Brioni: no compromise

At the fall/winter 2014-15 presentation, we talk to Brendan Mullane, creative director of Brioni.

"Take a look at this," says Brendan Mullane, opening a black enamel box. "We found this in the Brioni archives."

Inside, a yellowing notebook, bulging with tickets, sketches, notes, cuttings glued to the pages. On the first page, the words 'ARIGATO = GRAZIE.' The Brioni co-founder went to Japan in 1963, for their first show there in 1963.

 BRIONI-BRENDAN MULLANE 11 ph. Giovanni Gastel

"The collection is based on this. Of course, I went to Japan as it is today, to see how East meets West, with architecture by Tadao Ando alongside James Turrell. The colours, on the other hand, were inspired by Caravaggio, the cherry browns, deep reds, navy blue, and these were used in the Japanese printed motifs. You can see the two worlds intertwining. There is a lot of Japan, and in addition there is the Italian hallmark, all that Brioni really is."

Was it difficult to incorporate Japanese crafts procedures into your manufacturing processes?
"We are accustomed to working with artisans, and in this case we found an artisanal kimono company more than 450 years old, and asked them to develop an exclusive print for us. The final image is made using 25 different screens. The result is the nearest thing to a Brioni kimono: we call it the Kyoto bomber jacket, and it's hand painted. This puts a limit on the number of pieces we can make, and no two pieces will ever be the same. In our kimono sartorial jacket, the Japanese closing technique (with a belt) is superimposed onto a Brioni jacket."

How do you think this collection will be seen in Japan?
"I think that in Japan, they will see a different interpretation of their culture. When you work with artisans, you have to respect their crafts heritage, and in this case, all the prints came from the Japanese side. So I think that they will understand it as an Italian interpretation of Japan, while the Europeans will love it for the Japanese side."

The materials in the collection are splendid, and complex...
"This coat is made using hand-sculpted mink using a razor to give it its 3-dimensional appearance. Take a look at this Prince of Wales check: in addition to the usual two shades of grey, we added a third yarn, red, to provide an injection of colour."

In many of the looks, you have added complexity by layering: scarves under the shirt collar, tie with collar-pins, waistcoat, jacket and so forth.
"When you dress in a 3-piece suit, there are lots of details. We worked the same way with the kimonos, replicating what we do in the sartorial world. The positive outcome of all this is that you see another way how to wear a suit. All these layers create a sense of protection, but there is also an emotional sense, extra structure and silhouettes."

I feel an amazing sense of excitement in this collection. Do you feel the same way?
“Yes, I’m like a Cheshire cat! The world of Brioni is brilliant because they never say no, they say ‘let’s try.’ For me, this collection is bringing Brioni back to their core values, as an audacious, provocative and innovative brand. The whole Italian Dolce Vita was Brioni, and they’re now bringing it back. They’re proud, not arrogant, but an audacious happy proudness.”

Thank you, Brendan. One last question: how would you define luxury?
"No compromise! But there is something more. I strongly believe that we spoil the client; we're like a concierge service for the customer, enabling them to be part of a menswear club. It's not just the exterior appearance: it's as if our interiors were as beautiful, even more beautiful. When you buy Brioni, you don't need the visibility of labels or logos, because you already know what the brand is, the code and the detailing. I think that real luxury is succeeding in doing something pure."