On a recent episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Oprah was chatting with guest Meryl Streep about the stresses and expectations in selecting the perfect red-carpet gown. Actor Jim Carrey was also sharing the couch, but remained out of the girly discussion until Oprah turned to him and implied that it wasn’t the same for men. “But one Armani suit looks like the next, though, doesn’t it?” Oprah asked. Carrey slyly turned to the camera and said, “I wouldn’t say that to Armani.”
Indeed. Giorgio Armani’s Oscar-night gowns might garner more attention and more edit pages than his sublime black tuxes, but the designer’s men’s wear has been the unwavering foundation of the Armani empire for three decades.
A beaded Armani gown takes hours to stitch and immediately conveys the depth and range of the designer. Yet an Armani suit, while seemingly simple, is equally representative of his eye for detail and of his methodical study of human form. Armani pains over every centimeter, studies the height of the button stance and deliberates over the width of the shoulder, all in his continuing quest to create modern, sophisticated, yet unbelievably easy clothes for men.
He’s been that way since he left his design job at Nino Cerruti in 1970 and launched his eponymous label 30 years ago. The center of the Armani design philosophy was and continues to be the jacket, in all its deconstructed glory.
Like a great explorer, Armani dove into men’s dressing and discovered a new reality. He ripped out the canvas and in doing so made the suit sexy, comfortable, inexplicably weightless — and an instant must-have for every power broker since Ronald Reagan first introduced trickle-down economics.
It’s almost difficult to remember just how much Armani changed the way men dressed and even more so how he altered men’s attitudes toward dressing. Before Fred Pressman brought Armani to Barneys New York in the late Seventies, men were boxed in standard suits and most likely saw dressing as a chore rather than a choice. Armani toppled the sitting fashion regime and the perceptions that went with it by introducing the original power suit in cool, slate tones and lightweight wool gabardines and crepes.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"