Appeared In
Special Issue
Menswear issue 03/17/2015

It’s a “magic moment” for Marni.

That perky assertion comes from one of the fashion industry’s most understated couples, Consuelo and Gianni Castiglioni, respectively creative director and chief executive officer of the brand they founded 20 years ago.

This story first appeared in the March 17, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The company is expanding around the world, leveraging the investment made by Renzo Rosso, who took a stake in the brand in December 2012 through his firm OTB SpA. The entrepreneur’s holding company also controls the Diesel group, production arm Staff International and brands including Maison Martin Margiela and Viktor & Rolf.

Part of the plan is to grow Marni’s men’s wear line, which the Castiglionis first showed together with women’s wear for spring 2002 and which had its first solo runway show for fall 2006. “Our men’s wear was complementary to our women’s wear, it wasn’t a real project,” Gianni Castiglioni admits, “but we have seen excellent sell-throughs and the offer is really complete now. The product is ready to tackle the market and the competition.”

The brand’s men’s wear division has grown more than 50 percent each season over the past year and now represents around 8 percent of total sales, which hit $173 million in 2014.

“It’s an important project, there’s a lot of passion and it’s a great opportunity,” Rosso believes. Citing a strong moment in men’s wear, he added that Marni can become “an inspirational beacon. It’s a kind of look that is trendier, it’s fashion for the future with its discreet nuances, yet strong personality and touch of color.”

The growing profile of the Marni man was evident in January, when Castiglioni was the guest designer at international men’s wear show Pitti Uomo in Florence. The collection, one of the standouts of the season, reflected her deftness with precision, asymmetric cuts, constant research into new fabrics and materials, unusual color combinations and, above all, her eccentricity.

But while the show may have put Marni’s men’s wear firmly into the spotlight, Consuelo Castiglioni says it exhibited her style guidelines more than ever, which can be summed up in one word: “consistency.”

“Nothing should be thrown away; I don’t design clothes for one season, but rather for the medium-term period,” she says.

Wearing a soft brown sweater over dark, flared trousers, her hair held back in a ponytail, the shy and low-key designer carefully measures her words, lighting up only when she speaks about fashion and art—another passion—flanked by her laid-back and protective husband.

For fall, Castiglioni spun classic tailored looks with her quirky touch—cue the fitted micro-checkered suits worn with chunky Chelsea boots, or the slightly flared pants juxtaposed with shrunken sweaters—her own take on the Sixties and Seventies, respectively. A worsted wool tunic decorated with alpaca inserts in a harlequin-esque pattern was an example of Castiglioni’s focused style. Following a comment about using “complementary” materials and inspiration for her men’s and women’s collections and asked about the androgyny trend on this season’s runways, the designer smiles and wiggles a finger for emphasis, admitting that she does think about “a woman that wears men’s looks, but not the opposite.” She herself admits that she enjoys borrowing from a man’s wardrobe.

The designer was particular about choosing the venue in Florence for Pitti—the Marino Marini Museum. Castiglioni says the artist’s sculptures were “perfectly in line with [her] vision and taste,” creating the right association with her clothes. She also expresses a tinge of pride in drawing visitors to the museum. “A lot of people didn’t know it,” she notes. Even though she says showing in Florence “was a beautiful and interesting experience that brought us back to the runway,” the designer plans to show in Milan next season.

Despite Marni’s growth plans and product extensions into accessories such as shoes, bags, gloves and scarves, Castiglioni says she feels her small team of designers is “perfect” as it is and that she is not thinking of expanding it.

Tiziana Cardini, fashion director at Italy’s La Rinascente, praises the evolution of the collection, saying it has become “very strong, solid, beautiful, complete and structured,” from a very niche, small selection. Cardini says Castiglioni’s aesthetic and design sensibility perfectly translate into men’s wear and points to the “articulated architecture” of the line.

A retail and wholesale strategy is in place to hit the accelerator on Marni men’s development around the world. The company already has three men’s stores in Japan and one in China, but Gianni Castiglioni says the plan is to open additional dedicated units. China, Korea, Japan, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S. are the main markets for the men’s line.

There are 60 Marni stores worldwide, including concessions. In May, the company will open a new flagship in Via Montenapoleone, which will sell Marni’s women’s and men’s wear, while a store in San Francisco selling both collections is expected to open later this year.

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