I met Antonio for the first time at Pitti 85, and came back this time around for a full interview. Here is the first part of our conversation. It began, of course, with me admiring some of the pieces he had on display.
David Isle: Tell me about this double-breasted seersucker jacket.
Antonio Ciongoli: My inclination in the winter is always to do double-breasted corduroy, and then in the spring it's seersucker. I'm from Vermont and I grew up in a relatively preppy family, but Eidos is not that. I love seersucker, but I want to Italianize it a little bit, as with corduroy. So I love the idea of doing a double-breasted, with three patches and four buttons. This was designed by color story, and was really the first color story of the season, which was sunset on the eve of a storm on the Bay of Naples. So you've got the storm cloud gray with the orange of the sunset, and then a cool, crisp white.
Everything in this collection started from a design perspective from an old tourist t-shirt of a map of Ischia. I just pulled out the graphic and created an all-over print that we put on pocket squares, on some old school swim trunks. There's a fishing village in Ischia called Sant'Angelo, which is pretty hard to get to, and for that reason is kind of frozen in time. And when you see them, it's inspiring - they do what they do with a quiet sense of purpose, as if they know their place in history, but don't lament it. They just do their duty. So that idea, of someone whose work is multi-generational, and just takes it as it is, is an idea I really liked, and I thought of other people who took that approach to work. One of the people we thought of was Picasso, who had a famous shawl collar canvas coat with jute toggles, so we have reinterpreted that this season, with a mitred breast pocket, washed and dyed.
DI: Could you take me through the design process for this double-breasted dinner jacket? What was the first thing you chose, and how did it grow from there?
AC: It always starts with fabric. When I'm meeting with the mills, I have an idea in my head for what I think makes good formal wear. And I really want to focus on formal wear, because I don't think a lot of people are doing it very well. You see guys at the Oscars and...
AC: ...I think what makes a beautiful dinner jacket or a beautiful tuxedo is very different than what makes a beautiful suit. I think dinner wear should look like dinner wear. It should have an extended shoulder, it should have a narrow waist, the lapels should be full, it should be a little bit more elevated. So there are fabrics in my mind that I think of when I think about that. But we want to innovate too. I think of this electric midnight blue as a formal fabric.
But Eidos is all about texture. There aren't a lot of flat fabrics in the collection. When I found this boucle' fabric, I immediately knew that it would be the new dinner jacket for the season. The fabric is relatively open weave, so it breathes, so we did it unlined. Formal wear is one of those places that lends itself nicely to lining, but particularly in something like this, it was kind of begging to be done unlined.
A long time ago, I had the idea of lapel facings in shantung silk. I'm not a satin guy, and I don't like shiny in general. In the past I've used grosgrain, but you can get grosgrain or satin anywhere. The idea of Eidos is to be something a little bit uneven and irregular, and that's shantung. You get the lines that you would get from grosgrain, but with more character. I thought the lapels on this would lend itself incredibly to shantung, and I'm excited about how it turned out.
The cut is the double-breasted version of the new model [the Ciro, an updated version of the Lorenzo] we developed. So it's unlined, but we extended the shoulder, gave it a little bit more of a waist. It's unvented - we don't make vented formal wear and we don't make notch lapel formal wear. We're really trying to focus on doing it the way it should be done.
The pant for this look is amazing. I sampled it as a suit, but never planned to show it that way. This is I think 400g linen, really stocky. I like the idea of styling the jacket down a bit. I like the idea of wearing more casually.
DI: So you're proposing that someone could wear this outside of a black tie event.
AC: Exactly. I'm seeing this on the waterfront in Ischia in our photoshoot. This might be a little hard to wear in New York City, but in a resort setting, I think this is amazing.
DI: So once you pick the jacket model and the fabric, you have a sample made up and then decide whether you like it or not before putting it in the collection?
AC: Yea - we develop the models, and then pick the fabrics. Very often the fabric tells you what it wants to be. Michelangelo used to talk about seeing a block of marble and seeing the sculpture inside. He was just unleashing what was inside. I'm not trying to compare myself to him at all, but it's a similar idea - you see something, and the fabric begs to be something. You just see, this fabric should be this garment.