@MusingMutley: In conversation with Cerruti 1881 chief creative officer, Jason Basmajian

@MusingMutley: In conversation with Cerruti 1881 chief creative officer, Jason Basmajian

Paris men's fashion week

Text: Norman Tan

In the Cerruti 1881 studio, Norman Tan chats candidly to Jason Basmajian about the brand's design evolution, the dressing habits of modern men, and why everyone needs a billowing coat

Gents, get ready for a Cerruti 1881 revival.

Ever since Mr Nino Cerruti left the house in 2001, the storied menswear label has, for the most part, languished under the weight of its own inertia. Known for crafting quality, albeit conservative, suiting, the brand lacked top-of-mind recall for men looking for a fashion-conscious purchase. But alas, all that's about to change under the new creative direction of Jason Basmajian.

"I've been working for Gieves & Hawkes for three and a half years. It's under Trinity Limited, which is the same group that looks after Cerruti 1881. The shareholders were really happy with how the numbers were growing, and asked me to transfer that success to Cerruti — their most 'fashion' brand," shares Basmajian. "It will be 50 years old as a brand next year. I think Mr. Cerruti has been very apolitical about being too supportive to any one creative direction since he left the company. But he seems to have gotten behind what I'm doing, which is for me, personally, quite a nice thing. Because he's a bit of an icon for me, a bit of a hero."

In the Cerruti 1881 design studio — a light-drenched apartment above the brand's Paris flagship store on 3 Place de la Madeleine — and just days before the spring/summer 2017 show, I chat candidly to Basmajian about the new Cerruti spirit; wax lyrical about the continued casualisation of menswear; and lament, rather effusively, about not being able to buy his new belted duster coats there and then.

Cerruti 1881 spring/summer 2017 presentation

You joined Cerruti 1881 in October last year. What was at the top of your to-do list as chief creative officer?
Before I joined we had the Paris collection, we had a jeans license, we had a suiting license; we were just all over the place. I really wanted to hone it all down, narrow it into one ready-to-wear collection that goes from a printed T-shirt to a pair of jeans to a tuxedo. One label. Cerruti 1881. That's it. Lets buy back all of our apparel licenses, let's consolidate and focus. And that's exactly what we've done, but leaving the accessories licenses untouched. One of the exciting things we have for this season is the new denim collection. We are bringing in this really beautiful denim story.

All under the same label?
All under the same label. The only difference is that it will have a little leather identity tag, which will differentiate it as the casual jeans part of the collection. But I really don't believe in this kind of separate collections anymore. That's how guys buy their clothes now: You buy a Uniqlo T-shirt and you wear it with a Comme des Garçons jacket and a Cerruti pouch. You wear a Gucci coat with a Zara top. Everyone's mixing-and-matching. I think a guy needs to come into a store and be able to find a printed T-shirt, a pair of jeans, as well as a suit. It all needs to come from the same mother and father stylistically; so this is what we've really worked on with this spring/summer 2017 collection.

Where do you start when designing a collection for Cerruti?
As we did with fall/winter 2016 — my first collection for Cerruti — it's always about evolution not revolution; really going back to reclaim the DNA of Mr Nino Cerruti. I didn't even look so much at the archives, but wanted to understand his philosophy. He's so intelligent, his approach was never superfluous fashion; it was always about beautiful cuts and beautiful fabrics. This kind of nonchalant, casual chic, which was what rendered it so modern and ahead of its time. Don't' forget that Mr Cerruti gave Mr Armani his first job. I think it was 1967. Mr Armani worked for Mr Cerruti, and so they were born of a similar aesthetic. If you think about the way men dress now, we like to wear a casual light coat — there's tailoring, there's a sporty element to it, and it's very chic. But Nino was doing this years ago. He focused on coats instead of blazers, and used technical fabrics in tailoring before we had Prada, before we had Jil Sander; that kind of pure and minimalistic kind of expression.

Cerruti 1881 spring/summer 2017 presentation — Tone-on-tone layering with blue suit and duster coat

And this is what you've presented for spring/summer 2017.
Exactly. Nino was known for crafting coats with volumes and sumptuous fabrics. I wanted to go back to that essence, where there was a real focus on silhouette and a very sophisticated colour palette of muted mineral tones — non-colour colours, and sort of strange neutrals and dusty hues — but obviously representing it in a fresh and modern way.

Your fall 2016 collection back in January was very dapper and very put together. But judging from what we've seen this SS17 season, the 'casualisation' or 'sportification' of menswear is really continuing ahead unheeded. I've probably only seen one or two ties on the runway.   
We're definitely moving towards a sportier expression. Sort of textured leathers, a silk seersucker pant — which is done in a casual trouser — and offering a sportier shoe. So let's say it's a relaxation of what you saw from fall. We're moving forward. We've introduced more prints, T-shirts, jersey. One of the motifs, which is important for this season, is this tree bark camouflage. I love the organic nature of it. It's not a literal camouflage. It's really more of an all-over pattern. We've introduced it as a technical fabric jacquard as well as printing it on cotton silk scarves and accessories. We've been doing a lot of exclusive development on fabrics. Mr Cerruti still owns many fabric mills. I think that we are staying true to the quality and craftsmanship of the brand; staying true to elevated fabrics and sophisticated detailing and expression.

