A great lover of the 7th art, Giorgio Armani collaborated very early on with his best talents, dressing Richard Gere for American Gigolo at the dawn of the 80s, and thus defining a new masculinity. Friend of the greatest actors and directors, patron of budding filmmakers, the maestro returns here to his unwavering link with cinema, which will be celebrated at the beginning of September at the Venice Film Festival.
Interview with Giorgio Armani on his links with cinema, on the occasion of the Venice Film Festival
NUMÉRO: What are your first memories of cinema?
Giorgio Armani: My most distant memories of cinema go back to my childhood: every Sunday, we went to the cinema to experience moments of reverie and absolute escape. The first film that sticks in my memory is La corona di ferro (The Iron Crown) by Blasetti: a fantastic story that enchanted me with its magic and captivating on-screen portrayal. This film left an indelible imprint on my imagination, and its magic continues to live with me even today.
Among your influences, you often mentioned the golden age of Hollywood. How did you perceive this heightened glamor as you grew up in post-war Italy?
Growing up in Italy during those tumultuous war years magnified the glamor that unfolded on screen, elusive, preserved from the dust and ugliness of everyday life. A tangible dream, within reach of our eyes. Divas and movie stars emerged with unparalleled elegance and sophistication, moving through a reality untouched by the ravages of destruction and fear. The way each character was portrayed, their behavior and gestures, their way of dressing captivated me indelibly, forever influencing my journey.
You were also influenced by Italian neorealist cinema: The Bicycle Thief by Vittorio De Sica, Ossessione (The Diabolical Lovers) of Luchino Visconti and Rome, open city by Roberto Rossellini. Did you feel that their characters, who struggle with dignity against their miserable condition, were as elegant as Hollywood characters?
Italian neorealist cinema made a deep impression on me, in particular thanks to the sincerity and dignity of the characters it portrayed. Contrary to the idealization and glamor of Hollywood cinema, the elegance of these protagonists possessed a tangible and authentic aspect, which resonated with the Italians of that time. This cinema taught me the value of dignity: the importance of dressing carefully, even in times of great poverty. This reflects my own experience at home with my parents, and I consider this ability to be elegant with little to be a deeply Italian characteristic.
By dressing the character of Richard Gere in American Gigolo, you participated in creating a cultural moment, a powerful portrait of a new masculinity. In this respect, your creations play a major role in the film. Did you feel like you were setting a new benchmark?
I am convinced that historical distance offers us the possibility of apprehending certain phenomena with remarkable depth. When I collaborated with Paul Schrader on the character of Richard Gere in American Gigolo, I did not imagine that we would shape history, but I was very enthusiastic to be able to have my creations worn by this audacious character, who then symbolized the modernity of man. Time has validated the permanence of this modernity, and the cinematographic narrative has integrated it into the collective imagination, embodying the emergence of a new masculinity.
Since then, you’ve dressed hundreds of movie characters. Martin Scorsese considers your clothes part of the spirit of the 90s, which he wanted to evoke in his film The wolf of Wall Street. Your masculine creations had by then already become symbols of social success for people such as the trader played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film. Did you discuss this quasi-sociological perspective with Martin Scorsese at the time?
Work on The wolf of Wall Street gave me the opportunity to re-examine the influence I may have exerted on a singular historical moment. Design the costumes for Leonardo DiCaprio under the direction of Martin Scorsese pushed me to revisit an aspect of my work at that time, which I had perhaps neglected: the close connection between my fashion and environments marked by an exercise of power which was accompanied of a certain lack of scruples. This exercise, both fun and stimulating, reminded me how much fashion is intimately linked to the historical era and to the society in which it takes root.
What is your relationship with Martin Scorsese, with whom you have collaborated several times?
I share a deep friendship and esteem with Martin Scorsese, while maintaining an artistic collaboration. Our connection was established from the first moments, when we worked together on a documentary called Made in Milan, highlighting my work. I have a deep respect for his narrative genius, his ability to tell stories through characters, places, even clothes.
How did you collaborate with Ridley Scott on the film Cartel?
Ridley Scott embodies one of the great figures of contemporary cinema, a master of the art of narrative, who brilliantly explores various genres, from science fiction to detective films. The bewitching Cartel is one of the latter, set in the universe of the wars between the drug cartels. Working alongside him was a captivating experience. The magic of cinema lies in interacting with unique personalities, each shaping the story according to their precise vision.
