Photos by Morgan O’Donovan
Top: Nike Gyakusou and Soulland
Second: Brooks and Carven
Third: Issey Miyake
Fourth: Supreme and Wood Wood
As he takes over as creative director at the esteemed Italian luxury House, David Hellqvist quizzes Pompilio about his aspirations and inspiration
The words luxury lifestyle aren’t always anchored in reality or even associated with ‘real’ people; there are plenty of brands out there with very little or nothing in common with what’s happening around us on a daily basis. Andrea Pompilio, the new creative director at Canali, takes a different point of view. “I get inspired by what surrounds me – people in cafes, in shops and restaurants. I’m trying to catch as much as I can and then, starting from this, I design my collections,” he says just after his Milan menswear debut. “At the beginning of the season, I look through everything trying to find the new in the classic. I start from iconic menswear pieces and I re-work them through new shapes, fabrics and colours.” As the esteemed Sovico brand celebrates 80 years as a luxury brand, the young and energetic Pompilio is in the business of making Canali relevant to a 21st century wardrobe.
But that’s not to say the new capsule collection for Spring Summer 2015, shown in a sun-drenched Milan, is anything but a feast of traditionally luxe fabrics; Pompilio might aspire to modernise the cuts but the qualitative fabrics the House is known for stays put. “I think it’s the perfect balance between two complementary worlds that attract each other featuring a relaxed style, rich in original details… something that touches only marginally on classic tailoring and focuses instead on leisure,” he explains. White and checked trousers with 8cm cuffs, blue nabuk crocodile trainers, dark brown drummed calfskin belt and an ivory deer leather jacket show not only Pompilio’s dedication to fine fabrics but his aspiration to fuse classic elegance with modern technology. “I’ve experimented in a way that departs from my usual modus operandi, giving a new stylistic twist to the Canali brand while remaining faithful to its philosophy and values.”
The idea of mixing ‘old with new’ is a challenge many Italian brands are facing at the moment. Pompilio’s solution is as simple as it is effective: “Sticking to Canali’s tailoring tradition, I’ve introduced unusual shapes, prints and materials that don’t go unnoticed, not to mention an unconventional use of colour.” As one of few young designers showing in Milan (Pompilio is keeping his namesake label), it was perhaps inevitable that an established House would pick him up sooner or later. In Italy, the older generation of designers need replenishing, and that’s where the likes of Pompilio, Andrea Incontri, Stella Jean and Fabio Quaranta come into play. “I’ve always admired Canali for its style and elegance. I was intrigued by the fact that Canali, a brand with a high-profile reputation for sartorial tradition, had embarked in recent years on an evolving path. I think we are linked by a common thread: a taste for beautiful things and Italian style, the tradition of fine tailoring, the use of premium materials, an unconventional use of colour and extreme attention to quality and detail,” Pompilio says of the move.
Canali is well known for its tailoring tradition and made-to-measure service; their suits are the premium expression of their formal DNA – very elegant but always with a strong contemporary and looking-forward touch. For Pompilio the challenge is how to apply his own USP on the age-old brand. “This opportunity represents an interesting exchange between two worlds that are similar, but each with its own distinctive traits. I will attempt to learn and assimilate all of Canali’s sartorial capabilities. I want to have fun and experiment as part of a young team that works in a calm, but very stimulating environment – a situation that will serve to enrich me both personally and stylistically.” But Pompilio is missing out someone – it isn’t just himself and the brand who stand to gain from this new constellation… also Canali’s customers – old and new – will reap the benefits.
Creating a relaxed yet elegant SS15 wardrobe for weekends away, the Scottish designer and David Hellqvist discuss the classic tailoring brand’s role at LC:M
We’re in a luxurious office-turned-showroom on Horse Guards Avenue, off Whitehall and a stone’s throw from 10 Downing Street. Inside, soft velvet carpets and mighty mahogany interiors are used for decoration, and grandiose balconies line the rooms. Alfred Dunhill suits from the classic British tailoring brand are dotted around the room as dandy eye candy. Slouching yet dressed to the teeth, a handful of young models populate the podium, wearing the upcoming Spring Summer 2015 collection. The clothes, part of creative director John Ray’s second collection for the brand, are that rare thing of elegant yet relaxed formalwear. Ray has skilfully designed and put the collection together to represent a portable wardrobe for weekends away to the countryside. “When I’ve finished working and want to get out of London, I’m not too bothered about what I put in my bag,” he explains from an adjacent room. “I stick my favourite sweater and favourite shoes in a bag because I know where I’m going is a very private place, no one will judge me for it, I’m completely at home.”
Ray is OK to relax and feel at home. Since his AW14 debut, the Scot and former Gucci menswear designer has begun a journey that, he says and critics agree, will set Dunhill back on track. “My job is to grow the DNA of the brand so people know what it stands for, so people know what to come to us for.” And for Ray, it’s very clear what that is: “We represent a very British take on menswear. I don’t want to re-innovate men’s fashion, just articulate what Dunhill really means.”
Having spent years working out of Milan, the Britain versus Italy comparison is inevitable. “I think we’re more understated than the Italians when it comes to fashion. The cut is different, it’s more quirky and playful, we’re all about mismatched ties and so on. Here, guys on the streets put things together in an interesting way but not necessarily eccentric. Dandies are not my style – I like character and personality, that to me is interesting.”
But it goes beyond the accessories and general style, it’s embedded in the actual suit fit, according to Ray. “Italian wear suits a lot closer to the body, the Brits don’t like it like as tight. The Italians put it together in a beautifully co-ordinated way but the Brits use challenging socks or ties, they break the rules,” he summarises. Interestingly, for Ray, all of that is related to the concept of school uniforms – but not in a negative way. Whereas non-Brits might view the idea of being forced to dress in a certain way year after year as controlled and restrictive, Ray seems to relish it as a sartorial blueprint for life: “School uniforms inform how we dress for years to come. Uniforms are good because you don’t have to think too much about them: they’re easy, utilitarian, practical and for me they’re about a sense of occasion.”
It’s interesting that Ray talks about ‘occasions’. One might argue that Dunhill, plus a few other contemporary yet classic tailoring brands (many of which also show on LC:M’s schedule) are defined by the idea of dressing for formal events. But in this day and age, is it enough to cater for award ceremonies, weddings and funerals? “We’re a lifestyle brand but there’s a certain formality to life. I wouldn’t like to see my bank manager wearing jeans and a T-shirt, that would upset me. There’s something elegant about sticking to the rules.”
Ray is taking Dunhill in the best possible direction. It’s a classic and traditional brand trading in the 21st century: he knows that people expect different things from a brand in 2014 compared to 1914. The fact that we are visiting Dunhill in between the Astrid Andersen and Matthew Miller shows, smack in the middle of the first London Collections: Men day is a testament to Ray’s appreciation of the situation.
The designer is not only at ease, he’s comfortable and confident about the brand’s role in a contemporary menswear scenario. “We have to stay true to the brand. Dunhill needs to be relevant, it doesn’t have to be shocking. We’re a heritage brand with its roots in maturity, but we can play around with that.”
Longstanding customers need not fear though; Ray is aware of theDo’s and Don’ts for a brand of Dunhill’s stature. “I’m not a fan of young designers given free reigns with old and established brands where they can play with them too much. Imagine if we did high-tech sportswear and not beautiful British tailoring – that would confuse our customers.” So far, so good. Dunhill is in safe hands. By the looks of it, this could very well be the beginning of a beautiful friendship…
Photos by Robin Sinha