Born: Castelbolognese, Faenza, Italy, 12 December 1949. Education: Studied architecture; has traveled the world extensively. Family: Married; children: Diletta. Career: First collection for Quickstep by Luciano Papini; small collection of handknits, 1972; designer, Dimitri Couture, New York, 1979; Romeo Gigli label, from 1981; first showing, 1982; designer, Romeo Gigli for Zamasport, from 1984; distribution agreement with Takashimaya, 1987; opened Corso Como boutique, Milan, 1988; collaboration with Ermenegildo Zegna Group, from 1989; Romeo di Romeo Gigli, women's fragrance launched and Paris store opened, 1989; lower-priced G. Gigli sportswear line introduced and New York store opened, 1990; formation of NUNO to distribute G. Gigli line, 1992; made limited edition hand-made rugs for Christopher Farr, 1993; signature line of jeans, 1996; Awards: Accademia del Profumo award [for fragrance packaging], 1990; Woolmark award, 1990; American Fragrance Foundation award [fragrance packaging], 1991. Address: Via Fumagalli, 6-20143 Milan, Italy. Website: www.romeogigli.it .
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Romeo Gigli produces clothes that are always subtle and sophisticated. He blends a spectrum of muted colors with a fluid sense of cut and drape to give a feeling of balance and harmony to all his designs, perhaps as a result of his architectural training. His prime influences are fine art and travel, both apparent in the Renaissance luxury of the fabrics he uses and the mix of cultural influences discernible in their shaping and decoration. A soft sculptural beauty pervades both his day and eveningwear, with a talent for shaping clothes to the body in an elegantly flattering way without ever clinging too tightly or restrictively.
His womenswear encapsulates these qualities and has been very influential, having taken its cue from the elastic fluidity of dancewear to produce garments that are soft and feminine. Although Gigli's clothes are obviously designed for the busy modern woman, they are never merely a series of mix-and-match separates, nor indeed are they as ostentatious as the work of some of his Italian counterparts. His use of stretch fabrics and rich warm woollen suiting have inspired many imitators with their purity of cut and sensuous, body-skimming fit. The classical virtues of the body which pervade Gigli's work give a feeling of an evolutionary process to fashion, rather than a slavish following of seasonal dictates, and it is perhaps this innate classicism that gives his clothes a timeless air.
Some Gigli garments, like his richly enveloping embroidered coats, seem destined to become treasured collectors' items, passed on like heirlooms rather than falling victim to the fickleness often
If Gigli's strength is perhaps his gently romantic womenswear, his menswear is nonetheless notable for the same kind of muted colours and sinuous cut, giving it a feeling of luxury without any obvious show of wealth. Suiting is again unstructured, working with the shape of the body rather than against it. His jackets are often high-buttoned, with an extra sense of depth and texture given to their rich wools by the subtle range of mossy greens, dull aubergine and bitter chocolate browns used to stripe the fabric. It is this kind of color sense which, combined with clever mixing of shiny and matte fabrics, marks all his work. Even his most formal menswear has an effortless elegance and a fluidity of cut, which have made it unfailingly popular with discerning male customers.
Gigli has followed the increasingly popular notion of the diffusion range with the more practical daywear basics of his G. Gigli line, launched in 1990. Here the silhouette is bulkier, with rich berry chenilles and sage and golden corduroys being used to produce a collection of classic zip-style cardigans, hooded tops, trousers, and soft leggings for men and women. Although less ethereally beautiful than much of his main collection, there is still the same signature use of contrasting fabrics and muted colors to produce a very tactile appeal through texture and shade.
An intelligent balance of all elements of design and choice of textiles makes Gigli's work uniquely sophisticated and beautiful. His subtlety of touch and soft sculptural forms have influenced all levels of design from the High Street up, and his work has continued to develop along his self-assigned tenets of harmony and balance, always retaining a feeling of sensuous luxury.
While Gigli continued to debut collections in Paris, he returned to the Milan catwalk in 1997 after an absence of seven years. Critics approved of his women's line featuring three-piece pantsuits, skirts, and knit dresses and his men's collection of retooled jackets, shoes and ties. As always, his use of fabric and texture drew the most praise. Suzy Menkes, who had sung Gigli's praises after his first Paris showing years before, enthused, "But the joy of the show was in its opening coats in fabrics that seemed to draw their rich colors and lattice or tapestry textures from the artistic soul of Italy."
By the 21st century the Gigli name could be found on an increasing number of products, from ties, shoes, and eyewear to fabrics and handmade rugs for Christopher Farr. The limited edition kilims featured wool from Kurdish sheep, and were handmade on looms in Turkey. Gigli continues to be propelled by his beliefs in intrinsic beauty; as he told Derek Allen in a 1999 interview for the Italian website Yes Please, "All the pieces I create must be beautiful in character, and that means they must possess beauty outside the context of the overall project. If I remove a piece from the collection and it doesn't fuction in alternative contexts, then it lacks the necessary sense of balance." For Gigli, balance and beauty go hand in hand.
updated by Nelly Rhodes