“As ever for me, the best ideas are the intuitive ones:” Giorgio Armani is musing on his era-defining casting of Posh and Becks in his advertising campaign for Emporio Armani underwear back in 2008. “In those years, David and Victoria were at the center of attention,” he recalls. “In the mirroring of their respective personalities, they embodied the moment: the metrosexual man, and the seductive woman with a fierce entrepreneurial outlook on things. And they both paid utmost attention to their physical appearance [so] having them in underwear looked like the right idea … and it took very little effort to persuade both.”
Armani – or Mr Armani as the fashion industry unofficially-officially refers to him – is a man who is no stranger to having the right idea. Aside from his multi-billion-pound Giorgio Armani empire, his Emporio Armani brand for which he managed to get the world’s most-talked-about couple down to their pants for is case in point. Established back in 1981 as a more liberal multi-platform to complement his eponymous mainline after seeing “a gap in the market and hunger from younger people for something new and fresh”, he proudly marked its 40 th anniversary this year with an exhibition in his native Milan chronicling its trajectory. Bare essentials: a billboard advert for Emporio Armani underwear in 2008. Photograph: Courtesy of Giorgio Armani “I wanted to show how innovative the brand has been since its very beginning,” says 87-year-old Armani who famously, like many designers of his generation – most notably the late Karl Lagerfeld – is “fiercely anti-nostalgic”. Initially, he says he “resisted the idea” of the exhibition but ever young at heart he says he “changed my mind when we switched from the retrospective format to adopt the concept of the exhibition as an experience and a lively manifesto”.
A visual blitz through the past, The Way We Are is very much Armani’s homage to living in the present, documenting key moments such as its first menswear and womenswear catwalk shows in 1985 and its iconic campaigns shot by the likes of Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Peter Lindbergh and Armani’s longtime collaborator Aldo Fallai. Perfect presentation: The Way We Are exhibition. Photograph: Courtesy of Giorgio Armani “Honestly, it feels like an achievement,” reveals Armani in a rare self-congratulatory moment. “The collection that stemmed from my desire to talk to the younger generations evolved into an essential part of the Armani lifestyle as a whole: one that speaks a metropolitan language that still retains my pared-down, essential idea of elegance.” The first years of the brand, he continues, “are the ones I am most fond of, quite simply because we kept experimenting in order to find the right communication language, the perfect tone of voice for a collection that was so new.”
If that sounds like familiar rhetoric in the current age of brands rushing to “speak” to Gen Z, back in 1981 Armani’s methods were pioneering. One of the most mined assets belonging to Emporio Armani for […]