Tuesday 12th October

| BY Giorgio Armani

40 Years of Emporio, as told by Giorgio Armani

Forty years ago, Giorgio Armani reshaped the fashion landscape when he launched Emporio Armani. At the time, many in the industry believed that a second line would dilute the power of a designer’s name, but Armani proved the doubters wrong. Emporio Armani radically broadened his appeal around the globe, bringing new young customers into the Armani orbit. With its emphasis on denim, Emporio also ushered in the idea of a democratic designer wardrobe, while its relaxed attitude pioneered the idea of Armani as a lifestyle. As Emporio Armani celebrates its 40th birthday, Giorgio Armani reflects on what the brand means to him. 


“I started the Emporio line in 1981 because I saw there was a gap in the market. There was a hunger from younger people for something new and fresh and that was what I wanted to offer them. I started with jeans and then expanded into a complete line that was like a container. It brought a new democracy and openness to my world. Not everybody was ready for it around me: they thought that a line like this would swallow the mainline and lower the perception of my world. Instead, it brought a new audience close to Armani and created a huge phenomenon, because the jeans with the eagle became a symbol for a new generation of youngsters that were creating something new for themselves.”


“‘Less is more is the Giorgio Armani mantra, while for Emporio Armani the mantra is ‘everybody is welcome’. My goal is to create clothing that people can really use and not clothing that overpowers them. But I also conceived Emporio as a container brand in which everyone could find what they liked and mix it however they liked. It’s a line conceived for metropolitan life, so I explore a certain freedom, a freedom I hope my clients will enjoy in the way they wear the clothes. I would say that Emporio is my vision of fashion explored from another angle, which is more metropolitan and extremely transversal in terms of generation. It’s a line with which I can have fun, because there is not the same strictness that sometimes defines the Giorgio Armani brand.”


“Emporio Armani was pivotal in defining the Armani lifestyle. It certainly demonstrated – and keeps demonstrating – how open and transgenerational my world can be, and how it can be adapted to different lifestyles. I think it brought an openness and freshness to my world that have been extremely important in showcasing how Armani is not just fashion but a way of living life based on simplicity, personality, individuality and elegance. Because I never forget about elegance – even in the way I suggest things for everyday life in the city, I always try to suggest a kind of sophistication that can be very intuitive, but is always there.”


“There have been some memorable Emporio Armani moments. I think that the big – or sometimes monumental – scale is what really defines the language of Emporio, which is very bold and direct in terms of communication. I’m thinking about the big billboards in via Broletto in Milano and, yes, the Linate airport show [in 2018], which was such a big event and had a huge impact on the city. I really cannot choose a defining moment in the history of Emporio, though. I think that, whatever we do, it is always something that hits the eye of the public in a very direct way. For me it’s important to communicate in a way that is straightforward and energetic. I’d say that every highlight of the Emporio Armani history has been placed on the wall of via Broletto, and in fact for the occasion of the celebration of the 40th anniversary I have created a special book that contains all the billboards. It’s like a slice of history of Milano seen through black-and-white pictures that reveal what impact that kind of communication had on people. That wall is still a window that I use to communicate with the city, and I hope it will remain that way for a long time.”


“The first Emporio Armani piece that turned into a cultural phenomenon was of course a pair of jeans, and I think that jeans have been a defining element of the lexicon of the brand. I use denim to create trousers but also to create jackets. And then there were the bomber jackets that again were such a phenomenon in Italy with the Paninaro subculture in the ’80s. It’s very difficult for me to choose just one item because, as I explained, I envision Emporio as a container in which everyone can find something, so every piece of clothing designed under the label has to stand on its own and have an energy that catches the attention of the public.”


“What makes a great campaign is directness and visual boldness. Of course, the main memories linked to the billboards in via Broletto are those from the beginning. Not to romanticise those times, but we really felt like pioneers: nobody was using billboards to advertise fashion in that way. Those images had a sort of cinematic feeling and because of the scale, the billboard looked like an open-air cinema. Another element that for me makes a striking campaign – and this is how I choose the creatives I collaborate with – is the ability to tell the story with a single frame. I want people to stop in their tracks when they pass by and be taken and seduced by the image, and imagine a story around it which is completely their own. It’s like planting a little seed in the mind of the viewers [to] let it grow the way they prefer. I don’t like it when the language becomes excessive or vulgar, extremely brash or extremely aggressive. I want to invite people to use their imagination, where clothing is part of a larger story.”


“I believe the Emporio Armani jeans had such a big impact because in fact I was the first designer in Italy to approach such a popular item with the idea of adding a design logo to it; I had the intuition that a designer name on a pair of jeans could be an added value. It seemed like a gamble, but it turned out to be a success. I like jeans because they are a very democratic piece of clothing, everyone can interpret them in their own way, with elegance and simplicity, in a rebellious or classic way. They are ageless and timeless, the qualities I prefer.”


“The immediate future for Emporio holds the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the brand. With the occasion we are publishing a new special issue of the Emporio Armani magazine, which was another innovative concept from those years: the idea of a brand creating content around its collections was unheard of at the time and I have to admit that I’m proud of what we achieved. There were 19 issues published in the ’90s and now there is a special new issue. My sister, Rosanna, is the editor-in- chief, like she was back in the day, and has collaborated with a group of young creatives. I have also been working on an exhibition at the Armani/Silos to celebrate the anniversary but also to show the continuity of Emporio Armani over the years and how the brand was able to create a phenomenon that is not just fashion but more about style. And for the future I hope that this idea of having a container brand will continue to grow while I can still communicate with the younger generation, keeping the distinctive Armani imprint.”


“I think that the only way to be relevant is to be constantly alert, to look at everything around you trying to sense – even anticipate – the needs of customers and turn that into clothing. I might not necessarily like everything I see, but I think that it is crucial for the brand to evolve according to what’s happening, while keeping a distinctive signature style. So I would say that curiosity and determination are the only ways to keep going forward and not become just a static formula.”


“I think people now want two things from fashion. Some exuberance, because they want to go out again and have fun. At the same time they do not want to sacrifice the comfort they’ve experienced while being confined in their houses wearing loungewear. So it’s a very interesting design challenge: exuberance and comfort are the new page that I will explore in the future of Emporio.”

Taken from Issue 67 of 10 Magazine – BOLD & BEAUTIFUL – order your copy here.

Photographer Rasaan Wyzard
Fashion Editor Mecca James-Williams
Text Giorgio Armani
Production & Casting Gabrielle Rice at Dirty Pretty Productions
Hair Jerome Cultrera and Kiyonori Sudo at L’Atelier
Make-up Deanna Melluso at L’Atelier
Talent Aaron Castro at Next Management, Sochi at APM New York, Tara Thomas at Offshore, Kai Williams, Greg Emmanuel at V MGMT, Michelle Patterson, Duot Ajang at Muse, Malik Brand, Melinda Griffith, Ayden Toon, Z’nai Toon, and Janiya Jonhson
Photographer’s assistant  Avery Munroe
Fashion assistant  Valerie Butler
Videographer Sam Ijeomah