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Giorgio Armani

No designer has capitalized on the power of Hollywood quite as thoroughly as Giorgio Armani. The silver-haired Italian leapt into the public eye in 1980, when his suits co-starred with Richard Gere in American Gigolo: Constructed with a new, softer tailoring, they were as seductive and easy on the eyes as Gere's gorgeous rent boy. Two years later, Armani became the only designer since Christian Dior in 1957 to make the cover of Time magazine.

Armani defined the eighties—and practically invented red-carpet dressing.

In the nineties, his reputation came to rest less on power suits and more on the shoulders of the Tinseltown celebrities who, when asked who they were wearing to the Academy Awards or the Golden Globes, loved to answer with the magic word, "Armani"—Jodie Foster, Julia Roberts, and Michelle Pfeiffer, to name a few.

From clothing to eyeglasses to housewares, everything Armani touches has a casual-but-sexy air. The Armani lifestyle (the one he sells as well as the one he lives) is all about looking relaxed—an effortless glamour tossed on with a shrug. But beneath the unruffled surface, Armani is a reported workaholic and perfectionist, who fought hard for everything he has achieved. He grew up in the postwar Italian small town of Piacenza, and he has described his family as "very poor." He later worked his way up in fashion from an entry-level job as a window dresser for a Milanese department store.

Today he oversees the Giorgio Armani juggernaut, one of the largest privately owned fashion companies in the world, reported to be worth $5 billion. In addition to the original Giorgio Armani ready-to-wear line, the house also produces Armani Privé, Armani Collezioni, Emporio Armani, Armani Jeans, Armani Junior, A/X Armani Exchange, and Armani Casa. Armani himself has been living the jet-set life for decades, moving among the stars whom he has helped shine brighter. (Typically, he was a guest at the wedding of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, an event for which he had created the clothes.) Among the dozens of accolades he has received are Italy's highest government award, the Gran Cavaliere della Repubblica; the Commendatore dell'Ordine al Merito della Repubblica; France's Légion d'Honneur; and a career-retrospective exhibit that opened at New York's Guggenheim Museum in 2000 before touring the world.

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