The Interview: GIANNI COLAROSSI

Published on 17 November 2011

[M]en’s tailoring has had a heterogeneous history. From the pomp and pageantry of the 17th century, to the stark formality of the Victorian era, and the elaborate lapels of the 60s and 70s, the suit has never lost its place in the man’s wardrobe. Recently hired to design menswear for the lauded fashion house, Duchamp, Gianni Colarossi understands the importance of evolution, and how experimenting with even the minutest details can dramatically change the whole. This has led to a complete reconstruction of the Duchamp suit, while still maintaining those traditional techniques and cuts that, like bespoke tailoring, will never go out of fashion.

Graduating from Northumbria University’s School of Fashion in 2002, Gianni followed his Roman roots back to Italy to further inform his design process. He firmly believes that the devil lies in the detail and, as he tells The Hunger, that the key to success is having “a love of what you do”.

“My ambition goes back to where I started, in Italy. I worked in Florence with the Italian Academy of Tailors. At 94, the sister of the owner was still hand-sewing buttonholes on to suits for a constant flow of high- profile clients, from the Italian media to Florentine football players. Coming in every day and seeing the drive and passion of a 94-year-old woman sewing tiny eyelets on to racks and racks of suits was incredible. I was completely fascinated with the level of dedication, the craft and the intricacy of what they were doing. It’s why I moved into fashion.

I spent a large portion of my career designing for Reiss, but at some point I felt that it was time for a new challenge. When I spoke with Marc and Allison – the owners of Duchamp – I fell in love with their hunger to move the company forward in a new direction, and I was fortunate to be brought on board a year ago as part of the transformation of the brand.

Every piece that I design for Duchamp is the result of a collision between the past and future of fashion, the essential DNA of the brand, and what luxury really means. It’s about taking those elements and pulling them together in a variety of ways to create your final vision. The colour, the fabric and the fit; all of these must be considered in the context of those earlier mentioned elements to create a truly luxurious piece.

I spend a lot of time looking around all the shops, looking through all of the magazines, through vintage clothes, and our previous designs, to work out how to shape each new collection.

As a designer, my ideas have very humble beginnings. They are an idea in my mind, a concept pinned up on a mood board surrounded by pieces of fabric that I found in a vintage store, or drawings of inspiring architecture, nature, or whatever it might be. I’ve spent the last three weeks travelling around the world to see what’s happening in the collective consciousness.

When the initial design process is done, we spend hours and hours on the fit of our garments; making sure that they’re absolutely pristine, that the lines are in the right places, that the colours have the correct emotion. It can be difficult to straddle the line between pushing forward into unchartered territory and retaining the piece’s commercial value. This is what we do every day: fashion is art, but it’s also a business.

One of the most rewarding experiences of designing is when you see the whole process through to completion. From A, which is only a little sketch, to Z, where you walk down the street and see someone wearing something that you have created.

Fashion is always moving forward, and so continuously evolves. Because of that, we’ve seen the suit come in and out of formal dress. For example, at the moment it’s being worn in an almost informal way as men continue to put emphasis on the trousers or jacket by mixing it up and layering it with other pieces. You’ll find that where once every man in a suit looked very much the same, nowadays personal style comes forth much more avidly. Men are wearing the suit, not letting the suit wear them.

I went to a Tommy Nutter exhibition recently, which was showing the work that he was making on Saville Row in the 60s and 70s. Some of the pieces on show were just incredible, when you consider not only the design quality, but also the pure craftsmanship that went into their production. Considering his designs in light of the evolution of fashion, the exhibition was a wonderful lesson in how fashion really does work in a cycle that eventually comes back around. The passage of time is marked by the lapel shapes, front breaks, notches. The suit can never go out of style – it’s what makes a man feel sexy and powerful.

See more of the collection at Duchamp London.