Carlo Rivetti is the President and Creative Director of Stone Island, a family-owned and operated company since 1982. With recent changes taking place at the brands HQ (Rivetti doesn’t want to call it a “resurgence”), the man behind the Italian label speaks to Life+Times about his vision, and how he plans to execute it.
Life+Times: You’ve said that in 1982, Stone Island was created “by chance.” What exactly does this mean?
Carlo Rivetti: One day an interesting but very stiff material arrived in the company; a heavy lorry tarpaulin. It was red on one side and blue on the other. What could be done with that? We made a jacket and in order to transform it into a wearable item of clothing, it was put into a washing machine with water and pumice stone and washed, for hours, in order to soften its structure. The first prototype had an incredible feel, but it looked entirely different from the “vocabulary” of C.P. Company, the brand that was produced at that time. It did not belong to the label. As a result, we decided to create seven jackets in that unique fabric that we renamed ‘Tela Stella’, and to give the pieces a name: Stone Island.
L+T: You’ve chosen to focus on the study of uniforms and work wear, and since the brands inception, you haven’t wavered. How come it was these two forms of clothing that you decided to pay strict attention to?
CR: We believe in one of the golden rules of design: form follows function. It is for this reason that since the beginning we were studying the functional characteristics of uniforms and work wear, cataloguing shapes, pockets, fastenings and garment accessories. We also catalogued the worn look of these reference pieces to understand how to achieve the worn looks and faded colors that are so full of historical flavor. This influence belongs to the brand’s DNA and cannot be set aside. We also take a close look to new functionalities that can be useful to today’s wearer, we are aware of the gestures of the modern man. Today we use backpacks instead of briefcases, we carry electronic devices in our pockets and they have to be easily reachable. The other thing we maniacally enquire is material. We are interested in all materials that can be cut and sewn, also in fields that are very far away from conventional apparel fabrics. We used water filtering meshes, polyester based materials coated with stainless steel used to protect airplane computer circuits, polyester felts used in the car industry under the upholstery.
L+T: Tell me a little bit about your role at Stone Island? What is it that you do? What does your role entail?
CR: I am President of the company but also Stone Island’s Creative Director. I spend most of my time doing what I love most, which means everything linked to the product. Particularly, I really enjoy the research and development of a material. To let you better understand: I don’t have my office, I always share the room with my design team, no matter if we are in the Milan Showroom or at the Headquarters, near Modena.
L+T: Over time, how has the product changed and evolved?
CR: In more than 30 years, the research of textiles had an amazing evolution: we have made the Ice Jacket, that changes colors with the changes of the temperature, the Reflective Jacket, highly reflective thanks to thousands glass microspheres. A big revolution started in 2003 when we managed to dye polyester jackets at 266°F under pressure. This process opened up a whole new horizon in treatable fibers. In terms of design, the sizes and the fitting have of course completely and inevitably changed. But generally when I think of the evolution of the brand, I clearly see that we have a lot to do just by continuing what we have been working on within the Stone Island story.
L+T: It seems that there has been a recent Stone Island “resurgence.” The press has been paying close attention to the brand and it’s taken on a life of its own. What do you attribute to this?
CR: I would say that there have been some changes as opposed to a “resurgence.” And changes were not decided by a crisis. Changes come from looking forward, from the ability to forecast the future. Until few years ago I thought that people and –particularly the new generations wouldn’t be interested in understanding our language or our product. But when we start to tell our story and our philosophy, we have great feedback.
L+T: In 2000, you introduced changes to your products. What were these?
CR: 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 design 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’s mission since 2008. I feel like the coach. I choose which men to send out to pitch – depending upon what match we have to play. In certain instances we need to be more sensitive, faster and ready to grasp the signed of strength and weakness. This allows us to engineer the collection, giving more attention to the lighter product family as well.
L+T: I want to know a little bit about the logo. It hasn’t changed and is very prominent on your clothing. How come?
CR: What we call the badge was there since Stone Island’s inception. It displays a Compass Rose, displayed like a military badge. It is detachable so you can choose to show it, to button it on the inside (on the heart side, not by chance) or throw it away. Beside that I believe in continuity, you can decide to wear it or not…
L+T: What new products are you currently working on? What’s coming down the pipe?
CR: In the Autumn Winter ’14 collection I would say the new Hand Painted Camouflage jacket in Raso Gommato. It is first dyed and then de-colored in some targeted areas with a corrosive paste. The tortoise pattern is then individually hand painted on the faded parts, the piece is then over-dyed. It is a handcrafted garment. We’re also working for the first time with a thermo-sensitive coat in a natural material. For years we have worked on thermo-sensitive fabrics, evolving the experience and introducing new technologies. The Ice Jacket Wool Blend is the wool version. We have also introduced the Thermo Reactive 3D Knit, a double knit weave woolen material where the gaps between the two faces have been filled -in specific areas- with a thermo reactive polypropylene yarn which swells up through the finishing steaming heat, creating a permanent downy 3D motive.