Brioni: A Class Apart
Francesco Pesci, CEO of Brioni, is a man with unwavering passion for fine Italian tailoring. The brand has consistently remained at the forefront of classic tailored fashion and takes great pride in their Scuola Sartoria Nazareno Fonticoli. Founded in 1985, the school offers young students the opportunity to acquire training in expert tailoring, through a four-year course that makes them aware of the heritage that Brioni and Italy can export to the world.
On a recent visit to Dubai, Pesci spoke to Aficionado about the school and why it helps Brioni remain a class apart.
Why do you think Brioni’s heritage really makes it stand out from competitors?
In our market segment, which is really, really high-end quality, the heritage and the history is very important. People want to know about this. Not all brands can speak about the heritage and a history comparable to ours – I think Brioni has a really interesting story to tell. We’re set up as a tailor shop, we’re not set up as a suitmaking company – this is the big difference, but we do need to do new things to stay relevant.
What role has Brioni played in fashion history?
Brioni was the fist company ever to participate in a fashion show. It was the first company ever to turn the tailoring process into a manufacturing process. We were the first company to use silk in a man’s wardrobe, the first company to use colour, and the first to take one layer of canvas out of suits to make them lighter at a time when doing so was like blasphemy, because the menswear industry was dominated by Saville Row…so the heritage is incredible and extremely strong.
Tell us a bit more about your tailoring school – Scuola Sartoria Nazareno Fonticoli.
We pick [students] at a very young age. We are the only company [to have a tailoring school]. And other brands also claim this, but I challenge any other CEOs that he can say this until they have a tailoring school like the one we set up back in 1985. Our school lasts for four years, plus there’s one year of apprenticeship. We hire pupils at the age of 14 and train them until 19, and we don’t only teach them tailoring, we also teach the Italian language, English language and math.
We understood this would be necessary. Back in the 80s, the founder of the company realised that without the tailoring school it would be impossible to maintain the same level of quality. For us the quality is almost a religious creed.
Has the number of students in your school decreased over time?
We’ve actually seen a surge since 10 years ago. As a matter of fact, this is not confined to just fashion. The fact is that working with your own hands gives you a special dignity, because you make the difference with your hands to someone else. The product is not made by machine, it’s made by another man so there’s a passion in that product and the customer understands this immediately. When a product is made by machine, you can’t connect emotionally.
2012 was a turning point for Brioni as you chose to appoint a creative director. What prompted that decision?
For the first time ever, Brioni has hired a creative director because we need to have a stronger identity, especially for non-formal wear. It’s true there’s a growing casualisation in the man’s wardrobe, and there’s a lot of products that look alike, but Brioni needs to be one of a kind. We can’t look alike, so that’s why we need a creative director to have a strong say in how to be elegant when not wearing a suit and a tie. It is so much more challenging but that’s why I think its so much more interesting.
Are there any style trends you’ve observed in the Middle East region?
In one respect, the market here is behaving like other geographical markets and we see these in the role casual wear is now playing on the man’s wardrobe. Especially looking at jackets, that have always traditionally been part of a formal wardrobe – they are becoming more and more part of casual wear and this is good because it allows a brand like Brioni to play more with cuts, colours and fabrics. But when it comes to suiting, I actually can see that here men are still a little more conservative than elsewhere…