Nino Cerruti - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia



Italian designer

Born: Biella, Italy, 1930. Career: General manager, family textile firm (founded 1881), Fratelli Cerruti (Cerruti Brothers), Biella, Italy, from 1950; introduced Hitman men's ready-to-wear line, 1957; introduced knitwear line, 1963; first menswear collection presented in Paris, opened Cerruti 1881 boutique, Paris, and launched unisex clothing line, 1967; added women's ready-to-wear, 1976; helped create fashion revolution on Miami Vice television show, 1980s; designed costumes for some 150 films, including The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Philadelphia (1993), and Pretty Woman (1990); appeared in Cannes Man (1996); sells controlling interest of company to Italian company Fin.part, 2000; Fin.part buys remaining interest and forces Cerruti out, 2001. Fragrances include Nino Cerruti Pour Homme (1978), Cerruti Fair Play (1984), Nino Cerruti Pour Femme (1987), and 1881 (1988). Awards: Bath Museum of Costume Dress of the Year award, England, 1978; Cutty Sark award, 1982, 1988; Pitti Uomo award, Italy, 1986. Address: 3 Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris, France. Website: www.cerruti.net .

Publications

On CERRUTI:

Books

Mulassano, Adriana, The Who's Who of Italian Fashion, Florence,1979.

Articles

Crome, Erica, "Nino Cerruti: Designers of Influence No. 2," in Vogue (London), December 1978.

Nino Cerruti in ca. 1980-97. © Frédéric Huijbregts/CORBIS.
Nino Cerruti in ca. 1980-97.
© Frédéric Huijbregts/CORBIS.

Hicks, Sheila, and Barbara Grib, "Nino Cerruti," in American Fabrics and Fashions (New York), 1982.

Boyer, G. Bruce, "The Return of the Double-Breasted Suit," in Town and Country, March 1983.

Menkes, Suzy, "King of the Supple Suit," in the Times (London), 11November 1986.

"Buon Anniversario," in Profession Textile, 18 September 1987.

"Nino Cerruti Refined," in Esquire, September 1987.

Watt, Judith, "By Design," in For Him (London), Autumn 1989.

Tredre, Roger, "Nino, the Wardrobe Master," in the Independent (London), 9 August 1990.

"Biella," Supplement to L'Uomo Vogue (Milan), November 1990.

Fiedelholtz, Sara, "Escada Sees Good Year for Cerruti Collection," in Women's Wear Daily, 13 May 1993.

Morche, Pascal, "Eleganze der Hoflichkelit," in Manner Vogue (Wesseling, Germany), August 1993.

Aillaud, Charlotte, and Simon Upton, "Nino Cerruti: Tailoring an Italian Villa in Biella," in Architectural Digest, October 1994.

White, Constance C.R., "Hollywood Style, From Classic to Kitsch," in the New York Times, 18 October 1995.

Horyn, Cathy, "Cerruti's Soft Sell; Christine Ganeaux: Name Recognition; For Rhinestone Cowgirls and Boys," in the New York Times, 6 April 1999.

Interview with Giorgio Armani, in Le Figaro, January 2000.

Rubenstein, Hal, "The Look of Cerruti," in InStyle, 1 February 2000.

Menkes, Suzy, "Nino Cerruti Discreetly Exits the Fashion Stage," in the International Herald Tribune, 27 June 2001.

***

Nino Cerruti's life could be the most dramatic narrative of the post-World War II Italian renaissance. L'Uomo Vogue declared in November 1990: "Nino Cerruti, a name synonymous with modern restraint. Industrialist-designer, one of the founding fathers of Italian fashion." In 1950, at the young age of 20, Cerruti assumed control of his family's textile mills in Biella, Italy. He transformed the staid business that had been significant for generations in the textile-producing region of Biella. Cerruti saw the quiet revolutionary possibility of a vertical operation, a kind other Italian textiles companies would later pursue with astounding success, following Cerruti's model. His sensibility was for fashion rather than for the traditionalism of textiles manufacturing, and his fashion sense leaned to the streamlined, near-industrial tailoring design applied to richly textured fabrics.

Cerruti's first men's ready-to-wear line, Hitman, considered a revolution in menswear at the time, was launched in 1957, and he showed unisex clothing in 1967. He also opened his first Cerruti 1881 boutique in Paris on the Rue Royale, off the Place de la Madeleine, in 1967, in order to be closer to the fashion capital of the world. (Boutiques were later opened in London, Milan, Tokyo, Munich, and New York.) Lanificio Cerruti, however, the fabric production division of his enterprises, remained in Biella. Along the way, Cerruti taught young talent: Giorgio Armani began his career designing menswear for Cerruti in the 1960s; Narcisso Rodriguez and Peter Speliopoulous both crossed over the threshold of Cerruti's company as well.

