The designer Romeo Gigli was born in 1949 in Castelbolognese, near Faenza, Italy, into a family of antiquarian booksellers with a collection of more than twenty thousand volumes from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The region of Faenza has a rich cultural and historical heritage. It was there, in the Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna and in the rare books in his family's library, that Gigli found the initial inspiration for his future art.
Education and Early Career
Gigli studied architecture in Florence. At the end of the 1970s, after ten years spent traveling around the world, during which time he collected objects, fabrics, and clothing, he began to take an interest in fashion. In 1979 he went to New York, where Pietro Dimitri, a tailor who made custom clothing for men, asked Gigli to design a line of women's clothing. It was a defining moment for Gigli, who, after returning to Italy and settling in Milan, decided to enter fashion on a full-time basis. In 1983 he launched the Romeo Gigli label, which was produced by Zamasport beginning in 1985.
Revolutionizing Women's Fashion
Gigli broke with existing conventions, revolutionizing the approach to women's fashion common in the 1980s. During a period characterized by padded shoulders and aggressive sexuality, Gigli introduced a new look for women-one that was romantic and intimate. He turned away from the hard-edged contours that were then prevalent and based his designs on classic proportions, which he updated, sometimes radically. He made use of contrast and asymmetry and combined simplicity with luxurious fabrics, sometimes pairing smaller, microlength designs with long, full garments. He made use of unusual combinations of colors, such as sand and pink, dark blues, verdigris, saffron, red, and gold, and of fabrics, such as stretch linen, silk, chiffon, cotton gauze, wool, and cashmere. And he was one of the first designers to use Lycra.
The Gigli woman is ethereal and silent, fragile and poetic; her conical silhouette, with its long, narrow sleeves and layered overcoats, jackets, and scarves, emphasizes the sensuality of a woman's arms and shoulders, her gestures and bearing. Even Gigli's men's collection, begun in 1986, broke with the traditional schema and returned to classical proportions and uncommon pairings of materials. He reintroduced the three-button jacket and the natural, or Neapolitan, shoulder; his pants were narrow and his shirts colorful. The Gigli man is neither aggressive nor a dandy; he is an intellectual, casual in appearance only, careful in his choice of colors and fabrics.
In 1987 Gigli signed an agreement with Takashimara-the Japanese department store specializing in luxury and quality goods-for the exclusive production and distribution of the women's ready-to-wear collection and men's and women's accessories.
For several years Gigli showed his clothes in Paris, where he was received with considerable enthusiasm. In Milan his showrooms at 10 corso Como, Spazio Romeo Gigli, which opened in 1988 in a former automobile repair shop in the working-class Garibaldi neighborhood, have become a place of cult worship for intellectuals and fashion rebels, for whom Gigli is the undisputed leader.
Awards and Honors
One of his women's perfumes, Romeo di Romeo Gigli, received the International prize Accademia del Profumo for the best packaging of 1989 and the award of the American Fragrance Foundation for the best packaging of 1991.
G Gigli Line
In 1990, he launched the G Gigli line, produced by Stefanel for a younger market. From 1987 to 1996 he designed Callaghan for Zamasport, a collection of richly decorated ethnic clothing. In 1993 he started a cooperation with Christopher Farr's Handmade rugs for the carrying out of carpets in a limited edition.
Because of disagreements with his associates, Gigli decided to completely redefine his activity. He continued as the artistic director of Gigli Spa, a part of IT Holding, which was founded in 1999 and which produces and distributes products associated with the Gigli name. Romeo Gigli, considered Italy's poet-designer, has been a forerunner of minimalism and understatement in modern clothing design. His stylistic and conceptual innovations have been widely imitated.
Borioli, G. "Gigli." In Dizionario della moda. Edited by Guido Vergani. Milan: Baldini and Castoldi, 1999.
Giordani Aragno, Bonizza. Callaghan: 1966. La nascita del prêtà-porter italiano. Milan: Mazzotta, 1997.