#Atribute to Eleganceottobre 26 / 2014
Elegance is the quality that lies at the very heart of everything Giorgio Armani creates. But the question is, where does this commitment to simple, sophisticated refinement stem from?
The answer lies in the designer’s childhood – specifically in his recollection of his mother. ‘What I remember about my mother is her beauty and dignity, a feeling that characterised her entire life and had a profound impact on me,’ says Giorgio Armani. ‘She was the one who gave me the idea that ethics and aesthetics should reflect each other. I don’t know what my parents’ plans for me were, but their teachings and values definitely lie at the root of the person I am today, and also find expression in my work.’
Armani’s mother clearly made a lasting impression on her son, and when he talks of her, the picture that emerges is of a woman who absolutely understood that elegance is an attitude as much as a look.
‘My mother was very elegant,’ he states. ‘She had great force and a refined sensibility. She taught me that if you wish to create beauty, only do what is necessary, and no more. It is a lesson I have never forgotten. And it is the approach I use when creating both fashion and interiors. In my cabin on Maìn [his boat], on the desk there is a picture of her with me when I was about six on the beach at Rimini. She looks beautiful in her black skirt and one-piece bathing suit. That’s how I remember her.’
The image is typical of how the adult fashion designer would imagine his ideal women – wearing paired-back, simple outfits, created from lines and volume rather than from ostentatious details and bright colours.
In the pictures he would create over the years of both women and men to bring his collections to life, we repeatedly see the elegant aesthetic of someone who views clothing as an extension of the wearer’s personality and not as a disguise; not as something designed to overwhelm with drama, but always a means to augmenting the character of the man or woman who has chosen it.
"Elegance is not about being noticed,
it’s about being remembered”
It is easy to grasp this philosophy as it is applied to the arena of the red carpet. Armani has a history of dressing stars for that all-important walk in front of the world’s photographers, where an ill-chosen outfit can become a source of embarrassment. By looking to Armani, actors have long found a safe pair of hands – a man dedicated to dressing them with eternal style, rather than employing transient fireworks. His female friends – Charlize Theron, Penelope Cruz, Anne Hathaway, Jodie Foster, Hilary Swank – have all benefitted from his tasteful and restrained dresses. Typical was Cate Blanchett in a flowing black gown with a crystal-embellished black-on-black stem-and-leaf embroidery at Cannes this year. As for his eveningwear for men, this too has provided welcome classic style for the likes of George Clooney, Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and Michael Fassbender
However, while it may come as no surprise to see elegance expressed in the types of gowns and dinner suits that grace the red-carpeted surrogate runways of Cannes and Hollywood, it is no less present in Armani’s creations for everyday wear.
A beautifully cut jacket is perhaps the essence of the Armani look – whether for a man or a woman. A simple trouser suit. A flowing coat. A relaxed shirt. All these, in the hands of Giorgio Armani, are executed with a respect for the understated, and a fascination for how form and function combine, and how clothing interacts with the body.
And when he is thinking not of a dress or a suit, but of an armchair, or table, the same rules apply: how do the lines of this piece flow? How does it deliver in terms of functionality? What sort of finish would suit this design? What sort of fabric or colour? Is there an elegant solution to the challenge of creating a chair, a cabinet, a desk?
The Armani aesthetic is elegant not because this is a quality the designer has chosen to promote, but because he knows no other way of expressing beauty.