Giorgio Armani has become a household name without mainstreaming the merchandise.

He dresses Hollywood stars and opens his own stores, and while others have gone the Target and H&M route, Armani keeps his retail distribution tight. For the relatively small number of retailers that sell his collections, Armani holds a special place. They acknowledge that he’s not perfect — he’s extremely demanding, and on occasion a little too slick or “Miami Vice” in the presentation. But overall, his impact has been huge. He’s described as the epitome of luxury, master of tailoring, elegance and ease, a pioneer in building brand image and obsessive about protecting that image. And that’s why Armani always gets the windows and the premier square footage wherever he’s sold.

Here, retailers discuss the designer, what he stands for, and his enormous influence over the decades.

Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction, Bloomingdale’s: “We go way back. I am lucky enough to have been on the fashion circuit in the early Seventies when Mr. Armani was making jackets and beautiful tweeds. At the time, I worked at Bonwit Teller and we carried some of the jackets. Our customers responded really well to them from early on. They weren’t stiff and moved with the body.

In many ways, he created the look of Milanese sportswear as it related to the American consumer. Milanese sportswear became more understandable in America than clothes from other fashion capitals. It’s all about the quality, the ease, the tailoring and the fact that it didn’t overpower the woman. It enhanced her femininity. For the executive woman, Armani provided a look for the boardroom that was very strong but not intimidating.

His men’s collection in Milan [this month] continued his look but there’s always a fresh rethinking of his silhouettes and color palette. He used to be called the king of Milan. Then Tom Ford came along. But where is Tom now? Armani is still king.

Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director, Bergdorf Goodman: Mr. Armani is an icon. He has created an image and a world, the world in which he lives, which has remained focused and consistent. Only a few great designers have accomplished this. It’s completely focused and edited and he has really been the face of modern fashion.

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