Numéro: Tell me about your childhood, and why you initially decided to study medicine.
Giorgio Armani: I had the simple life of a teenager growing up in post-war Italy: a country much poorer than the present-day nation. In that climate, my mother was able to convey a strong sense of rigour and dignity, values that undoubtedly influenced me later on in both work and life. The decision to enrol in medical school was very romantic: I thought I would become one of those adventurous country doctors depicted by AJ Cronin in The Citadel, a novel that really impressed me as a boy. But I soon realized it wasn’t my path. Though with the current health crisis, this desire has resurfaced.
I’ve seen photos of your mother, who was a very beautiful, naturally elegant woman. Did she help spark your interest in fashion?
My mother was a beautiful, elegant woman, who could be sweet and strong at the same time. Rigour and dignity characterized her entire life. Her practical way to face and solve problems, even in difficult times, had a great influence on me. Seeing my mother wearing her jackets certainly sparked an interest in clothing. She was doing more with less, and certainly not dressing like a doll. The jacket had a function, but she wore it elegantly, and it gave her presence. She also influenced my idea of beauty as a harmony of body and mind, expressiveness, a certain form of grace – exactness. My mother possessed all these qualities.
Did you already feel, back then, that you were attracted to a completely different field?
I was fascinated by everything that revolved around beauty. It called to me. And I had many interests, like photography, art and design. Fashion was just a facet of a much broader range. When I came onto the scene, I had the technical background necessary and a certain maturity, which led me to introduce myself into the dynamics of this world with passion and dedication. I can now say that I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else, thanks to the possibilities I had to dive into all of my passions.
What was it like moving to Milan to work for La Rinascente?
Milan is the city where I chose to live, a city that welcomed me, understood me and has always been a source of inspiration ever since my first job at La Rinascente, where I was dressing windows and working as a buyer. I got to observe people, and that was an invaluable lesson. Milan at that time was a bursting, innovative city, and people were constantly on the lookout for something new.
What did you learn at the time through that experience?
I became passionate about fabrics and shapes through my experience at La Rinascente. Shortly after, I had the privilege of becoming an apprentice to the great Nino Cerruti. That’s where my career took off. It was Cerruti himself – to whose foresight I owe a lot – who asked me for new solutions to make a suit less rigid, more comfortable, less industrial and more tailored. It was then that, by de- constructing the jacket, I made it come alive on the body, using non-traditional fabrics.
Did you already set yourself ambitious goals back then? Or did success come more haphazardly?
If your passion is authentic, you never have a plan at the beginning. It was all about expressing my ideas. Everything started with the encouragement I received from my partner Sergio Galeotti, who had faith in me and pushed me to forge ahead. “Be yourself, believe in your vision, regardless of any criticism,” he said. It’s what I’ve always tried to do, and the results have been surprising. Today I’d love to show him what we ultimately achieved. We started out so small – I’m sure he would be amazed.