution of virtual presentations. The fashion world has changed drastically since then, and ironically, Armani’s trend-free approach has emerged as a trend lately.
He’s an institution in himself; yet, don’t be surprised if you spot him at an Armani store window, fixing mannequins. Even after spending a lifetime in the industry, he likes to personally look into the minutest of details. The veteran still styles all his shows himself, sometimes teaching models ‘the signature Armani walk’ or sometimes, even touching-up their make-up, if required. For ELLE’s 24th anniversary issue, we decided to reach out to the legend who never consciously sought to create a revolution, but ended up becoming a synonym to fashion. Here are a few excerpts:
Kamna Malik: Considering a world post the pandemic, do you have any long-term action points for the brand Armani?
Giorgio Armani: The fashion industry has been due for a reckoning for a while now. I hope that it will now review its priorities and learn from this experience. I have always stressed on the need to slow down, to show less and to return to a position of taking into consideration, the real requests of customers. I am therefore anticipating a truer system in terms of human scale. The pandemic has allowed me time to reflect and made me think about what I would like to change. For example, I am committed to putting clothes in the store that match the season outside. No more winter overcoats being offered in July, or linen dresses in January. Let’s get back in line with nature.
KM: As one of the foremost fashion designers to dedicate their factories to produce medical overalls for healthcare workers au gratis, what are you lessons and insights?
GA: If anything, my attitude aesthetic attitude has that clothes should be comfortable and functional, as well as beautiful. We need to make things that are not at the mercy of transient trends – so they can be worn and enjoyed for a longer period, as this is a more sustainable way to regard your wardrobe. It is about timelessness versus trends. I am also actively engaged in researching how we can improve our own sustainability as a company. I have created the Emporio Armani R-EA collection, a selection of pieces crafted from recycled, regenerated or organic materials. This is a statement of intent – I wanted to do something that would promote debate and discussion. And, to show that I am serious about sustainability.
KM: Do you think hedonistic luxury is a thing of the past?
GA: Fast fashion has corrupted the fashion system by creating a situation in which the consumers feel that they must constantly buy new pieces to be ‘on trend’. This practice is hugely wasteful. Fashion businesses should operate on a more human scale, promoting creativity, good practice and sustainability. And maybe we are now beginning to understand what true luxury is: the freedom to walk outside, to travel, to see our friends and loved ones. In this context, we may appreciate the simple things in life more, and we may shop more thoughtfully, with more consideration and appreciation.
KM: You have revealed ‘restraint’ to be the secret behind your collections being timeless. How easy or difficult is it to exercise ‘restraint’ in fashion?
GA: It all stems from my mother. Despite being extremely modest, she was exceptionally elegant. She taught us – my brother, sister and I – the importance of caring for people as a primarily ethical choice. The idea of less is more, or even more specifically, ‘less but better’, is a doctrine that I have made my own, and that still sustains me today when I find this idea to be more relevant than ever.
KM: What do you think is the future of fashion shows, with the digital format suddenly becoming the norm?
GA: While I still believe there is a role for showing collections on models to bring designs to life, I also wonder if so many people still need to y around the world to see them. I am currently evaluating minimising or skipping the pre-collections. I think it is sufficient to show only one collection per season, which also includes the pre-collection. I have also decided that I needed to explore new ideas for a non-traditional way to present Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani for Spring/Summer 2021. For example, For Emporio Armani, I wanted to explore a new way to communicate, so I created Building Dialogues, a video that narrates the story of the Emporio Armani men’s and women’s Spring/Summer 2021 collections. In addition to seeing models in the collection, the collection is also worn by artists from worlds that have always been linked to Emporio Armani’s broad community. I am showing my work in a new way, and also making a symbolic gesture in support of those arts – music, dance and acting – that have been particularly affected by the prolonged lockdown period.
KM: What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusivity, and how do you think brands can become more inclusive?
GA: To me, diversity is the acknowledgement that we, as human beings, are all equal and the same. That we all deserve the very same rights, even though we do not look the same and are the offspring of different cultures. I consider diversity as a treasure. This applies to my vision in every sense. But everything can be done better and I am constantly aware of that! Collectively as society and as fashion system, we have to work harder to erase the exclusivity and lack of openness of our working environments.