Giorgio Armani

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In the early Seventies, Giorgio Armani and his late partner Sergio Galeotti sold their Volkswagen and with the meagre funds raised founded Giorgio Armani SpA. "We had no idea what we were doing," says the internationally acclaimed designer. "Only that we wanted to do it."

That was 1975. The Armani empire now includes more than 250 stores in 33 countries which ring up worldwide sales of $2 billion a year. "I always knew when something was wrong, like a fork out of place at the dinner table," says the designer, referring to his innate sense of style. "Later, I learned how to make it right." He also learned how to make it popular.

One of three children, Giorgio was born on July 11, 1934, in Piacenza in Northern Italy. "Piacenza was a little world where we lived peacefully and protected," says the designer. "Memories of the 19th century, from our grandparents, and the provincial atmosphere of those days is something that is always with me."

The allure of the big city proved strong, however, and Armani left for Milan to study medicine. Two years later he abandoned his plans partly because he discovered that he couldn\'t stand the sight of blood and focused his eye for detail on a career in design. After dressing windows at a department store he went on to join the fashion house Cerruti, where he worked for six years before launching his own line in 1975.

"When I began to design, men all dressed in the same way," says Giorgio, who in 1982 became the first designer to grace the cover of Time magazine since Christian Dior in the late Forties. "Everyone wore the same uniform…the Mao syndrome," he says.

"Traditional clothing depressed me…I wanted to personalise the jacket; to make it more closely attuned to its wearer," he explains. "How? By removing the structure. Making it into sort of a second skin." And so the unlined jacket, perhaps Armani\'s most famous innovation, was born.

Following the 1980 success of the film American Gigolo, for which he famously dressed Richard Gere, Giorgio used his newfound cachet in the youth market to launch Emporio Armani, a less expensive but classically chic label, which set him one step closer on the road to world domination.

While he is known for outfitting men in intimidating power suits, Giorgio\'s influence on women\'s fashion shouldn\'t be overlooked. His signature androgynous designs for women made trouser suits chic, both in and out of the boardroom. Employing his three rules eliminate the superfluous, emphasise the comfortable and acknowledge the elegance of the uncomplicated Armani ushered in the return of Hollywood glamour and became a true fashion icon.

His label received a huge publicity boost in 2006 when he was asked to design the formal attire for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes\' wedding in Italy. "Katie wanted a simple, elegant dress that was rich in material with a slim silhouette," he says. The result was an off-the shoulder gown with an ivory silk train adorned in Valenciennes lace and Swarovski beaded crystal embroidery. He also dressed the rest of the wedding party including Katie\'s baby daughter Suri whose organza and chiffon dress was inspired by her mum\'s.
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