There’s more to menswear than suits and ties. Every other Monday, we’re giving the fastest developing facet of fashion the attention it deserves and introducing the designers, buyers, trendsetters, and stylists you need to know.
Andrea Pompilio is an Italian designer through and through. He grew up at a time when Milan was the center of the fashion universe, ruled by titans like Armani and Versace, and is proud of that history. Like any good patriot, he’s working to make his country better. He started his own line in response to deficiencies he saw in Milan’s menswear market at the height of the global recession. “With the crisis in Italy,” he remembers, “in all the stores it was very depressing. A lot of gray suits, gray knitwear—it was very, very down.” Pompilio took it upon himself to remedy the situation. “I just thought, ‘God, I’m really desperate to have some happiness, some nice stuff, some color. Why am I not doing something for myself?'”
Pompilio certainly had the know-how. Before launching his eponymous collection in 2010, the designer cut his teeth at Dell’Acqua in Milan, Prada and Yves Saint Laurent in Paris, and Calvin Klein in New York. “I was really, really watching and taking in all this information,” he tells us. “How you organize a fashion show and such—even though I was just a designer.” Now, at 41, he’s positioned himself as new blood in Milan’s traditionalist-dominated menswear. For Spring 2015, he found himself exploring the generation gap he’s straddling in a collection that mixed dandy conventions with punk-inflected details. We got on the phone with the designer a few days after his show at Milan Men’s Fashion Week.
DESIGNER: Andrea Pompilio
BASED IN: Milan
TRADEMARKS: What I’m doing has a graphic feeling. I play a lot with the color, always with some stripe and some graphicity. I always start with iconic menswear pieces—pieces like the sartorial pant, the sartorial jacket, the classic coat—but translate it in a new material, a new color, a new fabric. In the end, everything looks quite strong, but if you analyze piece by piece, you can use it quite easily. My process is basically that I try everything on myself and I have to wear everything I design. At least 80 percent of the collection has to be really wearable and really easy for everybody. And after that I have the 10 percent or the 15 percent where I play—you know, play for the show. It’s my pleasure to enjoy the fashion show and make people laugh in some way. I always like some interesting detail that makes everything funny or just not so serious. It has to be a pleasure for people to enjoy the show.
BABY STEPS: I chose my job when I was very, very young. I was about eight years old when I decided to be a fashion designer, actually. I grew up in a fashion store of my grandmother’s; she had a couple of boutiques in my hometown. So I really grew up inside of this place, especially in the evening. In the mornings I was in school of course. So that’s where my passion for designing clothing came from. After that all my family really pushed my in the right direction; I did a lot of school specializing in fashion since I decided that that was what I wanted to do.
IGNORANCE IS BLISS: The problem sometimes [with having experience] is that because you know how people do their jobs, you become very picky, and you can become really upset with the way they’re doing it, and everything has to be perfect. Because, sometimes, if you are very young, and you just came out from school, your eyes aren’t good enough to choose what is good from what is wrong. And it’s much more easy sometimes, because you’re very free in that way. And when you get experience, you are not so free because you know how everything has to work, and everything has to work perfectly. You know so many different things, even about lighting a fashion show, and it’s much more complicated because you have to take care of all these things.
FAMILY MATTERS: That whole [Spring 2015] collection in particular happened because I was watching this gentleman with his son, and his son was a punk with piercings, a t-shirt without sleeves—everything very punk and rock-‘n’-roll. And his father was this very, very, very Italian, Milanese, Borghese man. So this contrast was so strong for me and so beautiful, and from that point all the collection came from that direction.
VIVA L’ITALIA: Until the last couple of years, Milan was much more classic and bourgeois and London was much more exciting and novelty. But I think that even now, Milan is really riding on the back of these other big cities. I think we have a couple of interesting new names coming out, and I’m really excited to keep myself in Italy in one way, just because I’m Italian. We have a lot of Italian people moving to Paris and London, and I really believe in Italy and I really want to be here to help and to try to change Milan with this new vision—especially because I’m part of the new generation in a way even though I’m not so young. [laughs] Milan for me is very interesting, because in a way it’s very Borghese and bourgeois, and I love it. I love my city—I actually didn’t even grow up in Milan, but I moved to Milan when I was 18 and it feels like my city. When I’m outside of Italy and somebody asks me where I come from, I say Milano.
FUTURE OF MENSWEAR: I have to tell you the truth, I’m a very positive person, and in general I always see positivity around me even though sometimes it’s not. As a positive person, I can tell you I can really see menswear going up a lot. There are especially a lot of new markets coming through—for example, I’m very popular in the all the Asian markets—so I can see that menswear has been going up a lot, and I think it’s gonna go up even more and more and more.
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