L'Officiel Hommes USA
The father of menswear 1ino Cerruti and current industry star Kim Jones have both become masters of their craft, mixing tailoring and tradition with innovation Dnd ingenuity that transcends generations.
Nino Cerruti speaks in perfect French, save for a slight singing accent that reveals his Italian origins. He says that “to build a future, we must respect the past without being stuck in the memory of things.” This embodies the very elegance of his work. At 90 years old today, the designer represents the excellence of luxury that reigns in his eponymous house. Deeply anchored in his roots, Cerruti took over the family fabric mill founded by his grandfather in Biella, Italy in 1881 and went on to open his own Parisian fashion house in 1967. Since then, he’s pioneered an Italian ease of dressing, marked by the unstructured jacket, with a fluidity of design between menswear and womenswear. Kim Jones, the fashion world’s new made-in-britain virtuoso, asserts an extravagant but wearable vision that goes beyond established genres, bringing an innovative spirit to customize luxury for all. “I don’t like to use fashion for political ends, but to create a joie de vivre,” Jones says. “Fashion makes people feel good about themselves. It has that power.” A world traveler, the designer is known as a street-style connoisseur constantly inspired by streetwear subcultures, using that energy to reimagine tailoring and the modern wardrobe. Recalling his childhood, Jones talks about his hydrogeologist father’s nomadism, and of their long journey that took him from Latin America to Africa before Jones made London his base. Today, at 47, the designer holds the unprecedented double title of artistic director for both Dior Men’s collections in Paris and womenswear at Fendi in Rome. Though these two designers come from different times, a common passion drives them: the suit. Passed down from generation to generation, the savoir faire of tailoring demands a keen eye for the smallest of details, with incredible finishes almost invisible to the naked eye, to become the ultimate in sartorial perfection.
Adolf Loos, the father of architectural modernism, PAMELA GOLBIN: was a “suit-o-phile” and championed the bespoke suit as an archetype of progressive design. What does the suit mean to you?
The suit is a very tricky thing. For me, it has its NINO CERRUTI: own soul. The same suit has a different mood from one day to another depending on the person who is wearing it. You can write a neverending story about the psychology of clothing.
PG: You have kept a large collection of your personal wardrobe.
I have always chosen my clothes with great care. They NC: have accompanied me on the journey that is my life—that’s why I never manage to part with them. It is like having a scrapbook of important moments with the added benefit that they trace an evolution in men’s fashion since the 1950s.
When speaking about the importance of fabrics, Alexander PG: Mcqueen commented, “The idea is to use material to transform a human body.” What does that mean to you, Mr. Jones?
[Mcqueen] was a friend and mentor, and I saw him KIM JONES: drape and cut. For me, fabric has always been the starting point to the collection. When men shop, they first feel a piece of clothing before trying it on. I like working in the luxury sector of menswear because it allows me to use beautifully crafted fabrics. Depending on the materials, tailoring can become quite fluid. At Dior, we’ve been working on draping and on interesting techniques to create a different kind of garment that can be worn not only in a formal way but also in a slightly sportier fashion, which is quite Italian and, in this day and age, more relevant.
I don’t LIKE BEING NOSTALGIC. I LIKE to MOVE THINGS FORWARD. —KIM JONES
As creative director of Dior Men, you are launching a modern PG: tailoring capsule collection.
Yes, we were looking at tailoring in a different way than KJ: the obvious formal wear and wanted a more unstructured silhouette, which to me is more modern. We wanted to create pieces that would speak to a younger generation that wants to dress up but doesn’t know how. The collection has a certain ease with that American sportswear vibe but also the Italian essence of tailoring.
Mr. Cerruti, you have been attributed the invention of the soft PG: unstructured jacket. How did it come about?
The big change that came was the progressive desire for NC: a more relaxed wardrobe. In the 1960s, jeans became the ultimate competition of the tailoring world. Now, fashion is revisiting its modern interpretation for today’s needs. The relationship between the body and the shape of the silhouette is always evolving. I’m interested in the unconstructed jacket because of the KJ: ease and fluidity of it. I just think it’s an easier way to live and you can still look extremely formal and smart and I love that…when I was studying, it was important for me to learn how to pattern cut a jacket properly so that I could then mix it up in a more modern way.
An important part of the Christian Dior DNA is expressed by PG: the Bar suit, which encapsulated the New Look silhouette from 1947. How has it informed your menswear collections?
I wanted to respect the founder of the house and look at KJ: his starting points. It’s exciting because Mr. Dior established such modern codes that still look really fresh and exciting for people now. From the Bar suit, we used the button, which is covered and hand sewn. We also looked at the different linings and studied its construction to then create the men’s version. We did the Oblique suit, a one button double-breasted jacket that was directly inspired by a double breasted, multi buttoned jacket for women from 1948. We liked the idea of simplifying it and streamlining it for the 21st century. I do look at old fabrics a lot because the quality was so much better and we re-make fabrics because I’m a real stickler for detail.
PG: Do you like looking back to the past?
KJ: I do but I don’t like being nostalgic. I like to move things forward.
After a year of Zoom calls, what will the post-pandemic suit PG: look like?
We will soon be rediscovering a new pleasure in what NC: we wear. I agree with you completely, I think people are going to be KJ: dressing up more and wanting to express themselves because they’ve been locked away for so long. I know this from what our customers are buying as well as what my friends are talking about. We can’t wait to go out and get lovely new things to wear and to feel like we’re enjoying life again. I mean, the house of Dior was founded just after the second World War…the pandemic isn’t a war, but it has definitely imposed restrictions. Freedom is such a privilege that we do have to express ourselves more. I think everyone is in the same optimistic mood.
