Antonio Ciongoli knows how things work in fashion — and he’s breaking the rules.
Ciongoli, cofounder of Eidos and one-time deputy creative director of Michael Bastian, on Thursday will unveil his new collection, 18 East, a line of men’s wear created by artisans in India and Nepal.
The line is being financed by RRR Brands, a multibrand platform that acquired the women’s brand Roller Rabbit at the end of 2017. Ciongoli joined RRR Brands as creative director last fall working with Andrew Seibert, who is also founder of the private equity firm Bricker Holdings. Roller Rabbit is also an India-inspired artisan brand.
Since resigning as creative director of Eidos a little over a year ago after a 4.5-year stint, Ciongoli has been working on 18 East. He traveled to India and Nepal and immersed himself in those countries’ handcrafted processes, visiting Jaipur, Delhi and Kathmandu.
The result is a 31-piece collection that incorporates fabrics and techniques that are ingrained in the culture there, including the use of khadi fabric for shirts and outerwear that includes a Mandu jungle jacket with an elaborate Himalayan tapestry textile back panel. Khadi is an entirely handmade cloth that uses no electricity to produce.
He also used kalamkari, a type of block printing done with natural dyes and a brushlike bamboo utensil, on pajama sets and pocket T-shirts.
Hand-embroidery is also part of the collection and Ciongoli uses it on a pocket T-shirt embellished with a strip of Nepali prayer flags on the cuffs and bottom. He also uses the technique in a belted pant that features a single stair on the ends of the belt that is based on Rajasthan’s stepwells.
Other unique materials used in the line include deadstock cashmere for crewneck sweaters. 18 East has also partnered with Atelier & Repairs to upcycle vintage Levi’s jeans with patches from the fabrics used in the collection.
Ciongoli’s favorite piece in the collection is a navy corduroy Sherpa-lined ranch coat with a handwrapped striped belt.
“This line has been in the works a long time,” Ciongoli said, adding that it is important to him to support local artisans and their heirloom crafts. “I really want to focus on handwork.” And while he said the brand is “not about sustainability, if you’re starting a brand today, you have to be cognizant of that.”
To introduce the collection, Ciongoli is taking a novel approach. “We’re not doing wholesale,” he said, “but we’re doing bi-monthly drops and we’re launching with three pop-ups.”
The first will be at 180 the Store on Thursday where Asbury Park, N.J.-based sculptor Graham Skeate will create an installation that mixes the collection with canvas relief elements from his 2016 work, “Ephrath.”
The collection will then travel to Magasin in Los Angeles followed by Unionmade in San Francisco. It will also be sold online at an 18 East e-commerce site.
The elaborate handwork makes the collection look like it should cost more than it does, which is exactly the point. “It’s super affordable,” he said.
The shirts retail for $95, a field jacket is $325, the jeans are $325, a yak and wool cardigan sweater is $375 and the corduroy ranch coat is $425.
Ciongoli said the name is a mash-up of its parent company and where the artisans are based. “R is the 18th letter of the alphabet and East is a nod to the construction,” he said. “This is proudly made in India and Nepal.”