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Giorgio Armani
Fashion Tsar from Italy

For over 20 years he has been celebrated as the master of purism. Whether on or off the catwalk, what Giorgio Armani offers is effective, almost understated elegance. Since his closest friend and partner, Sergio Galeotti, died 10 years ago, this shy designer has become even more reserved. The only live-in companions he tolerates are 4 small cats.

Giorgio Armani:
There have always been animals in my family, a small dog and cats - my parents taught us to be kind to animals. Animals bring life to a home. I particularly like cats, because they are independent and proud. You can only cuddle them when they are in the mood for it. But, despite their stubborn streak, they are like friends and give each room a kind of special warmth.
More or less the same applies for the dogs! I have two labradors in the country that are even more chaotic than cats. I also have a horse, a goat and two deer. I adore these animals, because they are so full of life.

Which three things would you take with you on an abandoned island...?

Giorgio Armani:

....three things that I love....., well - that is a very difficult question.

May be a cat...? (smiles)

Giorgio Armani:

(smiles, too)
.....Well not a cat I don't think so; I would be more likely to take three people that I am close to. I would definitely not take any jackets and certainly no work. If I were on a desert island, it would be as if the world no longer existed. Deciding who to take would be very difficult!

Armani's fashion empire turns over approx. 800 million dollars. The model career of this ultimate perfectionist began 40 years ago. As a young medical student Giorgio was working as a part-time window dresser when Nino Cerrutti discovered him and set him on his new career path. In 1975, Armani set up his own company with his friend Sergio and now his signature is to be seen on almost everything from clothing and shoes to glasses or even perfume. The book “Images of Men”, chronicles Armani's mens fashionwear.

Giorgio Armani:
This book came into being because I had always wanted to put together a collection of the photographs I had taken of men over the years - from the very beginning to the current campaigns.
It was especially the photographs that were over 10 years old that I found particularly touching. I had almost forgotten these pictures, so when I saw them again all the emotions that I had felt came flooding back. I was reminded of my first attempts to change male fashion - that was about 10 to 15 yeas ago and you will think it crazy, but I still feel that same way now as I did then.

These photographs are a history of my fashion style and it is nice to see that my creations have not lost any of their originality over the years. I would like to bring out a new version of these things, because I don't like changing my style. My fashion has naturally developed over the years, but I would still wear a jacket that I wore ten years ago.

The famous blazer without shoulder pads is typical of his style, because - as he tells me - he enjoys being able to show that one can look masculine without having to look like Rambo.  

How important are accessories for men?

Giorgio Armani:
These are very important, because men are limited for choice - ties, shoes, socks and - if one wears them - cuff-links. What are extremely important are shoes. You can tell a man's character from the shoes he wears.

How would you describe the "Armani Woman"?

Giorgio Armani:
One cannot categorise an Armani woman. I personally like self-confident, intelligent women such as Michelle Pfeiffer. Intelligence interests me more than a pretty face. I don't like women who follow fashion trends down to the latest button-hole or cover themselves with status symbols in order to pretend to be something that they are not. My ideal woman has her own individual style and therefore my fashion is suitable for various types of women.

With his functional, almost anonymous, styling, the Italian designer wants to attract attention - unlike his French colleagues.

Giorgio Armani:
Italian designers are far more sales-oriented than their French counterparts. We have sell our clothes, fill the boutiques with our products and make sure that we find buyers for them. That is our concept. We cannot afford just to pursue a nice dream and make beautiful one-off creations which we can't sell. The French, on the other hand, have more liberty and to a certain extent, therefore, more creativity, because they never ask themselves when these dresses will be worn or by who. They love decorative things, the Italians on the other hand just want to fulfil a purpose with their off-the-peg fashion.

When he is not on fashion duty, Georgio Armani, who has often been voted best designer, flees to the peace and quiet of his palazzo in Broni, once owned by the Count of Rivara. Here he receives his friends, such as the Hollywood stars Claudia Cardinale, Tom Cruise or tennis-star Boris Becker.

Giorgio Armani:
I found the Villa Rivara in Broni just by chance. One day I was driving with my late partner Sergio Galleotti through the countryside - looking for a small weekend house. Suddenly we saw an 18th century-style villa - empty and in an extremely poor state - that was that! Actually, we never wanted a home in Como or on the Cote d'Azur . We were looking for something small near Milan , the Rivara Villa isn't exactly what you could call a country manor, but that's the way I see it.  

Click to enlarge photos. From left to right: Photo 1: Armani's pink 'Villa Rivara' in Broni. Photo 2: the main salon in cream colours. Photo 3: Baroque angel holding a lamp. Photo 4: Armani's modern bedroom in grey shades.

I am a little bit confused - are we extras in the wrong film? Of all people, Armani, the purist, lives in a pink, baroque villa. But it is actually here that he really opens up. The man, who turned Richard Gere into the American gigolo and clothed Oscar award winners, talks of his dream of directing a film. In view of the glamorous setting, I am interested to know what his attitude is to luxury and money.

Giorgio Armani:
Money helps in life and so it is important. Yet wealth can also be a burden. You constantly have to come to terms with the rest of the world and they're worse off. In some cases, you even have to apologise for it - I find that a bit hard-going. In the past the rich man could retreat into his castle, cut himself off from the rest of the world and bask in his own fortune. Nowadays, it's different. The mass media do not allow him to do what he wants with his money without thinking of other people. In some cases, you even have to apologise for it - I find that a bit hard-going.

Are you sometimes afraid of the future?

Giorgio Armani:
Yes, often. Every day when I come home after a hard day's work, I say to myself I shall never see those ten to twelve hours again. I discover a few more white hairs and see my tired face in the mirror and ask myself what it's all for and for who. But this is what life is all about. My personal philosophy is to be true to myself and helping others, not trying to be what I am not. I try to make the most of my positive features - that is my personal art of living!

Armani is as good as his word. For years he has supported Aids sufferers and children in need. Despite his fame, the top designer has remained a straightforward, easy- going person and could - as he says to me as I am leaving - live as simply as a monk if he had to. I believe him, because it is obvious that Giorgio Armani worked out his own personal philosophy a long time ago.



* This special feature "Giorgio Armani" has been one of more than 200 VIP-Portraits, produced by Nathalie Gütermann for her TV-Shows 'Nathalie's Lifestyle' and 'Nathalie's Art of Living' that were broadcasted between 1990 - 2003 in Germany and in 15 countries world-wide. The content has been updated with actual information in 2004 for © 1990 - 2004. The reproduction or other use of any text, photographs, etc. needs the prior written permission of the Chief Publisher.

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