David Isle: What do you think is unique about Eidos?
Antonio Ciongoli: In the wholesale market, there's really nothing that's made like this and fits like this at this price. To be able to get garments made in Italy using the kind of fabrics we offer is, I think, amazing. That's the idea, is really trying to elevate what the entry point in luxury looks like. Sometimes what we're doing might be a little too sophisticated, but that's the idea. I don't want to make dumb product. I want somebody to be really excited about what they're seeing. There's character in our collections. These fabrics tell a story.
To me, fabric is art. I would love if Isaia would do an art exhibition where they just frame the fabric. Because even if some of that stuff is hard to wear, it's really beautiful. Mixing the yarns together to get that look, it's impossible for me to look at it and not love it and appreciate it. For us, we're trying to take that idea of focusing on interesting fabrics and make it a little more approachable and a little more wearable.
From Isaia's Pitti 86 stand (all other pics here are of Eidos).
DI: Is it easier to have a strong brand identity stylistically with one person in charge? Is it common for brands to have so much responsibility vested in one person?
AC: It's very rare and I'm very lucky to have been able to go to a company and say, "you should launch a new brand and put me in charge and I'll do everything," and they just said "OK." So for the first two seasons, that was it. I was the only US employee for Eidos. Then we have the production team in Italy. Then we have Quentin to help with sales and Sarrah at Isaia has helped with PR. But I do everything from commenting on Styleforum to going to Italy to pick fabrics and work with pattern makers.
I think it helps with the cohesiveness of it. And it's us, too. It looks like we dress. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. But hopefully, it's showing guys how to put it together. Because so many guys wear sportwear really well. And so many guys wear tailored clothes very well. But it's not so easy for a lot of guys to mix them together. I'd like to think that that's a strong point for us, elevating sportswear and casualizing tailored wear. So we're kind of never appropriately dressed. We're always either overdressed or underdressed.
DI: For a lot of brands, it seems like what they show at Pitti is very different from what ends up getting bought by stores and shown on sales floors. Is what you're showing here representative of what you plan to have in stores or is it more just for setting the image of the brand?
AC: I'm trying to show what I want to put in stores. Working at Ralph Lauren I learned that the strength of that brand is defining what the brand looks like. And in the early stages of something like this, it's very important that we sell what Eidos looks like.
Thankfully, our biggest supporter, Bloomingdale's, has been amazing about walking in and asking, "what do you want us to do?" And obviously they're not going to do everything we want them to do, but they have been very supportive, especially for this coming fall. And I think it's going to look fantastic. Or at least, it's going to look how I would want it to look, and I'm really excited about that. Because so often you put together a show like this and people walk and just say, "OK, I'll take the blue suit."
DI: How do you navigate the tension between trying to make a product that's accessible to a lot of guys and at the same time unique?
AC: It's hard. The most challenging part of my job is balancing the designer and merchandiser parts of my brain. That was an issue with Michael Bastian too - editorially people loved what we did, but then parts of it were also very specific, which limited their business a little bit. The challenge is how do you do things that are interesting enough that people are excited about it, but still have a broader appeal. It's not an easy line to walk.
DI: Does it mean that you have to keep moving to stay out in front? If in four years, everybody is making dinner jackets with shantung lapels, will you feel forced to start doing something else?
AC: It's funny, coming from Ralph Lauren, I kind of have one speed. This idea of Northeastern American meets Southern Italian, that's who I am, and that's how it's always going to be. So with the shantung lapels, we're never going to do anything different, and I think that's good.
For the most part, guys shop differently than girls. Guys that aren't obsessed with clothing want to find what works for them and run with it. And if a guy finds that they like Eidos and it fits them, they'll be our customer for life. And you learn that working at a place like Ralph Lauren, which never really changed. People might say it's boring because it looks the same every season, but I don't interpret it that way. I interpret it as consistency.
Most guys don't want to look like a cowboy one day and a sailor the next. There should be some consistency. You want to look like you, just the best version of you. So hopefully we just have an idea of what our guy is, and he's going to run with that. If people start making tuxedos with shantung lapels, that's fine. It doesn't mean I'm going to change it, because I think that's us, and it's right. It's important that we stay true to our DNA.