The young Italian drowned out the sound of Allied bombing with movies and it was Richard Gere's American Gigolo that made Armani a household name.
Born into a humble family, Giorgio Armani went to the local public school and developed a love for the theatre and cinema. In 1957, he took a job at the Milan department store La Rinascente. He worked briefly as an assistant photographer, before accepting a promotion to its style office, where he imported products from India, Japan, and the US.
In 1964, without any formal training, Armani designed a line of men’s wear for Nino Cerruti. Encouraged by his partner Sergio Galeotti, Armani left Cerruti and, in 1970, became a freelance fashion designer and consultant.
In 1973-1974, at the prestigious Sala Bianca fashion show in Florence, he presented, to great acclaim, bomber jackets that treated leather as an everyday fabric.
This penchant for using materials in unexpected contexts and combinations came to be known as a defining characteristic of his style.
In 1975, Armani and Galeotti started their own company, Giorgio Armani S.p.A., and founded the Armani label. His trademark designs were re-interpretations of the traditional business suit, unstructured, relaxed designs for men, and masculine styles for women.
In the 1980s, the Armani "power suit" for men and women came to symbolise an era of international economic boom. In 1982, Armani became the first fashion designer to appear on the cover of Time magazine since Christian Dior in the 1940s. He was one of the first designers to approach celebrities to wear his designs, beginning with then Los Angeles Lakers coach, Pat Riley, in 1988.
Armani also invited Hollywood stars to wear his designs at the Academy Awards, winning devotees such as Michelle Pfeiffer and Jodie Foster. He has also designed theatre and stage costumes. Most recently, he has dressed Italian and English soccer teams and Alitalia airline flight attendants.