May 19, 2014

Doctors in fashion. Armani hardly a MD and Prada just a social sciences PhD!

If you go to Milan Fashion Week, a lady faints with thrill and emotion in front of the catwalk and the now famous question: ’’Is anyone a doctor?’’ question gets asked, to hear the much-desired answer ’’Maybe!’’ – what?! – it would better be one of Armani’s shows you were at! As, yes. Giorgio Armani is, almost, a doctor. Miuccia Prada is a PhD in Political Sciences, and Ralph Lauren graduated from a business school – it shows, don’t you think? Obviously, these are professions somewhat less useful in case of an emergency and rather difficult to associate with fashion design, yet ideal for demonstrating the life lesson about the importance of talent, hard work and determination. As all gotten into Vogue, Forbes, Encyclopaedia Britannica or the Guinness Book of Records are also political scientist Christian Dior, architect Paco Rabanne and Sonia Rykiel who – who cares?! – didn’t get her baccalaureate diploma.

But let’s get to know the portrait of the perfect career man who started off as a university dropout.

Giorgio Armani – before fashion

Student at Milan University’s Medical School, he abandons classes, for a brief period works in a military infirmary in Verona, then abruptly changes gears for fashion as a window dresser at Milan department store La Rinascente, to then design for Nino Cerruti. What came next, is by now history!

Giorgio Armani – in fashion

In 2014, Giorgio Armani is at the helm of Armani for over 39 years and continues being the sole shareholder of his company, as well as manage his empire himself. It’s made up of over 500 sole stores around the world and shows an ever increasing taste for lifestyle – from chocolates to luxury hotels, including in Burj Khalifa, the world’s highest building. Still, the business side of Armani doesn’t yet take up his full 24 hours, as design is his true passion. And for it, he got numerous distinctions – the Award for Best International Designer, the Lifetime Achievement Award for menswear and for art and fashion from the CFDA, was honoured with the French Legion of Honour, with countless recognitions by the Italian state, is a honorary citizen of the city of New York, and also a honorary doctor – yes, without any studies in the fields he’s been mastering for decades – at the Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins in London and the Accademia di Brera in Milan!

To all of this there are also adding up what we could call a solid Hollywood career – from Richard Gere’s American Gigolo wardrobe to Cate Blanchett at the Oscars, next to dozens of other actors and actresses – a few dedicated exhibitions at the Guggenheim, being Goodwill Ambassador for the UN, designing the outfits of the Italian Olympic team, having a Andy Warhol portrait, holding a world record of being the world’s richest fashion designer and, let’s not forget, being worth, early this morning, a whopping USD 10.3 billion!

Not bad for Giorgio Armani, who – a career counsellor might have thought – started off making contradictory, even mistaken life choices. Indeed, not bad at all for the one his peers call King George and who, at 79, is at the very peak of his creativity.

But Miuccia Prada is also just as complex and full master of her destiny. The designer with her name included in the title of a blockbuster – yes, you know which – after getting a PhD in Political Science gave quite some consideration to becoming a mime, decided to join the Italian Communist Party and, briefly, played on the stage of a Milan theatre. Briefly, because she had found the way to combine all of these passions and join them to her family’s small leather goods business. Miuccia’s first Prada design was a nylon rucksack that turned into fashion blockbuster. Now, at 65 and after 36 years of fashion, an Oscar for The Great Gatsby and a USD 10 billion fashion entrprise, Italy’s 3rd richest person continues taking the analytical decisions she is famous for. Starting this year, she went from Prada Chairman to co-CEO. And in Prada’s perfect universe, no true change has occurred. Other than that of the artistical inspiration for next season’s collection.

Ralph Lauren. Who would have thought that a little boy from ex-Soviet Belarus that despite his height dreamt of becoming an actor, stubbornly played basketball and at New York’s Baruch College business school sold ties to his colleagues would become an American legend? Ralph Lauren, of course! And the American dream was quickly set into motion. After his superiors at the fashion store he worked for told him that his idea of introducing the wide, European tie was just not sealable in the US, a 27 year old Lauren established his own small shop, Polo – sounds familiar? A year later, Neiman Marcus began selling his model and just 8 years from setting up business, Ralph Lauren dressed Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby. In 2014, the talk is about USD 6.9 billion and the legendary RL style is compared with the myth of Walt Disney. But, in fact, Ralph Lauren’s story and reality could hardly have been imagined by even Disney, don’t you think?


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Photos:, Giorgio Armani, Prada, Ralph Lauren