Giorgio Armani Addresses Hard Work, Independence While Receiving Honorary Doctorate
MILAN — Hard work will bring you places.
Giorgio Armani certainly embodies this concept, still spearheading his namesake fashion group at age 88 as chairman, chief executive officer and creative director, and he expressed it in his speech on Thursday, receiving an honorary doctorate in global business management from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in the storied 19th-century city theater of Piacenza, Italy.
More from WWD
The degree, said Armani onstage, has a value that is “twice as special” because it rewards not only his creativity but his role as an entrepreneur, his “commitment and passion that over the years allowed to transform a dream into a solid group, a symbol of Made in Italy.”
He admitted it was also special because it was bestowed in his birth town of Piacenza, “a magic location filled with memories and that fascinated me so much as a child.” His roots, he remarked, will always be in Piacenza.
The motivations for the degree, offered by the faculty of economy and law, included “the international dimension of the brand,” as well as Armani’s ”holistic approach to sustainability, inexhaustible pursuit of improvement, and awareness of the centrality of the enterprise in the creation of shared value.”
University Dean Prof. Franco Anelli described the Giorgio Armani company as “important, enormously successful, undoubtedly unique because it synthesizes aesthetic refinement, originality, vision and manufacturing ability,” realizing what Pope Francis once said, “the harmony of three intelligences: of the mind, the heart and the hands.”
He underscored that Armani’s “classic lines and the quality of the materials reflect a product conceived to live on with ease beyond [the season] of a collection,” praising the designer’s “sensibility and promptness in naturally interpreting attitude, roles and functions of the contemporary man and woman. To be yourself, but at your best. In this sense you can speak of classicism” of Armani.
Anelli cited the open letter Armani wrote to WWD during the pandemic “with acute sense of responsibility,” and the designer’s pragmatism. “His ‘less but better’ is already in line with the new time.” For this reason, he concluded, the degree is “not a retrospective celebration, but a step in a creative voyage from which we still expect much.”
Armani’s trajectory and successes were traced during the event, which was attended by university students, and the designer in his speech recalled the early days of the company, its foundation with Sergio Galeotti and how “destiny tested me in a hard way,” following the death of his partner, in order to make sure the company would survive. “Many thought I would not succeed, but thanks to my stubbornness, overcoming my ever-present shyness and thanks to the support of the people close to me, to whom I am grateful, I carried on.”
Armani acknowledged it was a long journey, “at times complex, but I overcame the difficult moments with commitment, dedication and rigor, values I received at home from my family, and they are the same I recommend you to always follow, to shape what you believe in, even more today when there is so much ephemeral success. Because what requires commitment, on the other hand, lasts.”
He addressed his consistency in expanding from fashion into other categories, building a lifestyle group. Staying true to his North Star, “with courage and confidence, I have always cultivated my independence, defending it. I listen to the opinions of others, but it is I who decides, always weighing risks and benefits, with a great sense of responsibility. This way I have built a group that in the world has become synonymous with quality, beauty, measure, harmony, those aesthetic and industrial values that make Italy big.”
Hard work is necessary, he said, but he was also mindful that “it is necessary to have someone by your side,” whether it’s a family member, “a cat, a dog or a lover you go back to at night.”
He defined himself “a rational creative,” but at the same time it is “passion, an intuition, and the strong desire to realize” an idea that drive him. “This job is my life, and a continuous act of love,” he said, recommending the students love what they do. “I would like with my story to be an example, a stimulus, and to remind everyone that real work leads far.”
Throughout his career Armani has received honorary doctorates from London’s Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, as well as from Milan’s Brera Academy and the Politecnico University in Industrial Design. Among others, in 2021 he was bestowed Italy’s highest recognition, the Knight Grand Cross decorated with Grand Cordon recognition by Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella. In 2008, France recognized the outstanding influence of Armani by making him an Officer of the Legion of Honor.
Best of WWD
Alicia Keys Is the First Guest Curator of Moncler’s New Project