BRIONI





Italian fashion house

Founded: by tailor Nazareno Fonticoli and entrepreneur Gaetano Savini in via Barberini, Rome, in 1945. Company History: First men's tailored clothing show, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, 1952; launched accessory line, 1952; first men's runway show in New York, 1954; first show in Britain, 1959; manufacturing company, Brioni Roman Style, launched in Penne, Italy, with 45 workers, 1960; neckwear collection launched, 1979; Penne factory established tailoring school, 1980; first American freestanding Brioni store opened, Park Avenue, New York, 1982; company acquired Burini of Bergamo, 1991, and controlling interest in Sforza of Bologna, leather creator, 1994; ready-to-wear line, Brioni Roman Style, produced in Penne, Italy; first sportswear-only freestanding store opened, Aspen (CO), 2000. Awards: Esquire (New York) award for valued contribution to menswear, 1959; International Fashion Council award, 1962. Company Address: via Barberini 79-81, Rome, Italy. Company Website: www.brioni.com .

P UBLICATIONS

On BRIONI:

Books

Schoeffler, O. E., and William Gale, Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashion , New York, 1973.

Chenoune, Farid, Brioni , New York, 1998.

Articles

Gellers, Stan, "Brioni Goes Beyond Its Sartorial Suits," in Daily News Record (DNR), 21 May 1997.

——, "Brioni to Open First Free-Standing Sportswear Store," in DNR, 10 April 2000.

Courtney Colavita, "Brioni's Luxuriant Express on Global Track," DNR, 1 January 2001.

***

Brioni was the definitive Roman tailoring establishment of the "Continental look" of the 1950s. The silhouette was immediately identifiable, with its pitched shoulders, tapered waist, and narrow hips and trousers, suggesting the architectural purity and astringency of the postwar Italian aesthetic. Brioni's sensitive tailoring was also one of the first postwar softenings of men's tailored clothing, bringing immediate pliability in slim silhouette and delicate drapery. The fabrics advocated by Fonticoli and Savini were borrowed from womenswear for a beautiful hand and lush suppleness which also brought color to the sober traditions of men's tailoring.

American film stars such as Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, and others had suits custom-made by Brioni— these avatars of masculinity were important in introducing American men in particular to the comfort of Brioni's labor-intensive and meticulous tailoring. America was very important to Brioni's image and business: the American tendency to men of big frame and naïve awkwardness was superbly civilized by the sophistication of Brioni tailoring. Moreover, American masculinity's embrace of the lean Italian style created an alliance powerful enough to serve as an alternative to Savile Row, softening the structure of the suit and allowing the heretical interventions of style and fashion to come into men's tailored clothing. Brioni is said to be the first men's tailor to employ raw silks and rich brocades in men's tailoring and these innovations in men's tailoring may seem less than radical today, but in the 1950s Brioni was a thorough innovator in the stolid world of tailoring.

The slim modesty of the Brioni "continental" silhouette encouraged the experimental play of textiles, and the suit's clean modernism allowed for color as eye-opening as color-field paintings. Even today, Brioni tailoring is among the most tactile and luxurious in the world. One line of suits, known as Vaticano, employs the dense but silky fabrics traditionally used for priests' robes. Brioni and Sorelle Fontana often showed together in fashion shows, so pronounced was the affinity between the most extravagant style of Roman fashion for women and Brioni's ideal tailoring for men. Brioni suits have had the discernible difference of labor and quality, from handmade buttonholes to the composition of a suit as a perfect harmonics of proportion. Production of a Brioni suit required 10 hours of handsewing, 18 hours of fine craftsmanship, 42 pressing stages, and 186 manufacturing phases.

After a difficult period in the early 1990s when the company did not have a clear brand or retail strategy and essentially marketed one product, Brioni is back on track, with revenues increasing fivefold over the 1990s. It has opened stores throughout the world and expects a total of 35 in upscale locations by 2005, all featuring VIP rooms for the customized suits that remain at the company's core. Brioni's Aspen store, opened in 2000, is its first sportswear-only unit; the Milan flagship offers only the most exclusive collections, at a price 15-percent above the company's other outlets.

Brioni expanded outside tailored suits, introducing not only high-end sportswear for men under the Brioni Sport label, but women's clothing as well. The women's line, initially designed by Fabio Piras and introduced in 2000, featured the same classic styling and attention to fabric and detail as the men's line, but with a softer, more feminine silhouette.

Accessories and sportswear, formerly a minimal part of Brioni's business, accounted for 40 percent of turnover in the new century. The company's sportswear line includes tailored sportscoats, cashmere and wool sweaters, and unconstructed silk and leather jackets. As in the 1950s, the company enhanced its visibility by associating movie stars with its clothing, including Pierce Brosnan in the James Bond films and Richard Gere in Dr. T and the Women in 2000.

Although Brioni has diversified into other product categories, it continues to maintain its focus on customers it calls "luxuriants," defined as those apparel-buyers who are able to interpret and appreciate luxury. The company employed this strategy to become a $100-million international brand, with the U.S. representing its most important market, accounting for 35 percent of export sales. (American tourists are estimated to account for 45 percent of sales in Europe as well.)

As part of Brioni's commitment to quality and detail, the company continues to eschew licensing and manufacture all of its products in-house, except shoes, which are made in Italy by small workshops. And, despite all of its recent diversification, tailored suits remain Brioni's focus. As one executive emphasized in the Daily News Record, "A man wears a suit."

—RichardMartin;

updated by KarenRaugust

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