I was invited by Eton to make an exclusive interview with the two of the most inspiring persons in the fashion industry. The interview took place at the beautiful Hotel Lydmar, Stockholm with the successful Antonio Ciongoli, Creative Director at Eidos Napoli, and Sebastian Dollinger, Creative Director at Eton. After a warm welcome, we sat down at this beautiful decorated room in the hotel and went straight to business.
First of all I just wanted to say that I’m a big admirer of Eidos Napoli, I think it is the most inspiring brand at the moment and Eton have always had a special place in my heart for your creative and versatile shirts. This collaboration is the best thing that happened for Swedish men who is interested in quality clothing and could be that start of something unique.
Straight to the first question, where did you find the inspiration for this collection?
Antonio: One of the reasons why I was so excited about doing this when the opportunity kind of represented itself was because of that I used to come to Stockholm a lot, and I have a tremendous appreciation for Scandinavian style and practically the way that Swedish people interpretive Italian style. When I was working for Michael Bastian at Ralph Lauren, I was kind of wrapping my head around what I was going to do, and if I was going to do something on my own that was largely informed by the time I spent here.
What was interesting to me was about the way that the Scandinavians interpretive Italian style, that it is very much about cut and focus on texture. It is not necessarily so much about tone of bright colors and that is one of the things that Isaia does very well is to inject very bold colors in interesting ways. So for me I tried to focus on texture and things that are a little bit more consistently classic. For example the suit that I’m wearing today is 100% raw silk fresco, it is a classic char stripe suit but If you look at it a bit closer it is really uneven and it focus is on interesting texture and fabric. I think that is something you will see in Stockholm and that is something I always saw and wanted to put focus on in that way.
If you look at the Eidos component of our collaboration, it is all about fabric and texture. We have the beautiful Casentino coat, the double breasted jacket with the hopsack fabric and its dens texture, and the chalk stripe raw melange. Nothing is flat, clean and boring. We try to take those core ideas that it will make a guy kind of more interesting and just a little bit more exciting.
Sebastian: I think that we were partly inspired at what the guys over at Eidos do and also what we have been doing ourselves the last couple of seasons, with the green ribbon line where we focus on the fabric, cut and colors. We always try to be innovators in fabrics and for the shirts in this collection we did a sort of flannel weave, that is something that we made ourselves and that is completely new on the market. Normally if I say flannel you will probably think about something heavy, rusty or rustic. We wanted to have something that suited this type of outwear and tailoring but in a refining way. Because normally you would not be able to wear a poplin shirt for this and a twill shirt would not be the best choice either. Really washed-out oxford would be an alternative but it is too casual for me. So working with our flannel base that we created ourselves was just fabulous, and the cut of the shirts, like having a modern cut where you really worked with the armholes, the flow of the colors, deeply with the interlining of what is inside the shirts and the cuffs.
I do not think people understand of much work that goes in to making these things and especially have innovation in these basic things as a shirt is. The same goes with ties, we have all these combinations of fabrics and what do we do with the ties then? Yet again, we try to innovate the tie quality, it is so hard to get the linings right and to find the right producers for the special types of weaves, so we had to come up with weaves there again ourselves. We don not go to the suppliers and ask “What do you have?” we go there and say “We want this”. We already made the fabric ourselves, we have started to do so much in house now and we started to work in a completely different way. Instead of looking at things at suppliers we come there with ideas about construction and of course with patterns as well. I always think that in order to have a fun and exciting outfit, it always starts with the quality.
If you perfected quality, you are allowed to play around and I think that what annoys me a lot of Swedish tailoring is that it is often cut good, but if you look at the quality you are always get disappointed. That really annoys me and that is when you get the opportunity to do something with somebody that you really appreciate. Isaia, Eidos and Eton stands for innovation and creativity, but we are grounded in craftsmanship and that is what I think is really exciting. I do not think many people can brag about that we all are focused about marketing and sales in this market, but we will never get rid of that stuff from our business. At least we can be in forefront of quality and that quality does not have to boring.
Antonio, for Eidos previous collections you always had an interesting story behind it, do this collection tell any story?
Antonio: The original idea that came out for this collaboration started in our fall collection this upcoming season that was all about Florence. So we just launched that campaign last week and it was about Florence history and artisans. The real kind of focus was on the relationship between the artisan and the patron in Florence, and how this kind of idea between two different types of architects that divided the collection. The artists was someone who produces a beautiful pair of handmade shoes or a wonderful suit, someone who works with his hands every day and have a heighten sense of style and elegance but they making incredible products every day.
The main kind of inspiration for the sportswear (the artisan was the sportswear) was the Florentine shoemaker Roberto Ugolini. Roberto is a little bit rough around the edges and we actually shot with Roberto on our campaign and he wears really kind of hard-wearing, but very cool elegant things. So that was what we tried to do to take this kind of idea of Florentine workwear and the mix it back to very refine tailoring clothing. We did some three piece suiting and there is a Tuscan references in the fabrics you see, there is the Casentino coat with the martingale belt at the back and elements of sportswear, beautiful kind of body warmer in a wool cashmere mix and a sweater with wooden sway toggles that is great under a sport coat.
And then you can see in our double breasted silhouette that is what we call the Lorenzo model and it is directly inspired by Florentine tailoring and particularly the tailoring events that been going on there. So you can see that it does not have that kind of classic dart that a normal coat would have down at the front of the coat. This has an angled dart that runs from the underarm and what it does is that it gives you waist compression, but it also maintain a much cleaner front through the coat, being a kind of more generous broad sweeping lapels, unlined, really kind of sophisticated, a little bit of extended shoulder, wide pocket flaps, a really kind of elegant piece. That was the overhanging inspiration from my end of the collection and I am so happy that we are able to mix it in with the Eton shirts and ties in a kind of seamless way, because there is an incredible focus on color and texture and fabric as well on the Eton part of the collection. I mean it looks like one and the best kind of collaboration is the one other like that.
