Pioneer of the power suit and master of Italian design, Giorgio Armani is one of the greatest living legends in fashion. It’s a startling outcome for a kid who originally wanted a career in medicine. Born in Piacenza in 1934, as a young man Armani enrolled for a medical degree at the University of Milan, but left after three years to do military service. When he came out, he took a job as a window dresser at the department store La Rinascente – and found his passion. It led to a position selling menswear, and then to a design role at Nino Cerruti. He started to freelance as a designer for other brands, and in 1975 launched his eponymous label.
It was Armani’s involvement in the 1980 movie American Gigolo, for which he produced Richard Gere’s entire wardrobe, that cemented his reputation internationally. It was a film that showcased a modern, sexy vision of menswear: the sleekest belted wool coat; shirts and suits that were immaculately tailored yet relaxed; short denim shorts that raised eyebrows. During the following decade Armani became synonymous with power dressing, delivering not only an upmarket Italian look for men, but the broad-shouldered, glamorous suits that became the uniform of a generation of career women.
Over the past 40 years, Armani’s business has evolved into an empire. The two main lines of Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani have been joined by a number of others – including Armani Jeans, Armani Exchange, a haute couture line launched in 2005, hotels, restaurants and even an interior design company. This year, Forbes estimated the designer’s net worth to be over $8 billion. Vogue looks back on his career so far.