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What happened at Brioni?

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

10 Oct 2016

Fashion |OPINION

Times are tough. Especially if you are a purveyor of sophisticated menswear at a time when the classic suit has been sent to the Outer Mongolia of current fashion trends.

The news that Italian luxury house Brioni, known for its impeccable tailoring and craftsmanship, parted ways with its bad boy creative director Justin O'Shea after just one season in the role, i.e. six months, may not surprise many.

While the decree of 'opposites attract' certainly sparked an intrigue in initial collaborative terms - a staid fashion house looking to beef up its image and connect with the Millenial generation - didn't seem like a union of the impossible. O'Shea, the former Fashion Director of online retailer Mytheresa.com understands retail and consumer needs, and Brioni, of course, has luxury and craft embedded in its DNA. If not a fashion match made in heaven, what went wrong?

You can't revamp a heritage brand overnight

Perhaps it was a case of changing too much, too soon. When you radically revamp a heritage brand known for its couture menswear, a 360 makeover may have alienated its core customer before it got used to the changes.

O'Shea's first port of call was a logo change, from a classic Roman font to a modern gothic typeface. Logo changes will always divide opinion, just look at the YSL scenario when former creative director Hedi Slimane changed it to Saint Laurent, which was regarded initially as blasphemous and disrespectful. Perhaps it didn't help that O'Shea told Vogue.com he would revolutionise the company's trademarks: "I would change the shitty logo. I would change the campaign. I would change the clothes. In fact, I would change pretty much everything.”

When the first campaign was launched back in July, during the haute couture presentation in Paris, the choice of heavy metal band Metallica as the face of the brand seemed an odd pairing. Grunge, screeching guitars and heavily tattooed rockers is about as far away from Italian sophistication as you can get. Even to the Millenial generation Metallica is hardly a currency of modernity. The shock value

At a time when Wall Street and the City of London are relaxing their dress codes, the suit no longer being a requirement for daily office attire, Brioni presented a collection of peacock menswear in uber luxury. There was chinchilla, crocodile, three piece suiting, 70s shirt collars and plenty of testosterone. What was lacking was athleisure and casual options. Not every Brioni customer will be in the market for a narrow cut, three piece suit with a wide lapel. Especially when its costs upward of 3,500 euros.

Brioni was once the uniform of institutions, the ultimate suit for the successful managing director. O’Shea posted an image of a Brioni-branded coffin on Instagram a day before the news was announced. Let's hope it doesn't refer to the death of the suit.

Photo credit: Brioni logo, Brioni Paris 1 & Campaign; source: Brioni.com

Justin O'Shea