European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Designers

Milan and Elsewhere: Giorgio Armani’s inspirations

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The metropolis and beyond: places and spaces inspiring the designs for Emporio Armani

Milan has been the backdrop to many stories. lts many faces have been depicted in literature, featured in movies, turned up in songs. In all of popular culture where Milan has appeared, it is represented as an eclectic and vivid space intended for living. Milan is not contemplative: it is active and surrounds its people with an aura of possibility of self-fulfillment and success. Elegance and style, in Milan, are two words that can hardly be separated. Style is nurtured by a traditional idea of refinement, yet it is able to look forward and brave enough to risk and be modern.

Giorgio Armani has indicated Milan as his city. Although he was originally from Piacenza, the designer elected Milan as ‘his’ city, the city that ‘made him’. lt is to Milan that Giorgio Armani moved from Piacenza and started working at the department store La Rinascente, watching the people of the city wander and change. lt is in Milan that he founded his brand, electing the city as inspiration and stage for his creations: clothes for a society projected toward the future, but with a complex and important relation with its past. lt is Milan that he chose as his home, establishing a connection with the city and becoming one of its symbols.

In 1990, Martin Scorsese directs ‘Made in Milan’, a documentary that illustrates the relationship between the designer and the city. At the very beginning of the film, we hear the voice of. Giorgio Armani saying that Milan beauty is very close to his lifestyle,his way of seeing things. A discreet beauty that is still evident in some details of its architecture (…) Milan allows you to enter into its life, according to your needs.

The connection between Armani and Milan gave way to actions that became iconic. Examples include the fashion show of the Emporio Armani Spring Summer 2019 collection, which took place inside Linate airport In 2018; and, of course, the historical billboard in via Broletto, which since 1984 is updated to introduce the brand to the people of Milan and also, very significantly, is used by Giorgio Armani not only for fashion, but also to send out messages of hope and support, (in November 2020 it was dedicated to the key frontline workers during the covid-19 emergency).

However linked to the city, the designer also looked elsewhere for inspiration, considering travel as both an existential and aesthetic concept. An admirer of cinema and photography, intrigued by the ambiances of North Africa, China, Japan, India, and Polinesia, Giorgio Armani took inspiration for some of his most famous collections from the characteristics of these places, also choosing them as backdrops for advertising campaigns and promotional videos.

Giorgio Armani integrated the moods of these places ‘elsewhere’ – geographical as well as chronological – into his design language. lndeed, the brand has always aimed at being transversal, proposing designs that could speak to a wide audience, both in an aesthetic and a geographical sense.

Emporio Armani was born in Milan but immediately broadened its horizons: proof of this is the logo, an eagle with spread wings, representing the will to explore, admire and celebrate diversity.

The various influences are cleverly integrated into the unique Milanese way of thinking about fashion that Giorgio Armani has developed over the years. In addition to including a variety of references into the collections he created and showed in Milan, Giorgio Armani managed to bring new meanings into the city itself, contributing to the cultural life of Milanese society, while also showing Milanese women and men other possibilities in terms of defining their tastes and identities.