Shoes, shirts, suits, coats, knitwear, trousers, ties, caps, gloves – all made by small family-run artisan companies.
Moving up to London when I was seventeen opened my eyes to a wealth of… well practically everything. I got heavily into the 60s underground Mod scene for several years and still am part of it, although truthfully don’t take such an active role as my tastes have broadened to encompass a variety of styles. Now, bringing it back to me at 17/18, as it’ll put this post into context. Heavy clubbing, travelling up and down the country and working in a shop on Brick Lane. It was around this time where clothing became and still is my number one (personal) focus and obsession. Much like back in the day (1960s) it was ALL about the suits, well at least for myself and those who I knocked around with. How many buttons on the jacket, were they covered or not, pockets, Double vent or vent-less jacket, unstructured shoulders?… it didn’t stop and I was cool with that.
If you weren’t getting your clothes made there really was only one other place you would go. That was DNA. So, I thought it was about time I shone some light on Claudio and the great work he’s done since he started the brand way before I was dancing around to rare rhythm & blues records back in 2007.
Claudio and DNA have been one of those labels that have had a big influence in what I’ve done and created for the Scott Fraser Collection. I’d like to think we’ve worked from the same hymn book. It’s all about the details.
Here are a few questions with the man himself.
Lets start from the start?
DNA was a vintage clothing shop local to me in Vicenza, Italy, that opened in December 1993. I left a promising Sales Manager career and bought it out in March 1996 maintaining the DNA name as it had made a great reputation for its self. That went well, but my customers would be asking for the clothes I was personally wearing, which were a mix of vintage along with a lot of tailored clothes I got made by my local tailor. That – along with the fact that I was always looking for cooler clothes that the vintage market was not able to supply, and not to mention were not available from the high streets in the 90s – pushed me to design a small range of hipster trousers and button down shirts (November 1999). The Veneto region (where Vicenza is located) is home to some of the most important labels in the garment industry (Diesel Jeans, Gas Jeans, Pal Zileri, Bottega Veneta, Marzotto, Benetton to name a few), so at the time there were numerous small artisan companies working for the ‘big boys’ making their season samples (the final collections were foreign made but samples were still Italian made). I on the other hand didn’t have ‘seasons’ or ‘collections’ as such, so they were more than happy to satisfy my demand for small runs, filling in their out of season ‘down times’. As a Mod I was looking for more quality 60’s influenced clothing that was so hard to find pre-internet times; RTW quality fabrics and manufacture was non existent as polyester and Made in India mass market garments were the only items available to our Scene. Being a large part of it, being an ‘insider’, made it much more ‘real’ and ‘acceptable’ to the usually skeptic Modernists. So I basically just naturally filled a gap in a niche market.
What are your influences, are they all from the past or is contemporary menswear something that inspires?
Contemporary menswear is mostly re-interpretations of old classics so there isn’t much inspiration from actual contemporary labels. I may appreciate some styles which are being re-interpreted by other labels, or some tailors or designers, but I wouldn’t say my work is influenced by them. I have always been following my own path as far as what I do with the designs and styles. Naturally my tastes may change over time and age, but they are rooted in the 1960’s with my DNA label, be it early or mid and in some cases later part of that decade. However my intention is never to fully recreate the exact styles or detailing of any era, I have never been in favour of ‘period-correctness’. I just stand back and see if something is pleasing and harmonious to me or not. Whether it is period correct or not means nothing to me.
Your range is vast, shoes, knitwear, accessories, suiting, shirts – how do you do it? Do you produce all in one place?
As stated, as far as I know I am the only one-man company that makes such a vast collection – and in theory it’s crazy and not economically feasible (usually small companies will specialise in one or a few aspects of Style). To add to this craziness, it’s all made in Italy (with knitwear being made in Spain, local to my current location) with the costs that this implies. The Italian production is mostly made in the Veneto region except for the caps that are made in Southern Italy. I have recently started to produce loafers in Spain, having a long time shoe making tradition locally is something I thought I’d try out and am very happy with the results. It takes loads of flexibility and balance to be able to offer such an across the board selection, understanding that my makers are bending backwards to satisfy my vast range and such small quantities, but in return they are happy to work with someone who understands their hardships and of course that is ready to pay their higher prices. You’d be surprised how many companies do not pay their suppliers, so when they find someone that does, they tend to hang on to them despite the low quantities or the vast ranges. Two way deal it is.
We’re big fans of another range you do called DeRossi. Explain a little more about it?
Well, after almost 30 years of being influenced by mainly 1960’s styles, my tastes started to change, nothing radical, but felt that those styles could be complemented more creatively by another decade that was stylistically very similar to the 1960s: the 1920s! This was very appealing to me 5 years ago when I started working on the DE ROSSI label (2011). From the very start I have always made items I personally wanted to wear but I couldn’t find them in my size or style. Now that I am progressing with age and tastes, I need to satisfy in premis these changes. Late teens and early 1920s was an incredible era for cutting edge, slick, smart, colourful, dandy styles that later also characterised the 1960s. Contrary to popular belief, mens clothing was often very colourful and modern, sharp, elegant and creative. All traits that were the initial ethos for the Modernists of the early 60s. It’s a step past Modernism, who’s market is very crowded or/and stale at the moment IMO, but has many similarities. I guess it’s my endless attempt not to be a number in a crowd (however small the ‘crowd’ may be). With this new label I am hoping to find selected independent boutiques to stock a small selection of these styles that are currently not being offered (in the RTW market) like ‘hourglass’ jazz suits, flat fronted high waisted baggy trousers, mens faux fur coats, large paperboy caps. It’s something new and very exciting, and exclusive as many of the garments are one-offs. Again, being alone on this boat – and having the DNA label to look after – means that not much time and money is spent in marketing the DE ROSSI range but this will be finalised over this summer and hopefully I will be able to look for interested shops.
How did the people you cater for with DNA take to the difference in style for DeRossi?
Very supportive with loads of encouragement. Some styles of the DE ROSSI range are currently being sold on the DNA website so as to test the response, and as I previously said, the 60s were in many ways similar to the 20s and so I see no reason why a DNA customer cannot also wear DE ROSSI styles as they go hand in hand in many aspects. I think the more adventurous customers will (and currently are) incorporating DE ROSSI into their DNA wardrobe, and I guess only time will tell if DE ROSSI will be as successful as DNA but I am very happy with how the sampling is coming out and the feedback.
What are your plans for the future of label and yourself?
DNA is my main range and is what I have always been doing and it will continue as such: new styles, fabrics items will be added as the ideas and possibilities come. I have a small but loyal following and we are somewhat of a family that will hopefully just become bigger. The DE ROSSI range will hopefully find small boutiques that also want to offer something different from what is being offered, but that complement other similar quality heritage brands and labels. I would love to actually open a shop in a major city like London or New York, I think the DE ROSSI range would do great in a cosmopolitan style-conscious metropolis, but this would need a local partner and investor as I have the creative and production capabilities (I have been working with the same production companies for more than a decade), but not the logistical and economic ones.
What does Retrospective Modernism mean to you?
As a style enthusiast first and a businessman second, I have always looked back in time for what I thought were the most creative, captivating, fresh styles that suited my persona, and used these to suit my personal tastes and made a living out of it along the way. I have never recreated an item for a period-correctness purpose, to me that is taking style too seriously, whilst it should be natural and spontaneous. I just pick the details I think looks well from bygone eras and pair it with modern quality natural fabrics that suit today’s everyday necessities: working, dancing, living – of the modern era. Exploring new, original, sharp looks by using what the history of style has given us is what best describes this.