A passion for product is what drives Carlo Rivetti, creative director and chairman of Sportswear Co. SpA, which manufactures the Stone Island brand.
Calling himself the “ideologist” behind the label, Rivetti said Stone Island was born in 1982 with an obsession and passion for product and product innovation.
Stone Island uses plating, coating, garment dying, copper, stainless steel, Kevlar, and reflective and heat sensitive materials for its garments. The Italian-based company has an in-house garment dying lab, where it can obtain 11 different colors on a garment, playing with the fabric, acidity of water, temperature, pressure and print. They have more than 60,000 dyeing recipes.
“My passion has always been to break boundaries. We always follow our ideas, and I’m sure that, sooner or later, the wave of fashion will hit us, and actually that happened,” he said.
Rivetti believes there are two key factors for Stone Island, one being the lab factor and a passion for research and experimentation. The central part is the product that includes shirts, pants, fleecewear, sweaters, coats and jackets. The second is that Stone Island gives status to its wearers. “The consumers feel important and proud when wearing Stone Island,” he said.
As the eighth generation of his family to be involved in the textile and garment industry, Rivetti said everything changed for Stone Island in 2008. That year, he sold his other brand to concentrate on Stone Island, which he called “the most pure brand” he had. “The key word was focus. I wanted all the activity of the company focused on Stone Island,” Rivetti said. They reorganized the whole firm’s financing around the brand and changed the logistics. He brought in a young, multicultural design team with different points of view. He noted that if you take a field jacket and you ask for an interpretation to an Italian guy, a German guy, a Pakistani guy and a U.S. guy, you will get four different points of view.
Rivetti equated the way the collection was positioned to his beautiful house in the mountains, where there’s a cable car with four different stations. “We were staying on the peak station. The consumer didn’t understand what we were doing. We moved from the peak station to the third station in order to be more democratic….It was a success. We were able to talk to a higher number of people. My fans were aging with me, and I needed to attract, new younger fans,” he said. They needed to use new media and the Internet to reach them.
They concentrated on their four most important markets: Italy, the U.K., Germany and the Netherlands. They then decided they needed to follow their customers and be closer to them. They were asked by Supreme to do a collaboration in 2014, and then they did a collaboration with NikeLab. “The global Goliath and the David of cool,” he said. “We learned a lot throughout the collaborations. With Supreme, to think out of our box, with NikeLab to value our flexibility and defend it. It helped a lot to get the Stone Island message to the new generation, Rivetti said.
“With Supreme, all the decisions are fast and made by one guy. [That would be founder James Jebbia.] At NikeLab, it’s a huge company. I was very proud my company was able to make good collaborations with both which are totally different, and totally different from my company,” he said.
They then decided it was time to open stores in Los Angeles and New York, to tell the Stone Island story. Today, Stone Island is totally trans-generational. “We did not lose the older guy, the big, fat guy like me,” he said.
For 2018, global volume is forecast to be almost $250 million up 33 percent from 2017, and up 83 percent from 2016. Orders in 2018 are ahead 37 percent.
The exciting thing for him is when he puts a new fabric in the machine and sees something totally new coming out. “I’m not interested in numbers. I am interested in doing something in novelty, never done before to continue to shape and influence future generations. My son and daughter are already working in the company. This for me is a sign of hope and satisfaction,” he said.
During the question-and-answer period, Rivetti was asked whether outerwear will replace a certain type of clothing, Rivetti replied, “Yes.”
“I grew up with formalwear. GFT manufactured and was the distributor for Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Ungaro. “It was a very formal company for both men and women. I was watching my sons go to school and they dressed like how I went to gym when I went to school. When you start wearing tennis shoes, now we call them sneakers, everything will change. They threw me out of GFT, so I had no alternative. When I was at GFT, I founded the sportswear division because I felt the future was in the non-formal division.
Asked when his next collaboration with Supreme is going to drop, he said, “I’m totally against collaborations now because there are too many. They’re no longer about product but about marketing.” He recalled the first time they met to do the Supreme collaboration, they talked a lot and Jebbia decided they would do it. Rivetti said he didn’t want to do it until they saw the product. “If we’re both happy, we’ll do it,” Rivetti recalled saying to him. He said that if they do another collaboration with Supreme it would be “because James and me are happy about the product.”