The latest reinvention of Cerruti 1881 is all about its impeccably dressed and influential founder, Nino Cerruti.
This story first appeared in the January 22, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“He never did fashion for fashion’s sake. It was all about style,” said Jason Basmajian, the French house’s new chief creative officer, whose debut collection is to be presented here today. “My mission here is not so much dusting off but taking a powerful name with a strong legacy and pushing it into the future.”
Boston-born Basmajian has a track record of refreshing and revving up storied men’s wear names, having recently wrapped up a fruitful two-and-a-half-year tenure as chief creative officer at Gieves & Hawkes, the Savile Row brand controlled by Cerruti’s Hong Kong-based parent Trinity Ltd., which also owns the Kent & Curwen brand. (Basmajian remains a member of Gieves’ board of directors.)
Now installed at Cerruti’s Place de la Madeleine headquarters, which shelters an in-house atelier and a flagship boutique, Basmajian is already mapping out plans to mark the brand’s 50th anniversary in 2017, mulling a runway blowout.
His fall collection unifies various collections with different names and positioning under a single moniker, Cerruti 1881, which will span a broad price architecture and, in future, incorporate more sportswear and accessories for a full lifestyle offer.
Yet Cerruti — famed for its luxe fabrics and peak-lapel blazers — is to remain a tailoring driven brand, with suits priced from about 795 euros to 1,895 euros, or about $870 to $2,100 at current exchange.
“I have a very strong fabric sensibility and background. It’s so perfect for this brand,” said Basmajian, who moved to Europe in 2002 to become creative director of S.T. Dupont, leading a name famed for lighters into fashion and giving him a first taste of “taking a heritage brand forward.” He went on to do the same to Brioni, culminating with the 2011 sale of the family-owned firm, based in Penne, Italy, to French fashion group Kering, then known as PPR.
He began his initiation at Cerruti last July, meeting the now white-haired founder at his family-owned textile mill, marveling at his extensive knowledge of contemporary fashion and his enduring chic, dressed in natty gray linens on that summer day.
Among Basmajian’s guiding lights are such Cerruti declarations as, “What we wear is an expression of our intelligence and our vitality.”
“I loved his notion of style over trend,” he said.
That “Cerruti was born out of fabrics” excites Basmajian, whose walk-through of the collection started with a dozen swatches pinned next to his mood board that announced its classic palette, grounded in camel, earthy browns, gray, navy and touches of teal and rust.
He described silhouettes as relaxed and loose, but not oversize, exalting the drape of luxurious fabrics: bouclé tweeds, checkered silks, and ultrasoft wool in oversize Prince of Wales motifs. Even sportier, performance outerwear gets the sartorial treatment, a slim mac bonded with a surface resembling gray flannel, or a technical parka done up in a herringbone weave.
Textures abound, and Basmajian is partial to pileups of tonal patterns, also adding rich detail such as shearling collars on overcoats, or leather piping to trenches. Shoes and boots are chunky with lug-like soles, adding a rugged touch to his refined ensembles.
In another wink to Cerruti’s heritage, Basmajian hired photographer Paolo Roversi, an original Nino coconspirator, to lens a new image campaign that is already in the windows of the flagship store, pointing to the “unstudied elegance” and “effortless chic” the designer is after.
Basmajian succeeded Aldo Maria Camillo, who exited Cerruti last May. Past artistic directors of its men’s wear line include Jean-Paul Knott and Nicolas Andreas Taralis, as well as Sachiko Okada and Aaron Sharif, cofounders of the London-based label Blaak.
Cerruti was founded in Biella, Italy, in 1881 by the Cerruti brothers. Nino Cerruti took up the helm in the Fifties, and in 1967 founded Cerruti 1881. Today the brand has some 126 stores and global wholesale distribution.