As important as what characters say and do in movies, sometimes the thing that speaks loudest is what they wear. Giorgio Armani understood this from early in his career, when he was designing for as many as ten manufacturers at a time, and especially after he introduced multiple lines under his own name and needed to communicate not just the apparel but the style (and lifestyle) that he wanted for his customers. Utilizing the essential relationship between fashion and cinema as a mutually beneficial source of promotion and creativity, Armani has worked with filmmakers for decades to clothe their characters and develop his own instincts as a designer. Commemorating the fashion mogul’s 85th birthday on July 11, Moviefone takes a look back at just a few of the incredible ensembles he’s produced over the years.
“American Gigolo” (1980)
Paul Schrader has always been skilled chronicler of alienation and loneliness, and Armani’s impeccable tailoring -- his first-ever designs for the screen -- effortlessly provide Richard Gere’s character with an impenetrable armor, a perfect façade that both protects him from the outside world and keeps him from fully experiencing it.
Just a few years after making a splash with Schrader’s “Gigolo,” Armani turned his attention to decidedly different demographic by dressing young Jennifer Connelly in Dario Argento’s follow up to “Tenebre,” “Phenomena.” Not only did Armani dress Connelly in a number of absolutely iconic outfits (including the all-white ensemble she wears during the film’s climax), but he also draped actress Daria Nicolodi and several of their costars in amazing ensembles.
“The Untouchables” (1987)
Although Marilyn Vance was the credited costume designer for this 1987 Brian De Palma film, Armani’s influence ran deep in creating flashy, perfectly-tailored suits for both good and bad guys. Armani’s designs weren’t all period-appropriate, but the looks he helped conceive for Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro remain timeless even today thanks to the designer’s peerless refinement and classic style.
“Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007)
By the third and final installment in this endlessly stylish series of heist films, director Steven Soderbergh had assembled a murderer’s row of actors and filmmaking talents to enhance and bring out the characters, good and bad, who keep its machinery going. Armani was far from the only designer to contribute to the looks in “Thirteen,” joining Paul Smith, Yohji Yamamoto, Dolce & Gabbana and many others to illuminate the differences between a cast of characters with such wildly different personalities.
“The Dark Knight” (2008)/ “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)
It comes as no surprise that Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) could and would wear one of the world’s premiere designers when not donning his cape and cowl as a crime-fighter. But working with Christopher Nolan’s costume designer Lindy Hemming, Armani put together some bulletproof ensembles for the billionaire industrialist, including a couple of grey two-button suits that any superhero should be proud to wear.
“Inglorious Basterds” (2009)
Quentin Tarantino’s attention to detail is always a fascinating thing, mostly because he is willing to draw upon multiple sources of inspiration (often anachronistic ones) for his characters and their costumes. In this WWII epic, costume designer Anna B. Sheppard collaborated with Armani to design the white dinner jacket that Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine wears while undercover as an Italian stunt man. Unfortunately, it can’t disguise his character’s irrepressible Southern accent.
“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” (2011)
Brad Bird was spared no expense on his first live-action venture, this brisk and endlessly entertaining thriller starring (of course) the indefatigable Tom Cruise. For a scene where Ethan Hunt crashes an Indian dinner ball, costume designer Michael Kaplan collaborated with Armani to evoke the cool style of 1960s James Bond with a midnight blue suit that makes the series’ hero both fit in perfectly and still stand out as the hero we can’t wait to see save the day.
Neill Blomkamp was right to capitalize on the success he achieved with “District 9” by enlisting heavy-hitters both in front of (Matt Damon, Jodie Foster) and behind the camera for his follow-up. Costume designer April Ferry worked closely with Armani to create suits for Foster’s defense secretary, allowing the actress to look fierce and steely as she fends off Earthen riff raff from her orbiting world.
“Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)
Martin Scorsese’s depiction of real-life broker Jordan Belfort is a study in excess -- the vagaries, and criminality, of bottomless avarice -- and particularly for Wall Street wannabes, an Armani suit embodies the impossible levels of richness to which Belfort and his colleagues aspire. Armani revisited some of his own ‘90s designs for the wide-lapel power suit Leonardo DiCaprio wears in the film, paying tribute to the era’s flashy fashions both a literal and metaphorical representation of his character’s larger than life persona.
“A Most Violent Year” (2016)
For this story of an immigrant family trying to make its name during one of the most violent periods of time in the history of New York City, J.C. Chandor recruited Armani to dress not Abel Morales (Oscar Issac) but his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), which led the designer to open his archives for a buffet of vintage designs that communicated the changing times as well as the aspirations of this powerful female character.