If the 1980 crime drama American Gigolo were made today, surely Giorgio Armani would be equally interested in dressing Lauren Hutton’s character in louche suiting as he was Richard Gere’s? After all, the relaxed tailoring Armani created for the film’s leading man – for which he was credited with revolutionising men’s wardrobes – is just as relevant to womenswear today.
Suits have been high on the fashion agenda for the past few seasons. For women, the designs aren’t necessarily slim, typically feminine takes on the two-piece either – rather big-shouldered, roomy power suits worn with the same sprezzatura Armani presented all those decades ago. But this taste for tailoring hasn’t been accompanied by that other hallmark of the menswear market: bespoke and custom services. Savile Row’s most storied institutions largely remain as boys’ clubs, while fashion brands have offered custom suiting through couture, but haven’t necessarily marketed it to women for everyday wear. Recently, however, a number of outfitters have stepped up. London-based concept store Alex Eagle launched its bespoke tailoring service for women in 2018, while brands such as The Deck and Gormley & Gamble on Savile Row were created as women’s made-to-measure businesses. This month, Giorgio Armani is entering the space as well, with MTO Donna, a line of customisable jackets, trousers, skirts and outerwear.
Armani doesn’t know why he hasn’t offered ladies made-to-order suits before now. He’s been designing womenswear since 1975 – and the suit itself has always been at the centre of his business. “Maybe because the idea of made-to-order is intrinsically linked to men’s tailoring?” he suggests. Regardless, there’s obviously an appetite to give women the same myriad options that are available to men. “The demand for tailored pieces for women has been high and consistent over the years, but it has grown stronger of late,” says the designer. “Now, more than ever, clients want something meaningful. Something that has a real value, that lasts, that was created specifically for them.”
The made-to-order service comprises a set of styles that can be customised through fabrics, colours, buttons and piping, and is offered in-store at nine Armani flagships, including Milan, London, New York and Shanghai. There are eight jacket options – ranging from a single-button notch lapel style to a double-breasted, peak lapel jacket – which can be matched with different trousers and skirts. Fabrics span from plain cream or white through to houndstooth, herringbone and pinstripe. “The evening pieces are particularly outstanding,” says Armani. “Two tuxedo jackets, one with peak lapels and one with shawl lapels, paired with feather-light shirts and two styles of trouser or a skirt.”
It may seem an odd moment to be thinking about suits. But Armani sees this new line as a recalibration of the house’s core values. “Now is the time to go back to craft, to clothing that matches the personality as well as the body in unique ways,” he says. “More than ever we need to remember how fashion was born: from the desire to create pieces that are durable, both in quality and design. I think this time has taught us all to make more responsible choices, avoiding anything throwaway. This will impact the way we dress: we’ll choose timelessness over fickle, silly fashions.” Certainly Armani tailoring, worn by men or women, is timeless. Trawling through the house’s archive – as we have for these pages – the styles look modern from each decade to the next. Even watching American Gigolo today, aspects of the film might have dated, but the costumes still stack up. “The suit has no time,” says Armani. “It gives presence, authority, charm. It is also extremely feminine, in a non-predictable way.”
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