Long before the Armani suit – aka, an adjective for men expensively suited – there was a Corneliani team of tailors and bespoke thinkers in a small city east of Milan. Mantua, a city rich in art and history, was a wellspring for traditional menswear. The Italian suit. Hats off to the Renaissance and to the Medici’s for sculpting the art of fashion trending, fueling a powerful, venerable and plump-with-sex-appeal fashion culture. At the heart of Italy’s most renowned fashion traditions is their impeccable sartorial workmanship. Royal for their cuts and fittings, Italian tailoring is one of the oldest and finest of artisan trades in the land of leather and textiles.
There could not be a more appropriate place to exploit the Italian DNA than in a 17th-century Palazzo, the home of the Corneliani showroom. A museum of baroque art and antique collectables, this 1648 home by Francesco Maria Ricchino is adorned with with doric columns, porticos and frescos – the epitome of Italian luxury. This makes for a relevant host of the Corneliani shaved mink coats, and sheepskin blazers. A pillar for Italian menswear, the Corneliani family decks the halls of this Lombardy Palace (Milan) with a heritage of over 50 years. And it is Corneliani, one of Italy’s oldest menswear companies ready to compete with some of the latest technology. Adapting to social and lifestyle progression, Corneliani profoundly revives classic in a modern culture in one of the oldest countries and not the usual start-up fashion revealing an innovative service, nor a tech giant introducing a revolutionary wave of digital must haves. Rather, a creative team at Corneliani took a bold move with the introduction of their IQ Code. By scanning the code on an embroidered label sewn inside garments, clients connect to a video from anywhere in the world and discover the story of the brand and the sartorial skill behind their products. Coats, shirts, pants and bags have all been tailored to incorporate everyday technology. A line of suede and leather iPad covers was introduced in the Spring/Summer 2012 collection. Their S/S 2012 pieces integrate fabrics which weigh between 140 and 180 grams and waterproof silks.
“a style balanced between the hectic city life and a dreamlike, out-of-this-world holiday represented by the magic of the desert, echoed in the comfort of forms and colours: white, beige and sand” Sergio Corneliani, Creative Director.
Perspiration-proof and some wrinkle resistant, Corneliani routinely classic suits prove to be design-forward and tech-friendly as menswear is seeing world-class customization evolve without losing a literal touch of tradition. Stitchings and seams nearly reveal the age and strength of the hands behind the tailors craft, elevating Corneliani as a forerunner in the catwalk and with the stride menswear tradition. Creative Director Sergio Corneliani lends an interview on the story of the brand and the current collections.
Dating back to the thirties, Corneliani has held true to their values through years of change in the fashion industry throughout Italy. Are there certain values or traditions that you have had to abandon or alter to keep up with the demands of today?
SC: First of all I’d like to point out that the family heritage stretches back to the 1930’s, whilst the company was founded in 1958. Undoubtedly we have kept alive our passion and love for the garments we design. We do so with utmost attention to detail and the highest quality, in which we invest to ensure ongoing improvement. Perhaps I could somewhat arrogantly claim that with the help of technology the quality of the past is today the same if not better. Our motto is in fact “the quality of the past in the present”; or rather innovate with the clear vision of remaining faithful to our values of tradition, quality and modernity.
AG: What has been the greatest challenge for a menswear company of over 50 years?
SC: The greatest challenge was to transform a company producing tailored apparel, mainly distributed in Italy in a internationally renowned brand with monobrand stores all over the world.
AG: Describe how you approach the new season of creative development for Spring 2012?
SC: I do not like a too emotional and irrational job since the precise balancing of these two elements is key to the development of our collection. The emotional and creative part of the collection must always be balanced by the needs of the market during the development phase. We always interact with our sales network, shops, marketing department and production managers. Our product has a clear, complex and well defined mission and its creation is not and can never be the fruit of one mind or of fantasy only.
AG: As Technology is a focus for Corneliani, primarily in the mechanics and craftsmanship, how much of technology in outside sectors influence the design structure?
SC: The use of technologic tools frequently requires not only a modification of the garment silhouette to make room for pockets, as the one for the cell phone, but also the use of screening materials. A few seasons ago, a sporty jacket, inspired by the world of motorcycling, concealed the advanced technology it offered. A Bluetooth MP3 player was built in this T Cubed jacket. Earphones in the collar permitted the wearers to listen to their own playlists, while full control of the mobile phone came via a touch control on the sleeve and an integrated microphone. All without the use of wires. When we take inspiration be the world of sealing instead we use heat-welded seams to increase both water and wind resistance and it becomes necessary to adapt such seams to ergonomic shapes. We also utilize fabric using nanotechnology processes, innovative exclusive methods to optimize both the water-repellent and the perspirating property of fabrics.
AG: How do Corneliani designers remain innovative after years of men’s coats and suits? Have you turned to previous seasons to reinvent past collections?
SC: Innovation comes from understanding the evolution of needs and of consumers’ desires that can be satisfied also tanks to technologic development. Nowadays the textile sector is up to produce very light fabrics, and we, in turn are up to produce extremely light deconstructed suits, yet absolutely neat and elegant. This satisfies the needs for comfort in tailored clothing. To obtain such results it is necessary to have at disposal new producing technologies, new materials, new machineries, new raw materials, new manual ability. Creativity uses technologic development to express itself and at the same time technologic development is stimulated by creativity.
AG: Favorite Corneliani show?
SC: Our first Florence fashion show will remain in Corneliani’s history. It was held in the charming Stazione Leopolda where ranks of huge trees (all adult pines that were returned to productive use after the show), with their majestic height creating a sense of infinity, went along the sinuous form of the catwalk, designed to resemble a path winding within a forest. A great atmosphere!
AG: Apart from technology, what other elements of inspiration do you draw from for creative exploration?
SC:I have a remarkable aesthetic sense and all beautiful things thrill me…Nature thrills me, as does music or a good film. All objects that, as far as my aesthetic sense is concerned, involve sophisticated research into proportions or colour or material thrill me. My ideas often don’t come from the world of fashion, but from other, totally dissimilar sectors that are light years away from my own.
AG: MADE IN ITALY, where is it headed, and what are your biggest challenges today with the MADE IN ITALY brand?
SC: Corneliani’s biggest challenge as a Made in Italy brand is being and remaining a “Made in Mantua” brand. Our products are manufactured in Mantua, our homeland, where our company was born more that fifty years ago. A land rich in history and art masterpiece that have infused our DNA with the feeling of beauty. The Made in Mantua will be in the years to come a warranty seal for Corneliani excellence.
AG: Best part about your job?
SC: In my job there is the continuous need for being stimulated and this happens by observing the society in its evolution, the markets, but also the design from other sectors, architecture. One needs to be open-minded , be receptive to the external world, and to be attentive the birth and development of new socio-cultural environments as well as to the world of young people and their trends…….in short a nice way to keep young. ♦ visit Corneliani >>
(interview also on Catwalk Yourself)