Abstract: Suiting Up for Easy Street: Armani and the Emergence of Milan as the Capital of Ready-to-Wear

Elisabetta Merlo


In 1982 Giorgio Armani became the first fashion designer to appear on the cover of <em>Time</em> magazine since Christian Dior in the 1950s. Behind his image, there was a picture of a model wearing the unstructured jacket. By emphasizing the novelty brought into the history of fashion by the unstructured jacket, the paper aims to stress that business history has to bridge a wide range of research fields in order to explain the strategies pursued by fashion corporations. It will focus on just two of them. The first one is related to the supply side and concerns the transformation of the Italian clothing industry from an industry made of numerous artisan enterprises producing made-to-measure garments for local markets to an industry coping with the challenge of globalization. The second one is related to the demand side and concerns the evolution of consumption patterns that allowed the innovation in the way of dressing introduced by Armani to ripen in a well-defined urban environment—Milan in the 1970s and the 1980s—and subsequently to achieve an international standing. The two perspectives share a common feature represented by the ambiguous nature of fashion, which is deeply rooted in time and space and, at the same time, acts as a powerful means of cultural homogenization on a worldwide scale.