My Family has deep roots within the clothing industry. Together with the Stone Island history, these two stories are essentially those of intuition and passion.
Back in the 19th century, Giuseppe Rivetti – son of Giovanni Battista, the first carding machine operator in the Italian textile industry, inherited his father’s passion and in order to fund his own wool factory began to secretly sell cows from the family farms to buy looms. By 1872 he had opened his own wool factory: “Giuseppe Rivetti e Figli”.
It was with this insight that, in the 1920s, members of my family were drawn to purchase and merge their firm with the Turin based GFT group (Gruppo Finanziario Tessile). My Uncle Pinot, a bizarre character of genius with a taste for challenge, was sent to lead the company. He had the unique idea of rubberising wool fabrics to increase their performance.
It is precisely in these choices that the spirit and DNA of Stone Island can be found: intuition, innovation and a love of research.
This fondness for research also drove my father Silvio. In the immediate post-war period, following the extensive bombing of Turin which had seriously damaged our factories in the Piedmont capital, he set off for the United States in search of new markets.
There he found the Palm Beach Incorporated company, whose owners produced something that did not yet exist in Europe: clothing constructed on theoretical measurements; what we now know as sizes.
My father was stunned. He worked there for six months as a labourer, came back and convinced his brothers to give up their shares in the wool factories in order to buy out GFT completely, which already had a small ready to wear unit, FACIS (Fabbrica Abiti Confezionati in Serie).
As the morphological structure of the Italian population differed from the American, in the early 1950s GFT literally measured more than 25,000 Italians, which allowed FACIS to effectively construct a size chart able to dress the whole nation for the first time with non-tailored garments.
Those were the years of the Boom, the Italian economic miracle. GFT actually succeeded in selling four thousand dark blue suits on a Saturday afternoon in a single store in Turin.
The company went from strength to strength until the oil crisis of 1973. In a severe yet swift recession, something had to be done to recover sales. My cousin, Marco Rivetti, noticed the presence of a French couturier who was working in a women’s outerwear firm that we had acquired one year earlier. He would design and fit the garments, take them to Paris for the sales campaign and then use our company to manufacture them. His name was Emanuel Ungaro.
This was the initial inspiration that led us to realise that in order to re-launch the sector we needed to add a fundamental ingredient to the clothing industry: fashion.
As a result, GFT launched itself as a licensee of the then rising stars of Italian fashion, including Giorgio Armani and Valentino: a business model that was unchartered territory at the time. The rise of Italian-made Prêt à Porter was due to the ability to combine entrepreneurial ability with creativity.
I joined GFT in 1975. Towards the end of that decade, I had the idea to start a third area within the group (aside from mens and womens formal wear), to create something more timeless: sportswear.
In the wake of that, in the early eighties, a company in Emilia Romagna was pointed out to us for being extremely innovative and at the cutting edge in that field.
The company was jointly owned by Trabaldo Togna and Massimo Osti, who was a graphic artist by profession and was also the firm’s designer and art director.
I remained personally electrified.
The eighties were an exciting period of success and growth, with Massimo Osti leading the creative side throughout. I was, and still remain, thrilled by our collaboration.
In 1983, Osti decided that creative and entrepreneurial roles were not compatible and chose to devote himself entirely to the making of the Stone Island and C.P. Company collections. We therefore bought first 50% and later on the entire company.
That was the beginning of my journey. I began as Manager of the sportswear arm of the group, but in 1993 I left GFT and, together with my sister Cristina, acquired 100% of the firm which is now known as Sportswear Company.
I strongly believed and still believe that the future of clothing is in sportswear and informal wear. I chose to devote myself entirely to the company because for me, it was love at first sight.
The company philosophy reflected my own. From 1983 onwards, I took off the ‘suit and tie’ and immersed myself entirely, bringing the know-how of a large firm with respect and conviction.
It was there that I got to know Massimo Osti, who had brought Stone Island into existence almost by chance, a year earlier. A special fabric named ‘Tela Stella’ had arrived in the company: a cloth that had a different colour on each side, used to make lorry tarpaulins. The effect was very interesting but had little to do with the already existing label C.P. Company.
Osti decided to do something special with that fabric, something that would be unimaginable these days: a collection of just seven jackets. The collection strongly referenced military style and the badge that made the brand famous was inspired by military stripes and insignia. The compass on the badge symbolised the love for the sea and an aim for constant research.
I think Massimo was a genius; at least ten years ahead of others in his field. He was an introvert man, who certainly did not like the star system that all the great fashion designers of those times were involved in. It was no mere coincidence that he liked to describe himself as a producer rather than a fashion designer.
His achievement with Stone Island was establishing a brand that was not only appealing and saleable, but also keeping true to his core belief of informal wear. His ideas were drawn from military and work wear, accompanying them with endless textile research.
The ‘80s was an exciting period of successes and growth, always with Massimo Osti leading the creative side throughout.
In 1993, after I had bought the entire company, Massimo decided that the time had come to take a break. He left C.P. Company to devote himself entirely to the Stone Island collections. However, our paths eventually came apart, and I found myself with the difficult task of finding someone to design Stone Island for the 21st Century.
Inspiration came to me in 1994 as I wandered through the halls of a trade fair in Munich and came across the stand of a small German brand. I was struck by a strange feeling of familiarity that led me to cry out: “so here’s the Stone of the future!”
I made some inquiries and discovered that the true genius behind that collection was Paul Harvey, an Englishman who, luckily for us, lived nearby in Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna.
I contacted him and proposed to him to take over the design of Stone Island. He accepted with enthusiasm and from there, in 1996, we embarked on the second era of our brand, in the name of innovation and continuity.
Paul designed twenty four collections (two more than Massimo). As a pragmatical Englishman, he did not try to revolutionise Stone Island, but was consistent in the evolution and research that has always set us apart.
Paul Harvey is another extraordinary character. Just think that after graduating in Textiles at Central Saint Martin’s in London, he decided that fashion was not the career path for him and went to work as a lorry driver for almost a year! It was only after meeting and marrying a fantastic Italian lady that he moved over to Italy and started designing clothes.
In his approach to design, Paul has functionality in his blood. This allowed him to interpret Stone perfectly, leading the brand masterfully into the new century. We really do owe him a huge amount.
After twelve marvellous years together, Paul felt he needed to leave the fashion world to “do something for the Planet”. With such a noble ambition, I could only accept and support his decision.
In that moment, facing another crucial decision, I came to the conclusion that the era of “one man at the helm” was over.
I understood that times had changed radically and that it was necessary to be multicultural in order to be truly contemporary.
The only way to do this was to create a team of several minds and several visions to face all aspects of a world that is gradually becoming more and more fragmented and difficult to interpret: and this has been Stone Island from 2008 till today.
I feel like the coach. I choose which men to send onto the pitch, depending upon which match we have to play: In certain instances we need to be more sensitive, faster, and ready to grasp the signs of strength and weakness.
As a result, we need people that travel the world and observe it from different viewpoints: people of different ages and from different cultures.
This, in short, is our history. I wanted to share it.
I like to think that there is a common thread that binds us all, the desire for continual experimentation and research, not without a touch of healthy insanity: that special something that makes our Stone Island much more than a brand of clothing.
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