I'm loving these dusty salmon pink pieces you've got going on. I've seen it at Armani and Diesel Black Gold. I feel like it's a bit of a trend.
Thank you. I think this is that kind of non-colour colours I was talking about earlier and very unexpected when paired with the khakis and olives.  

Cerruti 1881 spring/summer 2017 presentation — Dusty salmon pink suit and ensemble

And double-breasted blazers under a single-breasted coat...
Yes, just relaxed. It's kind of like if you want to wear a suit for the fun of it, not because you need to. And why not something unexpected? I also love the idea of pairing this salmon blazer with a tailored cargo trouser.

Blending the sportswear elements with classic tailoring...
It's all about that balance.

Also loving the field jackets and belted duster coats. It's a massive thing. Everyone's doing it this season.
And we like the story of same-on-same styling. Whether it's a pattern, fabric or tone, it's about layering pieces to create this beautiful..

A beautiful visual effect.

And when you walk with a billowing coat, that drama...
Yeah, and the texture is amazing.
It's about quiet fashion. Cerruti is for the man who wants to reference trends and be fashionable, but doesn't want to be a slave to it.
It's definitely more contemporary than I expected, given your last collection.
Good, good. Have a look at this silk seersucker. It's almost like a shirt blouson. And we've done that with the camouflage short, which is great with the sandal. It's about quiet fashion. Cerruti is for the man who wants to reference trends and be fashionable, but doesn't want to be a slave to it. That's what we've tried to do.

Is there someone who personifies the Cerruti man?
Definitely someone who is a little bit less conscious about rules. He's probably someone who's definitely a little bit more independent. In the campaign for fall/winter 2016, we shot with Peter Lindbergh and Spanish model Andrés Velencoso Segura. I think he kind of embodies the Cerruti man. He's definitely a little sexy, a little warm. He's not Nordic. You feel his masculinity and, at the same time, he is also someone who's very confident and sure of himself, but doesn't really need..

Validation. He's quite carefree.
He's kind of carefree. He's pretty nonchalant. He's got good taste, not too studied.

Cerruti 1881 male model muse Andrés Velencoso

Cerruti 1881 fragrance campaign featuring Andrés Velencoso

I love all your coats. This is very exciting.
Right? I feel like it's the right tone. It's fashion enough, but it's still wearable. It's realistic fashion for guys who want to be a little bit more fashion-conscious.

It's definitely about younger as well.
And for those of us who don't work in the industry, this is still cool and luxurious because the fabric is beautiful but it's not wearing you. I've also created multiple pieces from the same material — to create this tone-on-tone effect — a bit like a uniform.

What percentage of the fabrics used in this collection is exclusive to the house?
About half of the fabrics actually. After the fall show, Nino gave me call and offered me greater access to his fabric mills, which was really flattering. This season we have waterproof silk, silk seersucker, as well as cashmere denim. Really beautiful fabrics.

Cerruti 1881 SS17 collection — sunglasses

Cerruti 1881 spring/summer 2017 presentation — Blue tree bark camouflage backpack and pullover

Tell me about your accessories.
I've taken the same bark-inspired motif and applied it to a coated cotton canvas backpack. I like carrying over the motif, repeating the motif. So I've paired the bag with a knit pullover made from the same pattern.

What would you say is your main styling theme or idea?
It's the idea of soft and fluid layering — taking a military shirt and pairing it with a coat. And it's much less expensive than designer. A suit is anywhere from €795 to €1000.

That is very affordable.
And the outerwear is between €595 and €995.

Sign me up. I've been looking for a belted duster. You should do 'see now, buy now'.
We're live streaming our presentation for the first time this season, so that's a huge step forward. One step at a time, but you're right.

I think a guy needs to come into a store and be able to find a printed T-shirt, a pair of jeans, as well as a suit. It all needs to come from the same mother and father stylistically. 

And the denim collection.
We're showing it really pure. So it's all about the denim quality and the washes. We have dip-dyed pieces and a blacked-out black. The denim collection is everything from a printed T-shirt to casual outerwear to cotton trousers, but for the show, I really wanted to make the denim statement. You know, we're adding denim, we're in the denim business. It's very pure.

Working in digital publishing, there's a lot of talk about fashion going too fast. Do you think it's going too fast?
What happens is people get caught up on hype very quickly because of digital. We're moving on to the next, to the next, to the next so quickly we're not actually allowing anyone to catch up. Nor the brands, nor the clients. It's a shame because fashion is such an interesting thing. People should enjoy it, people should savour it. Often it's the loudest that wins. I just feel it undermines a little bit the integrity of the whole business.

Lastly, what do you want men to feel when they put on your clothes?
Confident and comfortable. Comfortable meaning I want them to feel themselves. We just had this experience with Chinese actor Tong Dawei, who just came in for a fitting. When he put on the clothes, I could tell that he just immediately felt good. His face changed and his posture changed. He just felt like himself. That's how I want our man to feel. And I think men want to feel that way.

Click on the gallery below to view the full Cerruti 1881 spring/summer 2017 collection. 

In Singapore, the Cerruti 1881 store is located at 01-28 Paragon (tel: 6235 1923). 


Check back every Monday for another @MusingMutley column from Norman Tan, Editor-in-Chief of Buro 24/7 Singapore. For more columns from @MusingMutley, click here.

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