Giorgio Armani (1934)

The career of Giorgio Armani exemplifies the power of brands in 20th- and 21st-century industry, and shows how association with popular culture, with music, sport and cinema, can provide a foundation for a company that ultimately makes its living by manufacturing.

Armani was born in Piacenza in northern Italy and initially embarked on a career in medicine. After a spell in the army he became a window dresser   at La Rinascente (‘the re-birth’) in Milan, a prestigious shop established in the mid-nineteenth century by Bocconi Bros, next to the Piazza del Duomo, which had been celebrated by the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio (1863-1936). Armani became involved in marketing for the company, then began to design manswear for Nino Cerruti (b 1930) head of the firm of Lanificio Fratelli, which dated from 1881. Subsequent he did freelance work for several fashion houses before forming his own Milan-based company, Giorgio Armani S.p.A., in 1974. He produced designs for men’s and women’s clothing of all sorts, swimsuits and stylish outfits for children.

He opened boutiques, provided house magazines for customers, ran numerous television advertisements, announced the company’s products to the public on enormous posters. His was one of the first companies to make extensive use of the Internet. He opened stores in the United States and China, and had outlets in 37 countries by 2009. He designed for films, and had links with pop music through Eric Clapton (b 1945) and through designing costumes for Lady Gaga. He also designed sports outfits and has a long association with the football club Internationale Milan. One of the ultimate accolades bestowed on Armani was the staging of an exhibition of his work at the Guggenheim in New York. In his own words he is ‘a man who gets things done, not one who just talks about them – a man of action, not of celebration, or, worse still, of self-celebration’ (2015).