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From Gere to Gladiators

On the eve of opening his biggest New York store, Giorgio Armani reflects on some career-changing moments.

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The wardrobe for American Gigolo was a turning point for men’s fashion. How did that happen?
In 1980, Director Paul Schrader selected my designs for his film. The look was revolutionary for the time—when menswear turned elegant, with casual tailoring. Richard Gere was the dream actor and model; he had a sensuality in the way he moved. His character mixed rebellious unconventionality with style. Our careers are linked for life.

The Untouchableswas another influential menswear movie moment.
Collaborating with costume designer Marilyn Vance and director Brian De Palma on this legendary film gave me deep creative satisfaction, and produced longtime friendships with Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Andy Garcia.

You realized early on that the Academy Awards were a fashion opportunity, and dressed Jodie Foster in a particularly memorable gown.
Jodie and I have similar personalities—we both know what we want and are clear in our decisions. When we started working together, twenty years ago, I appreciated the fact that she declared, “I’m an actor. You tell me what I should wear.” She told me this was the best evening gown she ever wore because of its comfort, even fully beaded.

You’ve also dressed a lot of the men on the red carpet, like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
Matt and Ben gave me one of my first indelible “Hollywood” memories. I dressed them for their first Academy Awards ceremony, when they won the Oscar for Good Will Hunting. They were so exuberant on the red carpet. They were beaming like little boys, saying, “Thanks for the tuxes, Giorgio!”

You decided to launch a couture line, Armani Privé, in 2005, even though that’s generally considered to be a dying art.
The first collection—just 35 outfits—was mainly evening wear. For some, couture is about costume and theater. But not for me. I am creating this collection in a very thought-out, pragmatic way. This is about offering a very special, personalized service for my best clients.

You put a Nobu restaurant inside your store in central Milan. What made you think people would want to eat among clothes?
Nobu in Milan is a great place for an aperitivo, always packed with an interesting mix of different kinds of people—hip, young, chic. I often go there right before dinner just to check out the atmosphere. I admire Nobu-san’s genius in combining traditional Japanese cuisine with international flavors from South America. His attention to the aesthetic and detail makes the dining experience unique.

And then there’s the furniture line, Armani Casa.
Made to measure and bespoke are two concepts that I find particularly interesting both for my fashion and my home creations. Furnishings like my limited- edition “Borromini” chaise have an added appeal because they are unique and will not be mass-produced.

You’ve done a lot of off-field outfits for sports teams, including the Chelsea football club and the Rabbitohs rugby team from Australia. What’s appealing about athletes?
I’ve always been interested in dressing sports personalities because to me they are like modern gladiators. On my last trip to Sydney, I visited Russell Crowe, who had gotten involved with the Rabbitohs. They were training on a beach near Bondi and I finally got to meet these amazing athletes. It was inspiring.


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