Giorgio Armani, the Italian fashion designer superstar who is worth almost 9 billion dollars needs no introduction. As one of the best fashion designers all times he has built a lifestyle empire.
Armani today is not only fashion, it is accessories, home furnishings, hotels, resorts, restaurants, cafés, clubs, jewellery, perfumes, flowers, chocolates and even yacht design.
After reading and studying as much as I can from him I would like to share the top twelve lessons that we all can learn from Mr. Armani.
Ready? Let’s go!
Lesson 1: It’s Never Too Late to Start a Business
Giorgio Armani started his company at 1975 at a relatively mature age of 40. Today we see a bunch of successful tech entrepreneurs from the valley at their early 20s and we think starting a business after the 30 mark is too late. Age is just a number and it’s never too late to start a business.
Key takeway: Don’t think about the past, don’t think “I should have started it already don’t think it’s too late.” Just start it asap!
Lesson 2: Adversities Make You Stronger
Giorgio Armani had a very difficult life. He lived at the time of world war II and as Armani remembers, “there was no money and nothing to eat.”His father was also imprisoned for several months, on charges of having worked for the fascist state.
Worst of all was his experience at the age of nine when he discovered an unexploded shell. The gunpowder caught fire; little Giorgio was burned all over.
He risked losing his eyes and had to lie in a shaded room for 20 days with both eyes closed.
Astonishingly, he survived, however he says “My eyes were never as good again.”
In 1980, 5 years after he started his company, Sergio Galeotti, his business and life partner died of AIDS, it was a brutal shock for him. With that, many of his collaborators left the company as they didn’t believe Armani could deliver on his own.
None of these tremendous adversities stopped Armani’s road to success.
Key takeway: Adversities are part of life and they cannot bring you down, they just have to make you stronger.
Lesson 3: You Don’t Need No Education
The fact that Armani built an amazing company at 40 years-old is impressive. What is also impressive is the fact that he doesn’t hold any fashion degree. He had to learn from scratch how to draw and what a fabric was. He spent a lot of time working with mills to know as much as possible about textiles. He’s not the only one. Did you know that Thom Browne studied economics? And that Tom Ford studied architecture?
Key Takeaway: If you dream about creating a fashion brand and you don’t have a fashion degree don’t give that as a lame excuse to not getting started as you don’t need formal fashion education to make it in the fashion world
Lesson 4: A Big Change Might Be the Best Thing That Happens to You
Armani enrolled to medical school, after a couple of years he realised it wasn’t for him, he knew it would take a long time to finish and it was a hard degree.
Besides he need to help his family financially.
I think this is a powerful example for those of you who are still at university. Do you see yourself finishing the degree you are enrolled to? Do you like it? If you don’t or you think you would like something else better it’s never too late to change paths. Myself I have studied pharmacy in University for 6 long years and I have to admit I didn’t enjoy it. I kept going and I finished it because I was afraid to change and to be considered a failure by my parents for not graduating.
Key Takeway: If something is not working in your life, don’t be afraid of a big change. It might just be the best thing that happens to you.
Lesson 5: If Given a New Opportunity, Say Yes and Learn How to Do it Later
This is also famous advice from another great entrepreneur, Richard Branson.
In the late 50s Armani was offered a job at the department store La Rinascente in Milan, first as a window-dresser and later as the buyer’s assistant. He knew nothing about this kind of work but he said yes, he learned and he performed well.
In 1961 he was spotted by Nino Cerruti and hired as the designer for his new menswear line, Hitman.
Once again, he knew nothing about fashion design but he said yes and the rest is history.
Key Takeway: Never be afraid of taking a new opportunity even though you might feel unprepared or afraid. You will learn as you start working, believe in yourself!
Lesson 6: Be Honest About your Skills
Armani started working for Cerruti without prior experience as a fashion designer. He felt straight away that he was fit for the job and was working good. The feedback he was getting was also great.
