I have always had a thing for a perfectly tailored men’s suit.
Growing up watching James Bond films, I always took a keen interest in his perfectly fitted tuxedos. I can remember looking around at my senior prom at all the boys in their ill-fitting rental jackets and thinking that most of their measurements were a good inch or so off from really making them shine. There’s great power and grace in a beautiful suit. And one of the men who knows that best is Giorgio Armani — fashion mogul, king of the power suit, and a bi man.
Born in 1934 as the son of a shipping manager in a small town outside of Milan, Italy, Giorgio Armani was always fascinated with human anatomy, often making dolls out of mud and harboring dreams of one day becoming a doctor. The Armani family was not without its share of hardship, experiencing both poverty (see: mud dolls) as well as the turbulence and upheaval of World War II, where many family friends died during bombings from the Allied forces. After the war, Armani’s medical education was disrupted when he had to serve his mandatory stint in the military. During a vacation in Milan in 1957, he landed a job in a distinguished department store as a window dresser and assistant and quickly rose through the ranks due to his eye for design.
Over the course of the next 15 years or so, Armani worked at a variety of department stores and fashion houses, learning the ins and outs of the industry until 1975, when he and business partner (as well as boyfriend) Sergio Galeotti convinced him to open his own label. It wasn’t an easy task — he had to sell his car to afford the first office as well as let their student receptionist study while working the front desk. But over the course of the next few years, betting on himself paid off — Armani’s eye for clean lines and a more natural fit than what was on offer in Europe during the ‘70s, he quickly gained a large following.
But it was the 1980s where Armani became a household name around the world. The designer provided the wardrobe for both Richard Gere’s main character in American Gigolo (1980) as well as The Untouchables (1987) and most of the suits for the smash TV hit Miami Vice (1984–1989). Armani’s flair for what soon became known as the “power suit” — for women as well as men — took the fashion world by storm. Armani is also credited for pioneering red carpet fashion. With 80s superstars like Michelle Pfeiffer and John Travolta donning his wares at awards shows and events, his label quickly became a status symbol.
The 1990s and beyond both saw Armani bringing in new motivations to the world of fashion as well as a never-before-seen expansion into a media empire. In this fated era of heroin chic, Armani bucked this terrifying trend by being the first to require all models with his label to be above a BMI of 18 to avoid the perpetuation of eating disorders. In 2007, with his haute couture line, Armani was also the first to broadcast his label’s fashion show live on the internet.
Unsatisfied with just being a clothing line, Armani expanded into multiple markets by the end of the century, including but not limited to restaurants, book publishing, home goods, jeans, sportswear (including designing uniforms for many famous sports teams), perfumes, and luxury hotels. These successful endeavors have amassed Armani a fortune to the tune of over $10 billion.
As for his bisexuality, Armani is notoriously tight-lipped about his private life. It is known that he was partnered with his friend and business colleague Galeotti (who, tragically, died from AIDS complications in 1985). We also know that he dated Cher for a time as well. But he did say this much on the subject: in a famous interview with Vanity Fair in 2000: “I have had women in my life. And sometimes men.” However, this is not to say that Armani is immune to internalized biphobia with some public comments.
At the age of 88, Armani is still going strong. He is one of the richest openly queer people in the world with a brand that shows no signs of slowing down, and is considered the most successful Italian designer in the world. Bold, groundbreaking, iconic — and bi.
Trying to summarize a life as expansive and influential as Armani’s is an exercise in futility — the best one can hope for in an article is to hit most of the major highlights. There are so many facets of the man I couldn’t fit in here (like the fact that he used to knit clothes for taxi drivers, has designed the cover for the book of gospels for the Pope, or that George Clooney has been wearing one of his suits for over 20 years). It’s worth doing more research through reputable sources. You won’t regret it.
But I’ll tell you one thing for sure: the man knows how to make a great suit.