Starting this month, Roman Sipe will take the helm as creative director of the men’s division at the Italian innerwear and underwear brand, as well as creative director of men’s at luxury boutique Journelle. Both firms are owned and operated by the Campello family.
“Roman is a pioneer in men’s underwear; he’s a true creative,” Guido Campello told WWD.
Campello, whose parents Valeria and Ugo Campello founded Cosabella in 1983, currently serves as creative director of women’s at Cosabella, as well as co-chief executive officer, along with his sister Silvia Campello. “And Roman is an operator,” Campello continued. “He runs his business.”
Sipe’s business ventures include luxury men’s underwear brand Menagerie Intimates, which he launched in 2015. The designer said he was excited to work with Cosabella — and Campello, in particular — because of the company’s nearly 40-year history.
“I’m a self-taught designer. I’m a self-taught brand owner,” Sipe said. “And to have Guido [Campello] as a mentor, as well as Giorgio [Latini], the production manager that we work with in Italy…the research and the knowledge that these men bring to the industry that I’m new to is key. I focus on the beauty of my lingerie and who I am trying to reach. But in order to scale and in order to build brand awareness and grow, I need a mentor within our [intimates] world.”
But Sipe, who is based in Fabriano, Italy, near Cosabella’s factories, is not completely new to the industry. In fact, he’s been in the fashion scene for at least 10 years, between L.A. and New York. His résumé includes celebrity stylist, fashion stylist (with brands such as G-Star and Seven For All Mankind), designer and founder. He also has a bachelor’s degree in finance, styled music videos, contestants on “America’s Next Top Model” and won Macy’s The Next Style Star Competition, a reality show competition that gave him the chance to produce a fashion campaign for the department store.
“And that is exactly when I decided I wanted to design,” Sipe explained. “And I was like, what am I going to design? The first thing that came to mind was underwear. And I was googling underwear and I didn’t see anything that I would wear.”
In the new role, Sipe has been tasked with building out the male body form division, starting with the spring 2023 collections, across Cosabella and Journelle. (Campello and his wife Sapna Palep purchased luxury lingerie boutique Journelle, which has locations in New York and Chicago, along with the e-commerce business, in 2019.) Sipe will also assist Campello on creative direction for Cosabella’s and Journelle’s women’s collections.
“I always thought I would be the creative director [of Cosabella] forever,” Campello explained. “I thought I had enough creative direction in understanding trends and movement, because I’ve been in this space forever. But very clearly, I think the speed at which the last two years moved, I realized there’s all these worlds out there now that are getting exposure and they need premium products, better products. And one of those places is men’s. The biggest step I took was to understand that I can’t speak to everybody. I know my world.
“Ultimately, [Sipe] has a comfort level with teaching and talking about that product that’s different from other people,” Campello continued. “I’ve learned a lot already from him, about utility, solution underwear, solution undergarments in that space.”
Campello, who is based in New York, will continue to act as creative director of women’s, with some input from Sipe on the division. He added that it makes sense for Sipe to be based in Italy, near production facilities, in order for him to gain a better understanding of the entire process, starting with the supply chain.
Meanwhile, Cosabella continues to build out his assortment for men, which launched last fall. Campello is quick to point out, however, that it’s not so much for men, as it is for the male body form. That could take the shape of underwear — which is cut in the same style and fabric across both men’s and women’s — but with added volume in the crotch area to accommodate for men, or bras for men, he explained.
“We’re a very inclusive brand at Cosabella,” Campello said. “Journelle is becoming inclusive. But to truly be inclusive you need to bring in the people who do those things. Journelle does it by bringing in other brands that we sell. But Cosabella needs that influence,” he added, explaining the need to onboard Sipe.
For his part, Sipe’s wish list for the company includes creating sizing guides for men, adding in more lace and bra options, as well as bra fittings for men, while breaking down long-held societal stigmas around men — or the male form — in the lingerie space. He also wants to help expand the range of women who feel comfortable at Journelle by adding more choices for plus-size and transgender shoppers, among others.
“The most exciting part is coming in and optimizing the male shopping experience: the product, the styles, what we want to do,” Sipe said. “And building what men’s lingerie actually looks like and what it means to actually design for the male form. We have the opportunity to expand what men’s lingerie means.
“For instance, the fit chart is a really interesting thing for me,” he continued. “Because I know a lot of men who say, I wear a boxer brief. I want to build out a men’s fit guide that lets you know what is proper for what style of pants you’re wearing. I think that’s where my styling experience comes in. And to create a shopping space for men, because most of the time they’re shopping for their partners, their girlfriend, wife, for a woman. But now the goal is to have them come into the store [independently] for Cosabella’s men’s line and with my line.
“I knew starting my brand, the gays were going to love it,” Sipe added. “The fashion men and women were going to love it. But as my brand grew, I started getting contacted by all different men. And [that experience] has been so much fun. Because all it takes is for people to see [men’s lingerie], to accept it. But also, to see it done right. To understand it and to break down all the walls.”