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A Day in the Life: Giorgio Armani

By David Challenger
CNN
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Editor's note: Many people have fantasized about a perfect job. CNN's "Day in the Life" examines people earning a living doing what others dream of.

(CNN) -- If fate had taken a different course, it may have been Dr Giorgio Armani, and not the fashion designer extraordinaire he became.

The Italian icon originally started out at medical school but, after finding his passion for style and design, realized medicine wasn't for him.

Today, walk down almost any street in the world that has clothing stores -- in affluent, first-world metropolises or dusty, backwater ghettos -- and you'll see his name plastered about relentlessly.

Armani's base is in Milan, Italy, but he also has permanent abodes in New York and Paris, which helps him feel like he's at home, even when on the road.

He usually rises at about 7 a.m. ("My favorite time of the day -- with prospects of new adventures and possibilities") and begins with a decent workout.

"I exercise for 90 minutes with a personal trainer -- 45 minutes of aerobics and 45 minutes of weights. It's become a daily ritual, and there's no doubt it helps my mind as well as my body," Armani says.

"If I don't do it in the morning, my energy levels and concentration lower considerably during the day."

With his fitness levels balanced, it's off to work.

After zipping through press clippings of interest, he meets with a small group of associates who help him design his collections.

"We discuss themes and ideas, working closely step-by-step on each phase of the collection," Armani says.

"Sometimes we go to my country house in Broni (an hour outside Milan), because it gives us solitude and helps with concentration."

Armani's working day can differ depending on appointments, and although design takes up the bulk of his time, other duties -- such as a fashion week in Milan -- may also need his attention.

With such heavy workloads, Armani realizes how important his team is to him.

"At the start of my career, I found it difficult to trust anyone to do what I was accustomed to doing alone. But now that the business is on such a global scale, I'm happy to say I have an excellent management team that I can depend on," Armani says. "The key to successful delegation is to work with people who understand and believe in your vision ... and this means I am able to attend to different aspects of the business daily.

"But in the end, I still make all the major decisions concerning the collections and the business itself," he says.

As he goes about his daily routine, one can't help but wonder if his muse is something that occurs regularly.

"The root of inspiration is something that cannot be defined easily, as it usually happens when one least expects it," Armani explains.

"Art is an obvious inspiration, so I try and see as many exhibitions and museums as possible. I usually work according to my intuition ... but like many creative people, I cannot describe the process of creation.

"All I know is, I have a very clear vision of what I like and want to achieve. And although ideas may come spontaneously, I am nonetheless disciplined in my work ethic and in the way I approach my daily routine."

But surely such discipline and drive creates negative feelings such as jealousy and tension, especially within an industry known for its fickleness?

"No, I don't think fashion is a competition, so I don't class myself as better or worse than any other designers. Indeed, there are many designers whom I greatly admire," he argues.

"Chanel for the way she changed how women dress; Yves Saint Laurent for the way he cut and tailored women's clothing. ... I also like the imagination and creativity of Jean Paul Gaultier, and the mysterious allure of Yohji Yamamoto."

For himself, Armani says that he still finds most pleasure from designing a beautifully tailored suit, with only one or two accessories.

He believes that subtlety is the key, where the design enhances the wearer's appearance and personality, rather than overwhelm them.

"Often the purest elements and simplest cuts are the most elaborate and difficult to achieve. My mother used to tell me, if you want to create beauty, do only what is necessary, and no more," he says.

The designer realizes that you don't rise to the top of your profession through hard work alone. He says he's sacrificed a lot over the years, but nowadays attempts to live and relax a bit more.

He tries to spend more time vacationing with friends and family, especially on his luxury boat the Mariu, which he finds so calming that he always returns to work "inspired."

And when not traveling with family, Armani says he has the luxury of spending time with relatives during his 10-12 hour-work days, as some are employed by the company.

He also needs to occasionally find time in his daily schedule to work on one of his charitable activities, including the Special Olympics movement and his latest venture -- (Product) RED.

"This new project is a pioneering global business initiative launched by Bobby Shriver and Bono, which aims to help fight AIDS in Africa. I think it's a powerful idea to harness the might of global brands for goodwill," he says proudly.

Despite his relentless workload, Armani maintains that his passion for fashion is as strong today as it was when he first discovered his gift for style.

"Yes, I still have the drive," he says, "and I'm increasingly fascinated by how fashion crosses over to other areas.

"It dictates now more than ever our lifestyle choices: what cars we drive, where we eat, where we go on holidays, how we decorate our homes.

"My heart is in fashion, but the search for a particular aesthetic can be applied to almost any field," he says.

As the working day winds down, Armani still finds pleasure spending time in public before retiring for the evening at home.

"I generally stop at the Nobu Bar in Milan most evenings at 7:30 p.m. for a drink," he says.

"It's around the corner from my house and has a great atmosphere. It helps me unwind, and is, I suppose, my way of getting close to the every day life of the city I love."


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Giorgio Armani: I still make all the major decisions.

SPECIAL REPORT

FACT BOX

• The global unemployment rate remained unchanged in 2005 at 6.3 per cent
• In 2005, of the 2.8 billion workers in the world, nearly 1.4 billion did not earn above US$2 a day
• Each day, an average of 6,000 people die from work-related accidents or diseases
• About 4 percent of the world's GDP is lost yearly through work-related accidents and sickness
• Toxic substances kill 438,000 workers yearly, with asbestos alone causing 100,000 deaths

Source: International Labour Organization

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