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6267: Keeping the Balance

Just as fashion insiders know what an ego boost it is for a young designer to become a media darling, they also know that editorial hype doesn't go far without commercial acclaim.

MILAN — Just as fashion insiders know what an ego boost it is for a young designer to become a media darling, they also know that editorial hype doesn’t go far without commercial acclaim. A brand that is positioning itself on both trajectories is 6267, designed by 35-year-olds Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi.

Top editors regularly attend their shows, and international retailers cite the line as a fall favorite, along with Prada, Jil Sander, Marni, Burberry and Gucci.

“I don’t agree when people say that a commercial sensibility castrates creativity. On the contrary, I think it can be quite stimulating while pure creativity can be limitative,” said Aquilano. In many ways, the duo’s strength lies in the intriguing chemistry between them and their intellectual and creative diversities.

The fair Rimondi is outspoken and articulate, while Aquilano, who has a crop of dark hair, is reclusive and more diplomatic. Their design perspectives balance each other the same way they contradict one another during an interview over Miuccia Prada’s design coherence (supported by Rimondi) versus the flakiness of young designers (Aquilano argues they’re reflecting a strong identity) and show venues. “Tommaso doesn’t like to hear this but of the two, I’m more attentive to the commercial aspect of the collection, while he is more engrossed with making beautiful and trendy clothes,” chuckled Rimondi.

Aquilano maintains a diplomatic stance. “We know how difficult it is to meld editorial interest and salability. I’m not sure how photogenic our clothes are, but we know our clients are happy. The quality is high and the clothes are palatable.”

Aquilano and Rimondi met during one of the many consultancies they are still committed to, though clients’ names are top secret. They are also the creative directors for IT Holding–owned Malo.

Convinced women need great basics to relieve the what-to-wear stress, Rimondi shows off a high-waist pencil skirt with rear-enhancing diagonal cuts. “Some people may think this is a classic black skirt, but it’s more than a basic because it evolves through details,” he said.

Ditto for a straight pinstriped skirt with eyelets around the high waistband, an erstwhile technique for which men would fasten their shirt to the eyelets to keep it tucked inside. Cashmere sweaters instead feature leg-o’-mutton sleeves and cable insets.

“But,” continued Rimondi, “if you want something really strong, then here’s an exaggerated egg-shape coat with multi patch pockets that we show on the runway.”

Sales for 6267’s fall collection rose 70 percent compared with the same season last year. When the line was a year old, it earned the spotlight with the Who’s On Next contest sponsored by Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Vogue Italia in September 2005. The company’s name, which they say resolves language barriers, is simply a number that Rimoldi was assigned as a kid at summer camp.

The duo won the competition and was feted at a gala dinner in Milan attended by Miuccia Prada, Donatella Versace, Burberry’s Christopher Bailey, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Lucy Liu, Heather Graham and Naomi Campbell, plus a string of top retailers and editors. As they lay the base for a new collection and toss ideas around, they try to second-guess whims by looking at the streets, at what sold, at fabrics and at color charts shown at fabric fairs.

Fall was about early 1900s androgyny melded with two Eighties favorites — hiked hems and oversize furs. The concept was best expressed via beefy men’s wear fabrics and sartorial details such as velvet-covered buttons or lined pockets and short lengths. “Voluminous furs were big in the Eighties, but in the early 1900s they were made with long-haired animals, so we used wild beaver for ample fur coats,” said Aquilano.

Coats — short or long, boxy or slim, with military austerity or girly softness — took the lion’s share, especially in brushed wool, pressed alpaca and felted cashmere. The line is carried in 170 high-end sales points worldwide, including Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Blake in Chicago, Savannah in Santa Monica, Calif., Biffi in Milan, London’s Harvey Nichols and Takashimaya in Tokyo. Wholesale prices range from $252 for bistretch pants to $1,063 for a pressed alpaca coat and $1,700 for a plume and Swarovski-beaded dress.

The duo lives and works in Mantua, a prosperous town in northern Italy. The provincial, rural dimension doesn’t seem to limit their creativity the least bit. “It’s not provincial, it’s just a different dimension. It’s more relaxing and you can focus better,” said Rimondi. “Of course it’s provincial, Roberto,” added Aquilano, “we have hens pecking in the offices’ backyard.”

Whether toiling around farms or skyscrapers, they both note that evolution is the means to growth and have learned from their mistakes. “In the beginning we were stubborn and mentally closed in many aspects, but now we’ve learned to open up and question our ideas,” said Aquilano.

To feel the urban vibe, they constantly shuttle between Milan and New York, Paris and London to check out the competition, the retail scene, flea markets and cultural differences. “We know there are many brands out there and that there is only a small slice of the pie for us. Sometimes I feel awkward stepping on someone else’s toes,” said Aquilano.

“I’m much greedier,” said Rimondi. “I’d like to see our clothes everywhere.”