And you have to try on that coat, it is amazing!
Sebastian, do you have any story behind this fantastic collaboration?
Sebastian: Before Antonio came into the picture, there was already a million of great blue jackets out there, so should we make another blue shirt or suit? No let’s try to push a bit, just a little bit and once you have it on you will realize and it is not just a look, it is feel and it will be in your wardrobe as long as you are standing up and I think that is where we can be proud of ourselves. It is just not only about the quality, but it also about having a hint of fun and that is what this collaboration is for me.
And when you hear the word sartorial it sounds and feels old and a hint of your grandfather, but apply modern it is something different.
I think it is exciting that Eidos ground construction are usually found in workwear and we try to look in in the same way for our newest fabrics that are also based in the workwear, like our new flannel but in a in a very refined way.
What is the story behind the collaboration and how did you find each other?
Sebastian: I tell you why it happened. First of all our sales director Erik Wilkinson is a good friend to the Isaia chairman, Jim Shay, and they know each other for ages and they actually worked together a long time ago so that where it initially linked us.
I would say that probably in around 200 stores around in the US and Canada, Eton and Isaia currently own the ready to wear business and that is really cool. But then I heard about Eidos and what is really exciting is the taking that Eidos was doing on tradition tailoring and rooted in this hardcore quality. We could as well have cooperated with Isaia, but I think Eidos is slightly more exciting in a way and that there is no expectation on Eidos from a consumers view, they are free to do whatever they like (thank god). Because when you have expectations you really have to deliver to a certain audience or look, and Eidos are free to do whatever they like. I think that is extremely cool because normally you see younger brands that unfortunately are having a hard time with their minimums and manufacturing, and that is why a lot of younger brands have poor quality. But here is someone that has a great support of manufacturing, and also with a stable company behind them and they can afford to being playful and that is why they also will be the main innovators in the upcoming years, this is a big brand in the making and we are just exciting to be a part of it. It has taken us 86 years to be where we are today and I think we have all taken the grander trip since 5 years ago and a lot of things have happened since then. I think Eidos will be one of the big exciting and new brands, and it is not just another classical brand. That is one of our big parts why we wanted to play with Eidos.
Antonio: The relationship between Erik and Jim was the definitely the thing that started it and I talked a bit earlier why I was excited for this collection. Eton is the name of shirts in America and you see them at all the best stores, there is always a strong Eton presence there and so for when idea kind of came across to me, the idea of working with the one the best shirts markers in the world that focuses on quality and have the mentality behind fabric innovation and development sounded awesome to me. Then the kind of kicker of being based in Sweden and Stockholm that is holding a special place in my heart was definitely something that made completely sense to me and something I was really excited about.
Sebastian: When the rest of the crew came up with ideas how to bring this to Sweden I got really excited. A lot of times we do not get things here in Sweden, hardly Scandinavia are some map for new developing brands and big brands in Italy, North America, Germany, England, they tend not to come to Sweden and I find that extremely sad. What I have seen the latest five years is a lot of guys in their middle 20’s that start to wear quite nice tailoring.
Antonio: I would say the last five years because when I was here three years ago I could not agree more, the baseline of understanding of clothing for a younger guys is much higher then in the US for sure. So I am thankful that this has given us the opportunity to introduce Eidos to the Scandinavian market for sure. It is wonderful, it is a great opportunity. Ha-ha, I’m sorry Sebastian I did not mean to interrupt you!
Sebastian: Ha-ha No no it is OK! I just went underneath there.
In the end of the day how many traditional crafting brands would have guys like us working there, early 30’s, extremely interested and brought up within tailoring? Normally you will be met by a 70 year old guy that will bore you about how they made a lapel. You know, we love those things too but will not go there if not asked. I find that interesting because the growth back on our side is not so big because you can hardly find a good tailor nowadays right? Even in the US.
Antonio: Well yeah, especially in the US it is almost impossible.
Sebastian: In Sweden it is really hard too and everyone wants to be fashion designers, but how many people wants to work with traditional clothing? I find the most interesting part that you delivers something that you could be proud of.
Antonio: I could not agree more, I like the idea giving a guy, helping a guy in general, but giving him something that he can have for a long time, something that he could rely on. If we think about Eidos in the long term, it is about serving our customer and making sure that he has something that he is not gonna wear for one season and that is why it has to be about timelessness for sure. We are definitely trying to do things that are different what it would be at Kiton or something like that is done by guys that are a little bit older and have been doing it for a very long time.
So a quick question for Antonio because of your love for Stockholm, which is your favorite restaurant in Stockholm?
Antonio: My favorite restaurant in Stockholm… Well it is funny when you think about because a lot of this revolves around the hotels that I stayed at because we always did a lot room service. What I really liked when I was working at Gant was the Hotel J in Nacka Strand and I like that restaurant a lot there, right by the water, it is great during summertime. It is good, really good. And the tuna tartare here at Hotel Lydmar is awesome!
Time is running out so this will be last question for now. What is your favorite piece from the collection?
Antonio: I love the Lorenzo top coat, but the raw fisherman sweater is probably my favorite piece from the collection. The sweater was inspired by the window grids at The Campanile in Florence and was the first piece I actually did for the collection. All the tailoring clothing and I pick a sweater ha-ha!
Sebastian: Ha-ha! Well I should probably go for a shirt but I will not! I am actually torn because I love both the double breasted Lorenzo coat and the Casentino coat but I would probably say the Casentino coat because of how it is constructed and that it is water resistant and it drapes beautifully when you put it on.
That was all guys, thanks a lot of this interview and for your inspiring words.