When asked about his beginnings, Armani points out that it is very important to be honest with yourself regarding the skills you have.
Key Takeway: You might be passionate for fashion but perhaps you can’t design or you don’t have a good aesthetics sense. You have to be honest with yourself and follow another path in your life that suits your skills.
Lesson 7: Leverage Celebrities
Armani’s business was doing pretty good in Italy in his first 5 years but Giorgio Armani only became internationally recognised after Richard Gere wore his beautifully tailored suits in American Gigolo in 1980.
Armani also became a significant presence on the red carpet; Jodie Foster, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Sandra Bullock are just a few of those who have relied on Armani to deliver magical elegance at the Oscars.
He understood so well the power of partnering up with celebrities that in 1983 he became the first designer to establish an office in Hollywood dedicated to attracting celebrities.
Key takeway: The power of celebrities to increase your sales is immense. If you have your own fashion brand or actually any brand you have to do your best to partner up with some celebrity.
Lesson 8: Be Faithful to Yourself
Armani collections are sometimes criticized to have become monotonous.
His reply is “I would say that my idea of style and my taste are the same as when I began. I have never had anything to do with the kind of fashion that is influenced by the press or identified with the spirit of the season. My clients come for me, they come back each season for my spirit. That’s the reality.”
Key Takeway: Don’t try to please the press or to be the new hottest designer, be yourself, be faithful to your philosophy and style, your clientele will appreciate that and will come back for more.
Lesson 9: Work is Life and Life is Work
Giorgio Armani is famous for being a workaholic, he loves working and he has embraced work as the main part of his life. He even mentions that work is what keeps him alive.
Some of his collaborators have also become his friends and the majority of people he hangs around in his free time are people he works with every day.
Key Takeway: An an entrepreneur you have to be ready to work a lot and to embrace work as an important part of your life. If you start a business just to become rich you will get burned out quickly, as Daymond John says, “money is a great slave but a horrible master.”
Lesson 10: If Something Works, Keep Going
When asked by Imran Amed from BOF if he considers, as other brands as Dolce & Gabbana and Marc Jacobs to consolidate his other lines (e.g. Armani Exchange or Emporio Armani) under a single brand, offering products at multiple price points, Mr. Armani replies: “Perhaps for some companies who have followed my example by offering many different brands it hasn’t worked well.”
“As for me, right now I don’t see the need to remove any brands because they work, they have their customer base. Why should I create a problem where there isn’t one?”
Key Takeway: If something works for you and it has been working for quite some time, ignore what your competitors are or aren’t doing. As Armani says, don’t create problems if there aren’t any.
Lesson 11: Create For Your Costumers
When asked about he likes the most about his job, Armani replies by saying “Making clothes that make part of society”, he continues saying “There are many different ways of doing fashion. I have always tried to make fashion that people wear. For me that is what counts. Otherwise what is it about? It’s just a game. Worth nothing.”
Key Lesson: As a fashion designer forget the glamour, forget the parties, always do fashion that people wear, that’s the ultimate satisfaction any fashion designer should have. Seeing their creations making part of society.
Lesson 12: Keep a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Armani’s life has been exciting, successful and fulfilling but he does have some regrets about the sacrifices he has made on the road to his success.
“My biggest, most obvious regret is that I didn’t take enough care of myself. I have always taken care of other people more than myself, so much that sometimes I should have quit my job, or divided my time between public and private life”
Armani has been trying to catch up in the last years by travelling more and spend more time with his friends. His business is doing great as always.
Key Takeway: As an entrepreneur knowing how to keep a healthy work-life balance is fundamental. Work hard but also work out, meditate, spend time with your family and friends.
Giorgio Armani is an extraordinary man, one of the finest fashion designers and the real fashionpreneur, combining creativity with amazing business skills and vision.
Explosive combination in the fashion industry.
I hope you have found this article useful and inspiring.
What is your favorite Armani Lesson?
As usual I can’t wait to hear your comments below. Cheers.