“In our time when generational change is often neglected in many areas, I felt it was essential to strongly encourage innovation” Giorgio Armani
You’ve often dressed Leonardo DiCaprio for his red carpet appearances, and he wore one of your suits when he won the Oscar for his role in The Revenant. What is your relationship with him?
I have a close relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio, whom I have known since childhood. Today, he has become a charming man with a captivating sense of humor. Collaborating with him is obvious, because he has an innate understanding of the relationship between the body and clothing, an essential aspect, in my opinion, for knowing how to dress.
You have also often dressed Nicole Kidman, for example in 2022, for her return to the Oscars ceremony after several years of absence. What does it represent in your eyes?
In my opinion, Nicole Kidman embodies a subtle blend of grace, elegance and determination. She is a woman with a strong character, who nevertheless has an almost angelic appearance, which fascinates me deeply. She projects a magnetic aura onto the audience.
And what do you like about Cate Blanchett, muse of your house, whose elegance recalls that of actresses of Hollywood’s golden age?
Cate Blanchett is an almost lunar creature. She is from another world, but also extremely grounded in reality, and it is in this contrast that her dazzling charm resides, sublimating every outfit she wears. Its glamor transcends the limits of time.
Over the years, what have you learned from the actors you have talked to about the relationship between costumes and characters?
All the actors with whom I had the opportunity to collaborate underlined the crucial importance of clothing in the construction of the character. On this point, there is clearly unanimity. I would like to add that clothes also play a huge role in character definition for ordinary people on a daily basis: to dress is to communicate something to others, whether on the big screen or in the street, because deep down, it remains essentially the same.
In A Most Violent YearJC Chandor and costume designer Kasia Walicka Maimone even went so far as to choose to use pieces from your archives rather than creating new costumes, in order to more accurately evoke the style of the 80s and 90s. were you surprised by this choice?
This choice surprised me, but above all it flattered me, because the idea of using vintage clothes from my archives made it possible to restore the authentic atmosphere of that time, without alterations or reinterpretations.
“The Venice Film Festival represents one of the highlights of geography and of the annual cinema calendar.” Giorgio Armani
You launched the Armani/Laboratorio program, a cinema master class. Why is it important to you to help the new generation of directors?
In our time when generational change is often neglected in many areas, I felt it was essential to strongly encourage innovation, especially in the world of cinema.
Unlike other film schools, hairdressing and makeup are included in the curricula of this master class. To what extent do the aura of the stars, their charisma and their beauty make the magic of cinema in your eyes?
Beauty and appearance play an essential role in the magic of cinema, but we must not forget that a film is born thanks to different areas of expertise that intertwine. Thus, make-up and hairstyle are equally essential. I wanted to include them within theArmani/Laboratoriowhich must be a space dedicated to experimentation where new generations can explore all aspects of cinematographic creation.
The first short film from Armani/Laboratorio was called Una giacca (A jacket). What was his point?
Una giacca weaves links between the past and the present of his story, mixing memories and events arising today. The jacket is a piece of clothing inscribed in history, without being the subject of it.
In your Milanese Armani/Silos exhibition space, you regularly offer selections of films, like a film club. How do you choose them?
For each exhibition in our Armani/Silos space, I carefully select a few films that I think resonate with the theme of the exhibition. I appreciate this complementary approach. It sheds additional light on each presentation, while introducing films that are often lesser known to the general public. It is for me to bring another vision, and I am delighted to do so through the art of cinema.
Which actors, directors or producers are among your personal friends?
Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney And Samuel L.Jackson are definitely friends. And among actresses, Claudia Cardinale, Michelle PfeifferCate Blanchett and Sophia Loren.
Have you ever been tempted to direct a film yourself, and if so, why didn’t you?
I have been tempted many times to make a film, but I said to myself that in reality you could say that I already present several films every year, through my shows which become my fashion stories, with the same level of commitment than the cinema. Everyone should invest in what they know how to do best: in my case, it’s fashion and everything that surrounds it, from accessories and jewelry to perfumes and make-up, a true art of living that extends to furniture.
For you who are a cinema lover, what does the event that will take place within the framework of the Venice Film Festival in September represent, to celebrate your commitment to the 7th art?
The Venice Film Festival represents one of the highlights of the geography and of the annual cinema calendar. Participating in it is reaffirming how much it counts in my imagination and how much my creativity is enriched by the 7th art.