How do you see the technical and cultural differences between PG: British, French, and Italian suits?
I think that a made-to-measure garment has always been NC: a bit different, not only from one country to another but
WHAT YOU WEAR IS not ENOUGH. It’s HOW YOU WEAR IT, and THIS REQUIRES A NATURAL INSTINCT. YOU HAVE TO be YOURSELF and REINTERPRET the RULES to SUIT WHO YOU ARE. —NINO CERRUTI
also from one tailor to another because it is the pinnacle of handcraft. It’s the equivalent of a personal signature. There’s a certain laid-backness to Italy, but it’s also super KJ: chic. England is dressed very “properly,” like an English gentleman, so to speak. France is a bit of a mix between both. When I think of menswear, I think of Italy and London more than Paris, because for me Paris is Haute Couture. At Dior I look at full-on ways of embellishment and technical feats. I enjoy working around the world and seeing how different people react and approach things. What I find amazing about Italian craftsmen is the spectacular quality and the speed at which things can be done. It blows me away.
You’ve been working with the renowned ateliers at Dior. How PG: has it enriched your process?
It’s a very different way of working. An atelier will come KJ: back with five solutions to a pocket detail design while a factory will do exactly what you asked them to do.
PG: How do you reconcile extravagant design and wearable clothes?
My goal for each of these houses is that every piece has KJ: to be a sellable product. At the end of the day, I am more interested in people buying the clothes I design than what critics say. I think I’m lucky. I get a good balance of both. I love seeing someone wear clothing that I’ve designed because I know they feel good about themselves in them and I think that’s important when you’re working in fashion.
Mr. Cerruti, you were very inspired by the work of the consumer PG: behavior analyst Ernest Dichter.
He was one of the first to analyze the motivations behind NC: consumer behavior. I have always been interested in the sociological aspect of fashion. His work was very important in that it explained not only the reasons behind the production of clothes, but also the needs of the market both for men and women. Clothes reflect the reality of life, which is why from my first collection onward I liked to present women’s and menswear together. Change today happens so much more quickly than before; there is a fluidity between genders that will only continue to accelerate in the next decade.
You have done more than 150 collaborations for films and often PG: dress Oscar-winning movie stars from Hollywood. How different was the process making suits for the screen and how did that inform your fashion collections?
My personal life was always present in my work. I was NC: passionate about cinema but it was also a way to spread my ABOVE, FROM Top—cerruti campaign images photographed by Paolo Roversi from the book “Images. Cerruti. Paolo Roversi”; Installation view of Mr. Nino Cerruti in 2016, courtesy of Pitti Immagine; Cerruti blazers created for films LEFT, FROM Left—cerruti coat created for a film; Nino Cerruti from his personal archive
I LOVE SEEING someone WEAR CLOTHING that I’VE DESIGNED BECAUSE I KNOW they FEEL GOOD ABOUT themselves. –KIM JONES
fashion message outside the traditional venues where clothes were sold. At the time, cinema was an even more important part of our lives than it is today. My first fashion show was in 1958 in Rome, and I asked the beautiful Anita Ekberg to wear my clothes. She was just finishing [Federico] Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. And that’s how it began. I never imposed pieces from my own collections, but preferred to design the clothes for each specific character to better complement his role. A lot of actors were initially my customers at my boutique in Paris, and later I dressed them for their movies. At that time, the creative fields were more separated and I wanted to bring them together. Fashion, art, cinema—collaborations between fields have now become commonplace but it wasn’t always like that. Kim, I know you are close to Kate Moss. She was in several of my campaigns and we had a very good working relationship even if sometimes she has a very difficult character. I have very fond memories of our shoots in the South of France with Paolo Roversi. She has great style! I will tell her that! KJ:
Mr. Cerruti, you have nurtured several generations of very PG: important designers: Giorgio Armani, Véronique Nichanian at Hermès, as well as Stefano Pilati.
I have been very privileged in my life not only to work NC: for such a long time but also to share my passion with others. There is so much knowledge that comes from experience and that needs to be passed on. Fashion is a beautiful world that offers a lot and can give you great satisfaction. Yes, I think fashion is a community of people. And Mr. KJ: Cerruti is right, it is a beautiful industry. So many people around me have been very generous, such as Stefano Pilati, who is one of my favorite designers. Even if fashion has become a huge global economic powerhouse, it’s great to be able to work with people you admire, love, and from whom you can learn. When I see talented young designers, I want to see them do well and help them in any way I can. It’s about giving back what you’ve been given.
Mr. Cerruti, what has been the most surprising change to the PG: industry since you began 70 years ago?
The change in scale and the incredible reach of fashion. It NC: was tiny when I started compared to today’s global industry. My family has been involved with fabrics since the beginning of the 19th century. I took over the family mill and within a few years started designing. Since then, there has been a change toward more comfortable clothing. This corresponds to the evolution of our lifestyles and social behavior. It is very interesting to see that the men’s wardrobe is becoming more akin to that of women. I have always really looked at womenswear as a reference KJ: to menswear so I’ve always been aware of it. I have a lot more woman friends than men. I think in today’s world, we must preserve our emotion. NC: For me, fashion is emotion. I love emotion, logic is fascinating but sometimes a bit frightening.
PG: What is the place of elegance in fashion?
“Elegance” is a word that gets on my nerves, because NC: people use it in a very artificial way. It can be learned but you have to have a natural disposition for it. What you wear is not enough. It’s how you wear it, and this requires a natural instinct. You have to be yourself and reinterpret the rules to suit who you are.