For my new column in V magazine, appropriately called LAST WORD BLASBERG, I interviewed a titan of this industry: Giorgio Armani. The guy is an icon, and he’s not afraid to show it. Why learn English when you’re the king of Italian fashion? We talk about New York, muses and his fellow pantsuit aficionado Hilary Clinton.
Welcome to New York!
Giorgio Armani I love it here. It’s a city in continuous, constant evolution, with inexhaustible energy.
Do you remember your first time?
GA How could I forget? It was 1979; I came to collect the Neiman Marcus Award, which was a big deal for an Italian at the time. I was just starting out, and when I arrived my idea of New York was entirely based on films. For me it was a city of pure fantasy, made up of black-and-white images.
GA Mostly the films of Fred Astaire, but also Mean Streets by Scorsese. I fell in love immediately. I like how it changes from one block to the next. Then there are the people, an electrifying mix of humanity that you can’t find anywhere else.
Are you an uptown or downtown person?
GA My style is perhaps uptown, but the New York that I like is downtown: chaotic but alive and in ferment. I’ve always found the concepts underlying the American Dream fascinating: tenacity, a sense of responsibility and liberty, full belief in what one does. These are values and thoughts that I too have always been inspired by in pursuing my own dream. So it’s no coincidence that in America my dream instantly garnered support.
Do you like any other American cities?
GA Los Angeles, Sunset Boulevard. It is such an immense city, so different from European ones. It is the cradle of cinema and the type of glamour that dreams are made of.
Since starting your label, have you ever worn a suit designed by someone other than Giorgio Armani?
GA No, I’ve only ever worn my own clothes. It’s a natural choice, don’t you think?
Do you have a muse?
GA Many. Certain garments are created especially for some of them, like the decidedly eccentric dress I designed for Lady Gaga. But I shouldn’t name names when it comes to my muses. I would forget someone and I wouldn’t hear the end of it…
OK, let’s talk about dead people then. What historical figure would you like to have designed for?
GA As a designer, the past has never attracted me. I admire historical figures, in particular the emancipated women of the 1920s, like Zelda Fitzgerald. But I am more interested in dressing modern women.
Who’s the first person that you think of when you think of a modern woman?
GA Cate Blanchett. Cate is truly modern, both fragile and strong, glacial and sensual. Hers is a unique elegance, because it is genuine.
The thing I admire most about you is that you have reached that stage in your career when you don’t have to humor fools or do anything you don’t want to. You are the king. To me, being in charge is the ultimate luxury.
GA I haven’t really thought about it. I think that it’s a stage that you arrive at unknowingly and you act accordingly. Like when you move from adolescence to maturity, one day you are no longer a boy but a man. That’s all there is to it. I have always been a man of action.
We’re communicating through a translator. Do you think you ever will learn English?
GA Never say never. But at the moment I grant myself this little luxury of not learning English. Not speaking it grants me the electrifying feeling of being a foreigner in transit. I like this.
Any American phrases you particularly like?
GA I like “hands-on.” It sums up my sense of pragmatism. You have to be hands-on to have success.
How do you stay so physically fit?
GA I believe in the motto, “A healthy mind is a healthy body.” I exercise consistently. For me this is essential. A balanced diet is undoubtedly another secret to keeping fit. And then there’s work, which keeps not only the body but also the mind fit.
Retrospectives tend to make the public feel nostalgic. Do you feel that?
GA Nostalgic celebrations create melancholy, and melancholy is not part of my makeup. My exhibition is not designed to be a commemoration but a gift to the people of the Big Apple who have always followed and supported my style. For this reason I didn’t just want to offer them a great parade, but also show the eccentric side of my fashion. I always look to the future and the new challenges that are waiting for me. The past is made up of lessons already learned and errors that won’t happen again. Nothing more.
Looking back, is there any particular Armani design that you’re most proud of?
GA It’s difficult to choose. I’m linked to certain things I did at the beginning, like the soft and completely embroidered male suit. It encapsulates my concept of the eccentric, only slightly theatrical and infinitely exquisite.
Speaking of suits and the American Dream, what do you think of Hillary Clinton?
GA I like her decisive and feisty manner. I like her self-assured and determined way.
She’s a self-described pantsuit aficionado. If Hillary were president, what do you think she should wear to the inauguration?
GA I love a strong woman in a suit, although a powerful woman today doesn’t need to wear trousers to succeed. An authoritative appearance helps though, and let’s just say Mrs. Clinton looks good in pants. So, yeah, she’d look great in a soft and sophisticated Armani pantsuit for that inauguration ceremony.