Italian menswear designer Nino Cerruti, who gave Giorgio Armani his big break, dies at 91

Nino Cerruti, the Italian fashion designer credited with revolutionizing menswear in the 1960s and giving Giorgio Armani his first break in fashion, has died aged 91, Italian media reported.

Cerruti died in northwestern Italy, where his family had operated a textile company since 1881, the Italian news agency LaPresse reported.

The Italian daily Corriere said he had been hospitalized for hip surgery.

Cerutti inherited the family business, based in the town of Biella in the Piedmont region, at the age of 20 after his father’s death in 1950.

He launched his first menswear company, Hitman, in 1957 near Milan, dedicated to creating sartorial elegance on an industrial scale and becoming part of the nascent men’s ready-to-wear sector.

Cerruti sold his fashion house in the early 2000s and gave up the role of designer, but there are still a number of Cerruti stores around the world.(AP Photo: Francois Mori)

Armani was hired as a young talent at the Hitman factory in the mid-1960s.

Armani recalled Cerruti as a creative entrepreneur with “a sharp eye, a real curiosity, the ability to dare”, adding that “his gentle way of being bossy, bossy even” would be missed.

“Although our contacts have dwindled over the years, I have always considered him one of the people who has had a real and positive influence on my life,” Armani said in a statement.

In 1967, Cerruti founded the luxury menswear house Cerruti 1881 in Paris, then the international capital of fashion, while keeping production in Italy.

The softened silhouette, use of color, and attention to both innovative design and tradition won clients like French movie star Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Soon, Cerruti was in demand in Hollywood, with her designs worn on and off screen by such stars as Michael Douglas in “Basic Instinct,” Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman,” and Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia.”

Cerutti also launched a line of women’s clothing, as well as perfumes, watches, accessories, and leather goods.

He was also at one point the designer for the Ferrari Formula 1 team.

designer in group of models on runway
Italian designer Giorgio Armani remembered Cerruti as a creative entrepreneur with a sharp eye and the ability to dare.(Stefano Rellandini: Reuters)

Cerruti sold the company in the early 2000s, also relinquishing the design role.

But he never severed ties with the fashion house, even as he turned his attention to the textile business, taking a front-row seat at Paris shows.

News of his death spread through the fashion world during the menswear previews at Milan Fashion Week.

Carlo Capasa, president of Italy’s fashion chamber, remembered Cerruti as “a great innovator” who was also “one of the most chic men in Italy”.

“He was the first to understand the importance of creativity in men’s fashion and to give space to a young designer of immense talent like Giorgio Armani, changing the very criteria of how to dress,” said Capasa.

“He was one of the first to have a strong international presence, representing to the world that unique combination of creativity and quality that came to characterize and still characterizes Italian fashion.”

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