She, him and Giorgio Armani
Below an extract from the interview with Giorgio Armani on Fashion Italia in May.
In the catalog that accompanied the exhibition with which the Guggenheim in New York paid homage to Giorgio Armani in 2000, an entire chapter was devoted to gender. Suzy Menkes wrote: «To understand the results achieved by Armani, one must think of him as the link in a chain that continues from the introduction of tailor-made in the Belle Époque to Gabrielle Chanel in 1920-30 and Yves Saint Laurent over the years 60 and 70 “.
The reference, not surprisingly, is to the two couturiers who made history by reimagining the male suit for female use. If in the 80s and 90s, in the halls of power women felt strong in Armani designer clothes, men were no different, freed from his fashion that allowed them to express their most sensual côté: the lining of their compassionate clothes had been in fact eliminated, the rigid fabrics replaced by silk and cashmere draped softly on the bodies. Armani is considered to be the one who radically changed the rules of contemporary fashion, and in this 21st century, in terms of gender, his genetic code is more relevant than ever. As he explains in this exclusive interview, published in two parts: on Fashion Italia for women’s fashion, and on L’Uomo for menswear.
What do you think of the current conversation about gender fluency?
Today everything is played on the level of communication, and even fashion is looking for a theme to ride. Gender equality, which certainly is not limited to roles in society, but involves dress codes, is a fundamental theme, it has interested me since I started this job. So much so that he put the blazer on women and made men’s jackets with soft and feminine fabrics. I know the matter. So, welcome and the variety of proposals. Only, I have the impression that sometimes, driven by the desire to shock, people tend to go too far, with catwalk experiments that end up running out there. Personally, I continue to look at how people dress in reality, with the desire to create something effective, even by exploring such a delicate and complex theme.
A shot by Tom Munro in 2000 that told the elegant, graceful androgyny of Giorgio Armani’s woman in the exhibition set up at the Guggenheim in New York.
The Armani woman has always been strong, independent, yet also feminine, sensual, graceful. How would you define it?
Engaged, strong-willed, self-confident, capable of eccentricity and grace. He is a conscious person, who in clothes seeks a completion of himself and no more – times have changed! – a uniform to wear to identify itself in its social role. It contains the strength and kindness of which we said at the beginning.
Fall / Winter 1979-80. Photograph by Aldo Fallai.
© Aldo Fallai
He has been named as the designer who empowered career women, dressing them for success, so to speak, with the “power suit”.
I have always considered myself a revolutionary, and certainly with my clothes I helped women in a fundamental historical moment. I am glad that I have recognized this merit. I accept it, without too much glory.
After the protests against the establishment in the 1960s, after the flourishing of the feminist movement, in the 1970s the attitude towards rigid gender definitions changed.
That’s right, and I would luckily add. Gender has a collective value, therefore conventional and shared, while maintaining a deeply intimate dimension. The protest movements of that period achieved goals, and one of these is certainly the realization of the value of freedom of expression also through clothing. Which undoubtedly influenced my generation.
Read the full interview with Giorgio Armani on the May issue of Fashion Italia, on newsstands.
Below an extract from the interview with Giorgio Armani on L’Uomo di maggio.
Spring / Summer 1989. Photograph by Aldo Fallai.
You revolutionized men’s clothing with its unstructured jacket. Where did the inspiration come from to eliminate the parts that made male tailoring constricting?
I think that the success of a designer depends largely on the ability to read the surrounding world, perceiving its needs and transformations. The seventies, the period in which I started my journey, were a moment of strong change in which I saw men looking for less rigid and punitive swamps, and women looking for a uniform suitable for new roles. In my mind everything has condensed into the deconstructed blazer, perfect for him and her.
I was, in fact, one of those young men: I created the first jackets for myself. I was disheartened by traditional clothes: even those made to measure made me feel old prematurely. When I started drawing, all men were dressed alike. That the dress was a little wider here or fitted there, did not change much: it was impossible to distinguish them from each other. But I wanted to customize the jacket and to obtain a natural effect, I lightened the internal structure and transformed it into a second skin, beautiful even if wrinkled. My sister and her friends saw those jackets and began to wear them. The rest, as they say, is history.
By freeing men from buttoned and formal clothing, she allowed them to express a more sensual side traditionally associated with the female gender. At the time, were you interested in freeing men in the same way that designers had previously freed women?
My thought was not so openly and intentionally political, but the effect was inevitably this. Clothes are never neutral because fashion is the most powerful and immediate mirror of society and its changes. I breathed the radical and pioneering spirit of the time, and I expressed it in my own way. Giving men a softer and looser wardrobe meant freeing them from a rigid and stereotyped representation of their roles. This too is emancipation.
By making garments gently draped over the male body, she placed the male physique at the center of attention at a time when the culture of fitness was booming.
Each era has its unmistakable body, because ideals shape it. There is the elongated physique and narrow chest of the thirties, for example, or the vitaminized one of the fifties. The body of the 1980s was the one shaped by physical activity: healthy, sensual, athletic. I certainly enhanced it, with the softness of my fashion, because the body forged by fitness in traditional and rigid tailored clothes is ridiculous.
Read the full interview with Giorgio Armani on the May issue of L’Uomo, on newsstands.
Spring / Summer 1992. Photograph by Aldo Fallai