Celluloid Heroes: Giorgio Armani In Cinema

Giorgio Armani has continued to push the sartorial boundaries and redefine how men and women should dress — all while staying true to himself.

Even before the film American Gigolo had projected a single frame onto a single cinema screen, the world had already become seduced by the revolutionary vision of designer Giorgio Armani. Through engineering the ineffable arousal, the visceral tension, between masculinity and sensuality encoded into the movie’s poster and various publicity stills starring then-newcomer Richard Gere, Armani had already penetrated the consumer consciousness with a power that was nothing less than all-consuming: one that would define the way men dressed for the next four decades. He simultaneously revolutionised the methodology of image dissemination, transforming the silver screen and its denizens into his catwalk and his models.

The poster projected the image of the modern-day dandy, a man who stood in sharp contrast to the prevailing deracination of formality from street wear in 1975. Gere wore, of all things, a tie and sport coat. But it was the way he wore them: with rakish dégagé, combined with the sensual élan of the clothes themselves that unleashed a renewed relevance and an all-new sexuality for formal clothes and classic style.

In the poster, Gere strides like a predatory cat, demonstrating the fluid equanimity of his Armani clothing. He is defined in motion by their deconstructed softness, transubstantiated in the commingling of flesh and fabric into a work of Italian modernism as groundbreaking as futurist Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space.

"Armani transformed the jacket from a male uniform into a mythological garment."

His jacket is an apparent contradiction, simultaneously offering the cocksure shoulder and virile lapel of Milanese tailoring combined with the totally deconstructed body of the Neapolitan style — evoking strength bordering on arrogance but providing a liberation of form and a soft sensuality. In this one fell stroke, Armani transformed the jacket from a male uniform into a mythological garment, a lightning rod for contemporary culture, prophesising the new era of male body consciousness and burgeoning peacockism.

Gere’s clothes foresaw and would be the first expression of the return of the suit as a power symbol that would reach its apogee in the ’90s: the reinterpretation of masculine codes towards a new modernism, the reinvention of fashion’s chromatic language and the birth of the 20th century’s most significant designer, Giorgio Armani. Interestingly, the thing that drove Armani — the cynosure of his philosophy regarding clothes — was the same thing that drove style icons like the Duke of Windsor or Fred Astaire, and legendary tailors like Frederick Scholte or Vincenzo Attolini: the concept of liberation.

Over the greater part of its existence, men’s clothing had conspired to trap its wearer, the practical benefit to this being the transformation of an anaemic body into Herculean form through the use of padding and other structural trappings. The root of this constricting palimpsest is found in military dress, in which an Adonis-esque form is built upon its wearer regardless of the underlying reality. Said the Duke of Windsor, “It was my impulse… to rip off my tie, loosen my collar and roll up my sleeves.” His frustration with the physically hegemonic imprisonment of his clothes led Edward VIII, through collaboration with maverick tailor Frederick Scholte, to give birth to the British drape, a sartorial liberation which saw cloth flow over the human form as if poured. Similarly, in 1930, tailor Vincenzo Attolini and dandy ne plus ultra Gennaro Rubinacci created the Neapolitan jacket to better fit the needs of their warm climate. They stripped the jacket to its barest essentials, tossing aside shoulder pads, horsehair and interlinings to create coats that were as light as the winds over Vesuvius.


September 2016


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