His icons were distinguished dates and places; tradition abides in the stable factors of 1881 and Cerruti's elective association with Paris. Adriana Mulassano, writing in The Who's Who of Italian Fashion, (1979) noted that Cerruti was once known as "the madman of fashion" but considered the designer as a kind of vanguard genius: "Among those working for him (and perhaps even outside) there might be those who still think he's crazy. Perhaps it is the fate of the avant-garde, of those who know that the mind guides the hand, to be perennially misunderstood." It was Mulassano, however, who at times misunderstood Cerruti—he was always the businessman-de-signer, not the raw-talent creative, and he actively displayed the tempered intelligence of vertical operations and commercial acumen.

Cerruti, reflecting in September 1987, explained to Esquire : "I like to describe my operation as a modern version of the handcraft bodegas of centuries ago. It is important to know each link in the chain. I consider myself still very close to the theory of industrial design: using modern technology to reach the market. It's a very modern challenge: the continuous harmonization between the rational or scientific world and the emotional or artistic world." His involvement in fragrances and advertising was not been out of unremitting creativity but out of the controlling perspicacity of business. The raging revolutionary of the 1950s and 1960s mellowed into the judicious businessperson of the 1980s and 1990s and his model was fully copied by others, both in menswear and in women's clothing.

The Cerruti fall-winter 1993-94 menswear collections were shown in Paris with none of the histrionics of some menswear presentations. He kept to his simple principle in his tailored clothing: "A man should look important when he wears a suit," allowing for the unconstricted jackets of the period but rendering them with sufficient solidity to avoid being too limp for the office. He showed the prevailing elongated three-button single-breasted look of Giorgio Armani and others. One can always tell, however, that Cerruti was a man of cloth: his menswear fabrics were textural, in pebbled and oatmeal grains, and so luxurious in their handling.

Cerruti also experimented with dandies and even designed Jack Nicholson's costumes in the movie The Witches of Eastwick (1987), as well as those for Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in Pretty Woman (1990) and Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in Philadelphia (1993). Cerruti himself even appeared in a cameo role in the film Cannes Man (1996). In addition, he used actors as models for his work; but anyone can experiment.

Nonetheless, Cerruti made his mark with the restraint of his clothes. His principal effort in menswear took advantage of the thriving operations he commanded from mills to clothing to advertising and promotion and related products. Mulassano did recognize Nino Cerruti as an enlightened businessman; and there was Cerruti's own 1987 statement in Esquire, "I think that innovation and fancy are essential to daily life. But my clothes are designed to be real. It's easy to indulge in decadence in fashion, but I don't think that's meaningful. The world has been full of enough of that."

Commenting to In Style magazine in 2000, as both a designer and a business professional, Cerruti said, "What I see today is a desire from the public for more than clothes to wear on the beach or at nightclubs. Men and women have a daily life, and they want us to help them take care of it. It is wonderful that women no longer need to use clothes to establish their place at work…and men are starting to understand the concept of wardrobe. So there is no reason any longer to deny one's personality [at] work. Besides, work should be where you experience some of the most interesting moments of your life. Not necessarily the most amusing, but certainly moments of interest. Is there a more appropriate place to dress with self-respect?"

If Cerruti exemplified postwar Italy, perhaps in his judiciousness, cautious good taste, or reversion to his own basic values, he further exemplified Everyman. He foresaw menswear's future in L'Uomo Vogue in 1990, "as a fashion that will be more refined and yet at the same time more everyday…" and had become the consummate businessman. He commanded an empire of numerous boutiques, franchise stores, some 1,500 vendors carrying Cerruti products, textile mills, and a holding company (Final Gastaldi Group) to control it all. And just as many of the independent fashion houses fell under the spell of globalization in the middle and late 1990s, Cerrruti, too, decided to sell a controlling interest in his firm to Italian industrial group Fin.part in 2000.

In 2001 Fin.part took over the remainder of Cerruti's business and forced the 71-year-old designer out. At his spring-summer 2002 showing in Milan, Cerruti took his final bow before a standing crowd, taking leave of the family business created more than 120 years before. As Cerruti embraced the two young designers hired to take his place, he assured the International Herald Tribune 's Suzy Menkes he was not retiring, but already researching a "new project" involving the family-owned textile company.

—RichardMartin;

updated by Daryl F.Mallett



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