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Brendan Mullane Delves Into Brioni’s Rich History

Since its beginning in 1945, the Italian brand has held fast to its tradition of breaking down barriers and focusing on luxury men’s wear.

Brendan Mullane
Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 04/03/2014

Since its beginning in 1945, Brioni has held fast to its tradition of breaking down barriers and focusing on luxury men’s wear.

This story first appeared in the April 3, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The brand was founded in Rome when a master tailor named Nazareno Fonticoli and a business marketer named Gaetano Savini came together to create a true luxury brand — which would be the first devoted exclusively to men — that took its inspiration from the island of Brioni, a jet-setting locale.

Since that time, the Italian brand has worked to remain true to the core values of its business and ensure that it offers the ultimate in craftsmanship and quality, said Brendan Mullane, Brioni’s creative director.

“That commitment is central to how we present the brand today,” he said.

Mullane, who previously held the position of senior head men’s wear designer at Givenchy, and has also designed for brands such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Alexander McQueen and others, said that he was not there to change a single aspect of the brand.

“I’m very lucky, I’ve been given one of the biggest diamonds in the rough,” he said. “My role is never to recut it or to remold it but to re-shine it.”

Providing examples of Brioni’s men’s wear history, Mullane shined a light upon the brand’s first fashion show.

“Let me be clear,” he said. “This was a revolutionary act in 1952. Until then, fashion itself was considered entirely for women.”

The show was held in Sala Bianca in Florence, and used Brioni’s own store managers and staff because, at the time, male models did not exist.

“That was the perfect combination of creating daring and commercial savvy. [It] set Brioni on the path of becoming the first global luxury brand for men,” he said.

“We think of any work we create as a work of art,” he said. “The artistic expression is at the heart of what we do. Artistry is at the center of what we do. It takes more than 14,000 hand-stitches to give a Brioni evening look a form of expression.”

For inspiration, Mullane said, the brand looks inwardly at its own archives — one that is classified as a national treasure by the Italian government.

“I really am lucky to be able to work with it — as it is so rich and distinctive,” he said.

What Mullane was most impressed by was the schooling of each of the brand’s tailors. He explained that to work in one of Brioni’s factories each of the tailors had to go through nine years of education.

“They start in the basics,” he said. “The essential art of tailoring, how to structure the canvas.” When Mullane first visited the school he was taken aback by all of the small jackets he saw hanging.

“It was the first three-year project inside the school, and the students who come are 14 years old, make their own jacket from start to finish. This is the beauty of it [the training].”

“It’s nine years total: three inside the school, then another six years inside the factories.”

Other than archives, Mullane said he also takes inspiration from “breaking down” the boundaries between the worlds of art, film and architecture from cultures around the world.

“Just as it was in 1952, Brioni continues to be truly one of a kind,” he said.

And of his role at the historic brand and his vision of its future, Mullane reiterated this: “It’s not my role to come in and change anything. It’s to show off the brand in all its beauty.”