Renzo Mancini is proving that you don’t have to be based in a fashion capital to have your products sold by a luxury retailer. Of course, Mancini is a little more remote than most — some would even say, off the grid. Still, he managed to get the attention of Barneys New York buyers from Sardinia, where he lives and operates ExKite with his wife, stylist Eirinn Skrede.
The eco-friendly ExKite creates jackets from kite-surfing kites that are decommissioned and upcycled.
Mancini, a former professional kite surfer, found his calling when he was test-piloting a kite surfing brand. Testing the kites in the water, Mancini realized they could no longer be used for kite surfing, but he didn’t want to throw them away. Each kite was associated with a memory — of a beautiful day or a nice moment on the beach. With Skrede, he designed jackets, each a one-of-a-kind article.
Mancini said he didn’t “want to take a corner at Barneys because we are not yet known.” He had an idea, which sounds quite ambitious, but was second nature for the kite-surfing pro. “‘Why don’t we take two kites and put the logo of Barneys on one and the ExKite logo on the other,'” Mancini recalled telling the retailer. “‘We’ll send them around the world for three months and collect footage and videos of the people flying them, and when they finish the tour we’ll make 12 jackets from the kites.'”
Setting sail in Sardinia, the kites were flown by professionals in races and competitions, touching down in Los Angeles and San Francisco, then France, Norway and Sweden, along the way, the kites dipped in oceans, fought winds, and were flown over lakes and rivers. Back in Sardinia, the kites were transformed into a 12-piece limited-edition capsule consisting of color-blocked tech-ripstop jackets, priced at $795 each.
“We have an exclusive agreement with Barneys for one season,” Mancini said. “Of course, they took the limited-edition capsule and also bought the ExKite normal collection. Barneys is selling a range of custom pieces, including color-blocked tech-ripstop vests, $425; color-blocked tech-ripstop jackets, $595, and color-blocked tech-ripstock oversized parka, $995. While most of the products are designed for men, the parka is actually a unisex piece. “It suits women,” Mancini said. “We sell more parkas to women than to men. It’s a huge oversize parka with a batwing.”
When the kites started off in Sardinia, Mancini said, “I was the first one to fly the kite and when it ended in Sardinia, I was the last one to ride. We got a strong wind on the last day and I got some more nice footage. It was the perfect ending to a new beginning with Barneys. After I finished on the last day, I had to send the kite to production to be cut.”
The one-off nature of the product and the fact that each garment comes with a story is attractive to clients. “We give them a little idea and about the owner of the kite and where he’s been flying,” Mancini said.
Mancini, who used to race professionally, said, “I do only surfing competition. I cannot compete in free style.” So he’s putting more emphasis on ExKite, which has a showroom in Sardinia along with a laboratory where custom products are made.”I would love to keep on going with Barneys,” Mancini said. “They believed in the project and gave us a very nice space. We opened a store in Sardinia, but it’s a very short season. I’d be very curious to open a shop in a big city. New York might be the place.”