There’s more to a red carpet than fashion, and Giorgio Armani proves it time and time again.

By Ivy Jackson

Sometimes it feels like Giorgio Armani has single-handedly shaped global red carpet style standards as we know them. That may be because, arguably, he has. Today, when a star dresses in Armani, it’s not just the show-stopping gown that draws attention, but the entire look, one that captures the essence of the wearer, from tip to toe.

In 1983, three years after designing the wardrobe for Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo, Armani approached a then 24-year-old Michelle Pfeiffer and asked the starlet if she was interested in wearing some of his garments to a few Hollywood red carpet events. Pfeiffer’s response? Not a chance. The actress felt she could dress herself and didn’t need the help of a still relatively unknown Italian designer.

But Armani was as persistent as he was talented, and eventually convinced a handful of Hollywood’s It women to borrow his looks for some of the industry’s biggest nights. By the ’90s, he was dressing the likes of Julia Roberts, Jodi Foster, and Diane Keaton. Even Michelle Pfeiffer came around.

Before Armani, red carpet fashion was more about making a spectacle than it was about elegance—think leather shorts, pointed shoulders, and ill-fitting silhouettes, like Diane Keaton’s oversized blazer, long skirt, and scarf that she wore to accept the award for Best Actress at the 1978 Oscars—with outfits being chosen by costume designers or the stars themselves. On-screen talent doesn’t always translate into wise fashion choices.

In comparison to this status quo, Armani’s army of celebrities looked self-assured and glamorous. It was a revolutionary time for awards-season style.

Fast forward to present day and the Italian label remains a symbol of status on the red carpet; if you’re asked to wear Armani, you’ve made it. At Cannes 2018, Sara Sampaio, the face of Armani Beauté’s Sì Passione, arrived at Solo: A Star Wars Story in a sultry white floor-length gown embellished with delicate white feathers. But it was the supermodel’s complete look, with wine-stained lips, glittery eyes, and doll-like skin, that raked in the style points. At the red carpet premiere of Burning, model Barbara Palvin, the face of Acqua de Gioia, radiated a cool-girl sex appeal in a rock ‘n’ roll-esque V-neck gown with coiffed hair, a rosey lip, and ultra-long, thick lashes to match the vibe.

Another one of Armani’s muses, Cate Blanchett, also made the rounds at Cannes this year, donning Armani beauty and fashions at every stop. Each one of her red carpet appearances perfectly suited the theme and atmosphere—subdued brown and burgundy eye shadow with a soft lip at the premiere of Cold War, a sleek ponytail with deep side part at the prestigious Trophée Chopard ceremony—while also reflecting Blanchett’s signature style of effortless sophistication and elegance. The 49-year-old recently extended her partnership with the esteemed house, continuing to represent its Sì fragrance, which she’s done since its launch in 2013.

Much like his decades-old relationships, Armani’s dedication to creating a full-package red carpet experience for actresses continues to expand and flourish and, as another award season approaches, one thing’s for sure: Armani will be there, front and centre, even if the man himself isn’t.

Sara Sampaio
Barbara Palvin