Ahead of Tomorrow’s Emporio Armani Show, Mr Armani Writes an Essay About His Family
The past few months have been filled with perturbing events for all of us. The current state of affairs has led me to reflect on the value and meaning of family, so deeply rooted in Italian culture, and also on my personal approach to life.
When the lockdown was imposed, I isolated with a very trusted group of collaborators and relatives, while maintaining daily relationships with others, by means of modern technology. This technology allows us to use videos, for example, which seem to compress distances, although there is no doubt that being together around a table or sitting in a room chatting is something else entirely.
For me, family is everything, and it is as much a matter of blood ties as of ties built up over the years. The closest and most solid friendship bonds for me are few, but they are indestructible. In a broad sense, I also see my employees as family, because I feel a strong sense of responsibility as well as a moral and professional duty to take care of those who dedicate so much time and energy to the success of a company. And this success is due not only to my vision, but to the efforts of each and every member of staff. So, if I were to propose a concise definition, I would say that family is a unity of purpose, nourished by the sincerity of its feelings. Nothing is more sincere than the love and protection that parents give their children, and this shapes us forever. My nature, however, dictates that the family of emotional and intimate ties is small and close-knit, nurtured by loyalty and fidelity: these are the people I know I can count on truly and always, in any situation, and who in turn know that they can count on me. This nucleus consists of my sister Rosanna, my trusted Leo, my nieces Roberta and Silvana, and my nephew Andrea.
Giorgio Armani with his mother, Maria and his older brother, Sergio.
The family business model has firm roots in Italian fashion, or rather in Italian industry; it involves each member of the family, and then there is a handover from one generation to the next. It is a unique model, which we invented, and which has at least as many advantages as it has pitfalls; bringing the rivalry, alliances, ties and feelings of a family into a business is not always a good idea. In fact, I would not call my company a family business, even though many family members have been involved, from my sister Rosanna – to whom, along with her emancipated friends, I owe the intuition of having adapted my soft tailoring to the needs of the career woman – to my nieces and nephew. I have always carefully examined the aptitudes and qualities of each of them: a blood bond does not in itself guarantee a free pass into the company. It is precisely this kind of attitude that I strive to avoid, and I think it is one of the perils of a family business. The true advantage is that there is a sense of dedication and loyalty that goes above and beyond work, and a basis of shared values that hold everything together.
In the Armani family, for example, we are all extreme perfectionists: we put everything into our work, and not allowing anything to slip through our fingers is a lesson we have been taught since childhood. I would not be like this, and my whole world would not be like this, if I had been raised in a different family. My family has been particularly important – in fact, fundamental – also in shaping my worldview, and my very meticulous sense of aesthetics. After all, it is precisely the experiences we have as children that leave a mark on us, that ignite our imagination. My mother was a fine example, with her infinite dignity, and her very Italian ability to do so much with so little, without ever succumbing to carelessness. My sister influenced me, with her great determination, as did Sergio Galeotti, with whom the Giorgio Armani adventure began: he was one of the people who most passionately believed in me, and whose memory continues to spur me on, even after his untimely passing. I have become a designer-entrepreneur, trying my hand at business and not only at creativity, and this I owe to my great respect for Sergio, and for what we built together. With my ongoing commitment, I honour him, and that is also a certain aspect of being family.
Giorgio Armani with Maria.
Curiously enough, fashion was not part of the family interest. However, as is true of any self-respecting Italian family, despite having truly little, we were extremely careful about appearances. This is a typical facet of our culture, from Sunday or holiday outfits to the way we present ourselves on every occasion: we like to look our best. My father was a distinguished man who I remember as being elegant at all times, when he didn’t have to wear his uniform. And my mother, who was extremely modest, was exceptionally elegant. It was she who taught us the importance of caring for people as a primarily ethical choice. That idea of “less is more”, or even “less but better”, was a doctrine that I immediately made my own, and that still sustains me today. Indeed, in these times, when there is the need for a more attentive awareness, I find it more relevant than ever. I have never cared for frivolity and excess, possibly now less than ever, and I owe all this, of course, to my mother.
For all of these reasons, I believe that my family is the root of my success. Growing up the way I did, I gained a knowledge of work ethics and a strong sense of motivation. To this I have added my great passion, and the rest, as they say, is history. Without being complacent, and without resting on my laurels. And this, again, leads back to my mother’s strict but always necessary lesson. With the love and softness that only mothers know how to give, she was the one who pushed me to always do my best, and to continually move the goalposts that little bit further. She took great pleasure in all my successes, which we also enjoyed together, but she also urged me to never think that I’d “made it”. This hint of dissatisfaction is a spark that continues to pique me, even today. It’s a fantastic balm of eternal youth that keeps me alert.
Giorgio Armani with Sergio and their father, Ugo.
In conclusion, let’s return to my personal definition of family. I think family is the truest and most sincere part of each of us. The one we share with our kindred spirits, who immediately also become family. They are all here, family and friends, not far from me, engrossed in their respective undertakings, while I sit and write.
Top image: Giorgio Armani with his mother, Maria. Photography courtesy of Giorgio Armani. Taken from Issue 65 of 10 Magazine – FAMILY, FOREVER, LOVE – available to purchase here.
Giorgio Armani with Maria, his sister Rosanna, nieces Silvana and Roberta and nephew Andrea.