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Latest Articles - Luxury

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Giorgio Armani and Sergio Galeotti: a Love Story

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Giorgio ArmaniThe name of Italian designer Giorgio Armani is synonymous with sophisticated and elegant fashion. In addition to apparel his spectacularly successful business empire includes lines of jewelry, cosmetics, fragrances, and eyewear, among other products. He also is the president of Milan basketball team. He is distinguished too for constructing a mansion on the Carribean island of Antigua. Most importantly, he was among the first fashion designers to ban models with body mass index under 18. Amongst other titles Armani got, Forbes also picked him twice as the most successful Italian designer in 2001 and in 2006. The following year, he was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In 2005, he was named the Best Dressed Environmentalist. However, Giorgio Armani wouldn‘t have the tenth fraction of this success, if it hadn‘t been for that one special person who made it all happen.

This one special person is Sergio Galeotti, Italian architect who has been by Armani's side for nearly twenty years and encouraged him to start designing on his own and establish his own company that is today a grand fashion empire, the most successful Italian fashion brand.

Love Story

Giorgio Armani met Sergio Galeotti in 1966: 32-year-old designer and young architectural draftsman, eleven years Armani's junior, met under the hot Forte dei Marmi sun. Their affair progressed rapidly, despite their age difference: soon Galeotti left his family and career and moved to Milan to be by his lover's side. Galeotti had immense confidence in Armani's talent and urged him to produce his own collection instead of designing for others. In 1975 the pair founded Giorgio Armani SpA with an initial investment of approximately ten thousand dollars, part of it derived from the sale of their Volkswagen. At first, the company was making menswear, then launched a line of women's clothes focused on recutting the traditional men's suit jacket.

At first some fashion critics found Armani's designs and palette of mainly neutral colors - especially beiges and greys - too understated and asexual, but customers responded enthusiastically to the subtle elegance of his clothing.

Armani and Galeotti were soon able to expand their enterprises, launching the chain of Emporio Armani stores to sell ready-to-wear lines and to bring in younger customers. They also diversified into other product areas such as fragrances, which were added in 1982.

However, this love story does not have a happily ever after: in 1984 Galeotti was diagnosed with AIDS and died a year later at the age of forty. There was widespread speculation within the industry that Armani would choose the moment to retire - as he could well afford to do because of the great success of the business.

In Memory of Sergio

An intensely private person, Armani generally reveals little about his personal life. In a 2000, however, he spoke at length about his relationship with Galeotti. Armani stated, «He helped me believe in my own work, in my energy». He acknowledged that he considered retirement after Galeotti's death but decided instead to persevere rather than abandoning «all the hopes of Sergio».

«It is he who gives me the strength even now to continue», declared Armani, who added that Galeotti «is always there» in the home that they shared. Tangible reminders include photographs of Galeotti that adorn the bedrooms of all of Armani's residences.

Since 1999 Armani has received offers from LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) and Gucci to form joint partnerships in which Armani would retain creative control of his fashion line but cede the business operation. This side of the business is also intensely personal to Armani, however, since taking up the role formerly played by Galeotti helped him get over his partner's death. Armani has resisted all offers from other companies.

After the loss of Galeotti, Armani not only continued to work but guided his privately-owned company to phenomenal success. The enterprise, now known as the Giorgio Armani Group, had a global value of some four billion dollars in 2003.

Armani retail stores can indeed be found worldwide. There were already over two hundred of them in more than thirty countries when Armani announced plans in 2004 to enter the Chinese market by opening some thirty facilities there within five years.

Armani is known as a tireless worker who diligently oversees every detail of his operation, from small adjustments in the design of a single garment to international financial deals. So intimately has he been involved in every phase of the business that in recent years industry observers have been speculating on whether the Armani empire can survive without Armani himself.

In a 2001 interview Armani was asked about the greatest failure of his career and replied that it was not being able to stop my partner from dying.

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