Legend says that before Giorgio Armani—widely known in the fashion industry as simply “Mr. Armani”—arrives at his Milan offices in Via Borgonuovo, one can smell his signature Bois d’encens scent wafting through the building’s corridors. There are many myths such as this one built around the persona of Mr. Armani. In the last couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of the press entourage accompanying him from Dubai to Venice, from New York to St. Moritz. He is regal and enigmatic but also extremely kind, somewhat of a paternal figure to all of us in the business of fashion. I became a firm Armani believer in my 30s—my will even specifies which dove gray, double-breasted cashmere-infused suit I will be buried in. (One has to be ready for every occasion.)

Mr. Armani wears sweater EMPORIO ARMANI

I have learned that to fully understand Giorgio Armani, one must step into his designs. Behind his multi-billion dollar empire is a single perfect blazer, cut with the savoir-faire specific to couture houses and the raw emotion that is oh-so-central to all Italian exports. This July, Mr. Armani is turning 90. He remains fully involved in every aspect of his company (overseeing everything from the designs to image approval for campaigns and new collections). In this VMAN exclusive, the legend himself talks to us about his passions, philosophies, and, of course, the future.

VMAN: From personal experience, I can say that you have to reach a certain maturity to fully understand what Armani clothes do for you. What do you think about this assessment?

GIORGIO ARMANI: I agree that wearing Armani clothes requires a certain maturity. However, I would like to clarify my idea of maturity, which I do not link to a person’s age but rather to their awareness. Meaning you can be mature at 15 and immature at 60. To wear Armani, you must be in tune with your body and how you want to present yourself to the world. My clothes are made for the confident man who does not want to appear excessive or impetuous.

VMAN: There are many larger-than-life adjectives one can assign to you, but I would dare to say that the most important one is connected to the level of discipline you maintain. Would you say discipline is at the core of your personality? What is your philosophy on discipline?

GA: I would say that is correct. Discipline is a core aspect of my personality. It translates into dedication, tireless work, and being strict with myself regarding my goals. Quite simply, for me, discipline is a commitment to what you do and focus, as well as a rejection of any easy complacency.

From left to right:
Daein, Alessio, Jos, Mr. Armani, Cheikh, Kelly, and Yiorgos wear all clothing, accessories, shoes EMPORIO ARMANI

VMAN: You are fully involved in creating all the collections for the house and you stage approximately ten to twelve fashion shows per year. What is the secret to your drive? What makes you move forward?

GA: At the risk of repeating myself, it is passion that motivates me, combined with a drive to continuously improve. This, of course, is also an aspect of discipline: the idea that you can always move the bar a little higher and that the next feat will be better than the one before. This sense of ambition remains undiminished, even in the face of success and achievements.

VMAN: How do you feel before a show? Are you nervous? Do you feel the same excitement you felt decades ago with your first show? Or has that feeling evolved into something else?

GA: I feel apprehensive and partly nervous before a show. It is nowhere near the same tension I felt at the beginning of my career, but there is always that sense of throwing your work out to the public and waiting for judgment. I am always confident in what I am doing, but I do feel that idea of judgment. It is still something that triggers a lot of adrenaline. And that is a beautiful sensation.

From left to right:
Yiorgos and Daein wear all clothing and accessories EMPORIO ARMANI

VMAN: What do you think about the Italian fashion scene today? Who do you think could potentially inherit the much-coveted Armani throne one day?

GA: The scene today is alive and well and full of interesting characters. People always ask me who the new Armani might be, but we need to change [that] perspective: it would be impossible today to create what I and the other Italians did at the origins of ready-to-wear. Times are different and expectations have changed. No one is aiming to create an empire but to have shorter and more limited success, which is fine. I see many very talented young people with that approach who might devote themselves to something else in ten years’ time.

VMAN: Why is Pantelleria your preferred refuge and place to recharge? What does your average vacation day look like?

GA: Pantelleria is the perfect place for me because it is a wild island of volcanic origin in the middle of the sea, somewhere between Sicily and Africa. You can feel the power of nature there, with the sea all around and that sense of freedom that only the sea can transmit. I like to spend my days on the island on a boat or the veranda, absorbing the energy of that magical place and recharging my batteries through contact with nature. Summer is perhaps the time of year in which I ease up on the discipline a little.

VMAN: What do you notice first when you meet someone?

GA: I notice immediately the eyes and the gaze, which always communicate a lot. I notice clothes later and usually only if the person is badly dressed. I am always attracted to personality.

VMAN: The Navy blue sweater has become such an iconic part of your personal style. How do you approach clothes when it comes to your own closet?

GA: For us men, it’s inevitable. We tend to create a uniform, and that’s how I approach my wardrobe. A blue pullover is reassuring and avoids distractions: I am interested in the clothes I create, not the ones I wear.

VMAN: Which four or five pieces do you feel every man should have in his closet? What would you consider to be the Armani essentials?

GA: A blazer, definitely; a pair of soft trousers and maybe a waistcoat; a nice shirt that can be worn as a jacket, and then a sporty blouson. These are all elements that can be combined in different ways with varying levels of informal formality.

This story appears in the pages of VMAN 52: now available for purchase

Photography Alvaro Beamud Cortés

Fashion and Interview Gro Curtis

Makeup Luciano Chiarello (Julian Watson Agency)

Hair Pierpaolo Lai (Julian Watson Agency)

Models Alessio Pozzi (Elite Milan), Daein Moon (D’Management), Cheikh Dia (D’Management), Jos Schenk (Independent), Kelly Rippy (IMG Milan), Yiorgos Paraskeva (D’Management)

Production Elena Cimarosti (Interlude Project)

Casting director Shaun Beyen (Plus Three Two)

Prop stylist Annalisa Nleddu (Interlude Project)

Digital technician Andrea Cederle

Photo assistants Simone Triacca, Luca Soncini

Stylist assistant Lian Lubany

Makeup assistant Greta Roncoroni

Hair assistants Manuel Sunda, Yuri Napolitano

Prop stylist assistant Federica Manca

Casting assistant Elizabeth Miles

Location Milano Studio

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