Geek mythology

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Antonio Ciongoli, (left) Creative Director, Eidos Napoli and Sebastian Dollinger, Creative Director, Eton

Portrait and words © Lee Osborne

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INTERVIEW PART I  // COLLABORATIONS || ETON X EIDOS

Sartorialee meets the dynamic duo behind the Eton X Eidos collaboration, at their London launch and talks yarns, geeky compulsions, their desire for longevity in what they create and ultimately an undying passion for what they do.

sartorialee: How did the collaboration come about?

Antonio Ciongoli, Creative Director, Eidos Napoli: People like Seb (Dollinger) and I are self-confessed nerds about product, that’s why we do it, for sure. There’s a tremendous amount of thought that goes in to the guts of what we do. It’s not just face value, oh we thought sirilean blue was the colour of the season, it’s about something a little bit deeper than that. The global sales director at Eton and the president of Isaia, which is our parent company, had been friends for a long time. They introduced the two of us at Pitti Uomo and suggested we do something together.

Sebastian Dollinger, Creative Director, Eton: I obviously knew about the (Eidos) brand before, but the most important thing for me is not just the clothing, it’s the people. Because if it’s someone you don’t get the feel for, I won’t do it, even if it’s the best brand in the world. I’ll be sitting sideways. But we met, we got the feel for each other straightaway and started looking at the collection. I was literally blown away. It hit home for me that this was the kind of stuff the Eton men in my dream world would wear alongside our products. You could see the brand elongated together with Eidos.

It takes care of like 80% of our customer needs right away: the more classical guy to give him some casual but still extremely sharply dressed things; the mid customer who doesn’t have to wear a suit but wants to because he really thinks it looks great. It also takes care of the newcomer to our world who really loves these things but doesn’t really know where to start. And I think this is the best way to start, with tailoring because when you wear it, it feels so casual, but it looks so extremely sharp. It feels like sitting in your underwear almost.

s: I felt that with the blue and brown check flannel shirt (pictured below, £140) when I first put it on, it felt like I wasn’t wearing it, it’s so light and felt so comfortable.

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SD: Yeah, you ask yourself am I really well dressed? You almost have to look in the mirror…

s: Talk me through how you make a shirt such as this as light and soft as you do. What special processes are applied to the garment?

SD: First you start with what yarns you have. It can’t be too long, you still need extra long staples but they need to be extremely, extremely fine, not too long. Once you’re more or less done with weaving you over brush it, gently combing it until it gets the desired touch. If you don’t do it properly you may knock a year off the shelf life of the shirt, but I think we’ve got it down to perfection where we found almost like this cashmere-y feel. It’s all about the finishing.

“We send the shirts to Switzerland where we apply 35 additional steps to the fabric, an extra three-and-half weeks. Durability and sustainability are key – we do this because we want to be creating tomorrow’s vintage.”

s: It’s fitted, yet it feels so relaxed. The same with the tie it feels relaxed yet it’s very elegant.

AC: Right, that’s the line we definitely try to walk, it’s the line I walk with Eidos the whole time. The joke is you’re never appropriately dressed, right? You’re either underdressed or overdressed. But I love the idea – you know our tailoring is full canvas, so it’s going to last you a very long time, it moulds to your body, it helps stabilise the fabric, but at the same time the canvas we use is very light. The model we did here is completely unstructured, totally soft, no shoulder at all, kind of a 180 classic English tailoring – our jackets wear like a cardigan, you almost don’t realise you have them on.

It’s the opposite to that suit of armour so its great for the guy that has been wearing a suit his entire life yet hates it, because it reminds him of business and it’s also great for the guy that hasn’t been wearing tailored clothing, but thinks it looks cool, but doesn’t want to be so rigid. It’s the kind of thing he throws on and thinks, wow, I’m wearing a sweater.

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SD:
From a geek point of view who loves construction I don’t care about how people look or what they wear, it’s up to them, I don’t want to dress the world. But I want to cater for those that are interested in having the best option possible for a humane price. I think that’s what we both want to do.

AC: We’re trying do something interesting that doesn’t have a shelf life. It was part of why I started Eidos in the first place, no one was giving what I saw, a slightly younger consumer something of real quality that also didn’t have a shelf life. When you hear people talking about selling to a slightly younger guy they always say it needs to be very fashion forward, very topical. As someone in that age range it’s not what I’m looking for. I want something I can have for a long time. Even so, fashion things are still expensive. Why would you do that, when it’s something you’re going to throw out in two seasons?

s: How did you both first get in to clothes and looking good and sharp. Did you have any influences when you were younger?

AC: My Dad, and I feel that happens to a lot of guys, your father you grew up with either set you on two courses – you aspire to be like someone or you find someone to rebel against. It’s either one of two of things that drive you how to do things. I’ve got great grandfathers on both sides who were tailors, one from southern Italy and so my Dad grew up with having suits made for him. He grew up in Philadelphia and went to an Ivy League school in the early 60s, which was the height of Ivy League style. He was an Italian kid, from an Italian neighbourhood that went to the Ivy League school in the town. He grew up with a mix of two things – he was wearing sack jackets and bow ties but at the same time he was also wearing sharkskin and spread collars. Growing up in Vermont, where he was a doctor, I remember seeing what he wore everyday: widewale corduroys and Ben Silver and Brooks Brothers bow ties, with Borelli shirts.

SD: A Classic man…

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AC:
So the mix of the two I always thought was really fascinating, and it’s how I’ve always dressed, like I never really had a choice he just looked so great and he really cared about it.

“He thought it was important how you portray yourself to people as a first impression. Obviously it doesn’t define who you are by any means but he really thought it was important.”

SD: it started with my father as well, he’s a designer that worked with textiles since he was sixteen or seventeen. Growing up with someone that was always so sharply dressed but without trying to be better than anyone else. I could see he just enjoyed it. He loved the clothing, he had such an eye for colour and qualities and fabrics. I didn’t want to work with clothing at all actually. I wanted to work with music, but then you need to have job don’t you? At nineteen I started working in Harrods in London and I just loved working with people, I loved selling product and I liked to wear a suit funnily enough, which was really odd because I never ever wanted to have a suit. You know I thought it was for evil people but I loved it, I got a feel for it straightaway.

When I get interested in something I become extremely interested. In the beginning I wanted to go to every weaving mill, all the CMT (Cut Make Trim) places. I wanted to go everywhere. I didn’t want the customer to tell me what was what. As a sales person I wanted to know myself. I was so young, I was twenty one and they were always trying to get me to know a little bit more but I just thought to hell with them, I’m going know everything, give me two years and I will know everything. Of course, still learning as we speak…

AC: Yeah you never stop for sure…

SD: I really wanted to work with physics so I have this really geeky aspect to me, it’s more fun to work with colours and fabrics, because it’s life you know, it’s jazzy in a way.

You try not to push things on to other people, but if you can make other people feel better with what you do, that really excites me. We all know that when we wear something we really like we perk up a little bit and we smile more. I think that’s where the love for what I do lies. And then the need for wanting to know everything, to non-conform, as I do, always trying to improve things. That’s why I learn so much by just listening to people – a love of knowledge in our small little world excites me.

LINKS:  etonshirts.com/uk/    eidosnapoli.it/    etonshirts.com/global/etonxeidos

Look out for part two of the interview, where Creative directors Sebastian Dollinger and Antonio Ciongoli talk Sartorialee through the finer details of their Eton X Eidos collaboration, a collection inspired by the artisanship of Florentine craftsmen.

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