ROME — “Rich with rich with rich sometimes is just too much. This is what I want to show to our clients: That one luxurious piece can be worn in a different way.”
Capping off an interview at Brioni’s headquarters here, Norbert Stumpfl with those few words summed up his mission for the legendary men’s wear brand owned by Kering: Subverting the perception of the label while keeping the integrity of its heritage and its luxurious feel. “We don’t do fashion, it’s more about style and showing men how they can wear these extremely luxurious clothes in a very easy way,” he said.
Marking the 75th anniversary of the brand, Brioni is unveiling the fall 2020 collection on the first day of Pitti Uomo in Florence. The event will take place inside the stuccoed rooms of the 15th-century Palazzo Gerini, with a presentation curated by fashion historian Olivier Saillard.
The move resonates with Brioni’s milestone as the brand staged the first men’s runway show ever organized globally at the city’s Palazzo Pitti in 1952, casting Angelo Vittucci, the brand’s then commercial director, as a model on the runway. To reflect that, Stumpfl has tapped a range of different men “who are the best in their expertise…that have different body types.” He promised the showcase to reflect Saillard’s brainy influence “showing Brioni in a new and different way.”
Sartorially, Stumpfl’s challenging path for Brioni started right after being appointed design director in 2018, succeeding former creative director Nina-Maria Nitsche. Last month, Kering also tapped a new chief executive officer for Brioni, naming Mehdi Benabadji to succeed Fabrizio Malverdi.
Working in tandem with the ateliers located in Penne, Italy, the Austrian designer contended he is not out to set a revolution in motion, but for sure he’s infusing a certain ease and laid-back elegance into the wardrobes of the brand’s customers. He didn’t have to look far from home for inspiration as the archives, he said, are rich in colors and textures “that were a little bit missing in the collections.”
“Brioni didn’t start out as a classic men’s wear tailor; actually it became very famous during the Fifties when it sparked interest among a lot of American actors coming to Rome…it was more about the style and the Italian way of living,” Stumpfl said.
During the interview, the designer stressed the importance of the company’s craftsmanship in the development of the fall 2020 collection, aimed at keeping the signature silhouette and extreme comfort intact. The lineup contains charming textures and luxe materials and a color palette that includes subtle tones of buttery white, washed beige, dashes of pink and slightly more flamboyant hues, as in a silk dinner jacket with flower embroideries for which Stumpfl called on a storied Venetian mill that employs a 17th-century technique.
Extremely thin wools, including super fine 250s, are crafted into body hugging suits that retain a traditional silhouette without looking stiff and that weigh only 380 grams, their lining stripped out. A special selection of generous suits with larger lapels and softer shoulders under the Virgilio moniker nod to designs from the Fifties and Seventies and along with the embroidered evening jackets and other items come with a dedicated 75th anniversary label.
A coat made of double-faced alpaca is left undyed to preserve its natural color, ditto for a Mongolian cashmere overcoat in white sourced from albino species, completed with white horn buttons.
Veering into the sportswear arena with the aim of complementing clients’ wardrobes with weekend attire, duffle coats are made of Casentino wool in a blend of alpaca and wool to offer a softer effect and parkas and field jackets are given the luxurious treatment with the double-faced technique. “We wanted to show for our 75th anniversary what we’re able to do in-house with these kind of fabrics you normally see in bespoke but not in a [seasonal] collection,” the designer said.
Stumpfl said 95 percent of the lineup employs Italian fabrics “to support local manufacturers and also because of the sustainability [angle].”
“It sounds a little bit nationalistic, but it’s not…I think Italian mills are really doing a great job and it’s just emphasizing that you can do amazing products that come from close by,” he contended, also noting Kering has been at the forefront of the sustainable conversation.
The Brioni brand has been historically associated with Hollywood actors used to the red-carpet fanfare but its customer base is opening up, to rap stars and basketball players, for example. “When I design my collections, I’m thinking more about what men need in these times….I think people are looking for pieces that have a reason to be. It’s not like throwaway products,” Stumpfl said.
To be sure, Brioni’s loosened up silhouette resonates with its latest brand ambassador, Brad Pitt, who embodies the masculine and effortless man the designer has in mind. “Brad just loved the clothes and wanted to be with us,” Stumpfl said, keeping further details of his endorsement under wraps.
“For me, the ideal thing would be to design a collection in which you don’t see my influence, where you just see the face of the person, as the clothes [themselves] are not so important, they are just helping you to feel great while moving around your day and not [feel constricted],” the designer concluded.
Stumpfl said he is not designing for men who stand in front of the mirror checking whether their tie is perfectly knotted, but rather for self-confident, grown-ups in their 40s, who are into “tailoring that’s infused with a handmade and human touch.”