From the Eternal City, PIER LUIGI LORO PIANA delivers fashion with heritage for Loro Piana, writes CALVIN WANG
THE WORLD OF luxuries has always been dominated by makers that offer timelessness, be it in their watches, their art, their furniture or even in their clothes. Acquiring the ability to offer timelessness requires passion, dedication and leadership that places the highest value on heritage – just the traits shown by that finest of Italian clothing brands, Loro Piana.
This year marks the 85th Piazza di Siena showjumping competition at Villa Borghese, in Rome. For 24 years,
Loro Piana has been one of the leading sponsors of the competition. The longevity of the partnership is a sign of the passion Loro Piana has for equestrianism and the depth of its involvement in the sport. In the lounge at the competition venue, #legend encounters Pier Luigi Loro Piana, the guardian of the brand, who paints for us a picture of the world as he sees it.
He wears a light, double-breasted jacket and carries a briefcase made from a sail that once caught the wind that
propelled his boat. He points at the briefcase and says:
“It’s not just about newness. I like everything to have a story, a heritage, something meaningful to yourself.”
Loro Piana the company was founded in the 1920s by Pietro Loro Piana, Pier Luigi’s uncle. It began by trading in fine fabrics. As children, Pier Luigi and his brother Sergio became immersed in the family business. “My family was a typical entrepreneurial family in Italy,” Pier Luigi says. “Italy really only restarted after the Second World War in the 1960s. What I inherited from my father was really the spirit of being an entrepreneur and I never doubted myself in succeeding.”
The brothers joined the company in the 1970s and eventually took over the family business. They were of one mind that timelessness, luxuriousness and the preservation of its heritage were the qualities the brand should strive for.
For Pier Luigi, the importance of timelessness is illustrated by his first watch, a water-resistant Rolex.
“When I was young, I remember one of the items I wanted badly was a Rolex,” he says. “When I turned 18, my father gifted me this watch that I had desired for a long time, which I still wear until today. A good watch is timeless, just like the philosophy of our brand, as well. I believe in the timelessness of aesthetics.”
So how does Loro Piana give its designs timelessness? It’s difficult, seeing how fashion houses nowadays invent new trends every six months. Pier Luigi stands aloof from this frantic scramble. He takes the buyer’s perspective, choosing to design clothes that are more understated yet more precious. “The look is never something we are after, but we approach it as if we are reinventing classics,” he says.
People often think classic means old and outdated – mistakenly, in Pier Luigi’s opinion. “If you reinterpret classic beauty in a contemporary way, it doesn’t necessarily mean
fashion, but rather something related to the current world we are living in.” he says. A jacket made in the 1990s and remade this year may have the same general look but the reinterpretation may reflect a new way of using the material, the employment of new technology and, of course, the overarching trends of the moment.
The key to timelessness is the approach of a brand to helping its customers find ways to be themselves and to communicate their personalities. “I don’t believe in investing for your wardrobe in something that you only wear for four or six months,” Pier Luigi says. “We love the idea that you wear a jacket from your father, or the fact that you can identify that that jacket has been around for 30 years just from the label.”
In striving for excellence, Loro Piana complements the timelessness of its clothes with luxuriousness by using precious materials which it buys from all over the world. This practice began when Franco, Pier Luigi’s father, was in charge. While looking for material in Peru in the 1950s, Franco found a vicuña farm. He began working with dealers in vicuña wool to create fabrics softer than cashmere.
The vicuña is hard to domesticate, so wild animals are captured and shorn of their wool. The Loro Piana supply of wool dried up when the species was threatened with extinction and the Peruvian government banned the shearing of vicuñas. When the Peruvian authorities began a project to regenerate the vicuña population, Pier Luigi and his brother invested in the scheme.
Pier Luigi is passionate about saving the vicuña. He says that first a reserve was established for vicuñas and that, later, efforts were made to shear the animals annually. Careful management doubled the vicuña population in four years, to 2,000. “We managed to find a formula for doubling the population every four years and, furthermore, we created jobs in the area as well, with this project.”
Loro Piana played its part by coming up with many different uses for the wool. Demand for vicuña coats was so great that the maker found it difficult to get sufficient wool to make the fabric thick enough. Today, the vicuña is an important aspect of the identity of the brand, the company having shared in the success of the project to regenerate the species. Loro Piana is “specific in the way we utilise technology to revolutionise classics”, Pier Luigi says. “Precision and perfection are what we strive for.” One example of the results of this approach is the new Horsey riding jacket, which Loro Piana is making in limited numbers. The Horsey is made of a fabric that is lighter than usual, and more softly and quietly pliable when worn, so it causes the least possible distraction to a rider or his mount.
Another example is an inside pocket made of a nanocoated fabric which prevents the escape of much of the radiation emitted by a mobile phone. “These are the new ways in which we’ve committed ourselves to working with new technology and automation, striving for perfection, while never jeopardising quality,” Pier Luigi says.
A reminder of Loro Piana’s core values. “Passionate people make passionate clothes, thoughtful people make thoughtful clothes and, for us, we aim to make the brand a passionate and thoughtful one.”
“Passionate people make passionate clothes, thoughtful people make thoughtful clothes and, for us, we aim to make the brand a passionate and thoughtful one” PIER LUIGI LORO PIANA
Above: limited-edition Horsey riding jacket