Nino (1930). Entrepreneur and designer, from Biella. If men’s fashion in the second half of the past century has become more demanding and casual, if Italian good taste has started on its way to international fame, a great part of this is due to this sensitive and elegant man whose family’s wool factory and hometown had become too limiting for him. Nino Cerruti grew up in the Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti (established in 1881 by the brothers Antonio, Quintino, and Stefano Cerruti), among precious fabrics and solid family traditions. He was only 20 when, in 1950, at his father’s death, he quit his studies in philosophy and journalism and took the lead of the company. He could have limited himself to the management of that factory but, in 1957, near Corsico, in the Milanese hinterland, he established a manufacturing company, Hitman, to produce high quality men’s ready-to-wear. It was, for men’s fashion, the début of luxury men’s prêt-à-porter (Brioni-Roman Style was founded in 1959). It offered tailoring workshop elegance on an industrial scale. There were ten years of growth, along with an awareness that there was ample opportunity for Italian design, but that the battle had to be fought in the very heart of fashion, in Paris itself. In 1967 he established Cerruti 1881 and opened a boutique in Paris on Place de la Madeleine that was designed by the architect Vico Magistretti. Production remained in Italy. The new line used refined fabrics coming from Lanificio Cerruti, and did the manufacturing at Hitman, Cerruti’s Milanese factory, where he had a very promising young assistant named Giorgio Armani and a talented right arm named Pinotto Marelli. His modern, subtly revolutionary but unmistakably elegant style was immediately appreciated by people in the Parisian jet set and by the international clientele gravitating around that city: they liked the mix of design and tradition, the use of colors in shades that were unusual for a men’s line, the loosened cuts, the preciousness and softness of the materials. The boutique near the Madeleine became a meeting place for show business personalities and actors. In the early 1970s, one of Cerruti’s clients was Jean-Paul Belmondo, the French film star. From the first clothes designed for a Belmondo film, it was just a small step to Hollywood. Cinema became part of the Cerruti universe. His fashions were the most requested, for films and for private life, by personalities such as Michael Douglas, Richard Gere, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, and Alain Delon, as well as many others. In 1967, together with the men’s Collection, Cerruti also presented a women’s Collection. For the first time, male rigor was transferred to the female wardrobe, in perfect synchrony with the unisex style of the moment. Women’s fashion confirmed and completed the image of the brand: fashion that was never banal, never vulgar, and never excessive, but always attentive to changes in costume. In 1980, Cerruti launched a sports line, in 1986 came the Collection Cerruti 1881 Brothers for leisure time, and, in 1988, the latest of his fragrances, Cerruti Image. The fragrance sector represents about 15% of the turnover. The house also designs watches, accessories, and leather goods.
Back to basics: everything in the Spring-Summer 2004 men’s Collection is branded Cerruti 1881, the griffe including the year the company was founded and carrying its spirit. With this brand also came the Grey first line and the Cobalt distribution line, within which were developed Orange sportswear as well as jeans and licenses to market accessories and perfumes. Fashion that is chic and wearable, for women, continues to be characterized by precious fabrics and excellent tailoring for the “gourmets” of elegance.
Shares worth 51% of the company, valued at €81.3 million, are acquired by the Italian group Fin.part., whose majority shareholder (29.52%) is Gianluigi Facchini. For Cerruti, the strategic objectives are the repositioning of the products, the segmentation into new market niches, and the renegotiation of licenses. The Collections, whose creative director is Nino Cerruti and who remains the company’s president, are to go in two directions: formal clothing and sportswear. The distribution network has 4 privately-owned shops and 60 franchises.
For the movie American Psycho (U.S., 2000) from the book written by Bret Easton Ellis (1991), the costume designer Isis Mussenden asks Nino Cerruti to produce clothes in the style of the 1980s. In the film, New York’s yuppies, and especially the extravagant protagonist, Patrick Bateman, who works on Wall Street, wear only impeccably tailored suits. The very large shoulders, pleated trousers, and narrow ties brought back the style of a past decade. For Bateman, a cashmere Winter coat that longer than usual was used to stress the extremes of his maniacal personality.
The brand’s revenues in the first 9 months are €61.5 million, with a gross operative margin of minus €3 million.
In order to implement the reorganization plan, 32 positions are eliminated. The objective is to rationalize the structure of the Italian and French companies which comprise the Cerruti Group.
The resources of Fin.part are concentrated on Cerruti, which must be managed as a brand and not as a griffe. The designer Roberto Menichetti leaves. The new team is composed of Istvan Francer, who is to design the first line, supported by Samantha Sung, who is to work on women’s wear, and Adrian Smith, who is to work on men’s wear. The brand has three lines: Cerruti, Cerruti 1881, and Cerruti Jeans.
Fin.part acquires the remaining 49% of the firm, for €79 million.
In Florence, during Pitti Immagine Uomo, Cerruti offers, along with the Jeans and 1881 Spring-Summer 2003 Collections, the new distribution service R.E.S., Retail Excellence Service. The objective is superior speed in service plus the firm’s high production standards. The entirety is represented by a stage set with 230 small glass bottles containing 230 gold fish signifying the 230 Cerruti points-of-sale around the world.
At Milano Moda Uomo, the Collection returns to its original name, Cerruti 1881. Starting with Spring-Summer 2004, all the lines will have a unique brand, in order to reinforce the tradition connected with the logo 1881. For the time being, the restyling is concerned with Grey (the first line), Cobalt (the distribution line), and Orange (the sportswear line), in addition to the products under license, from accessories to fragrances. Every line is to show the same black label with a different colored mark (grey, cobalt, or orange).
The retail development continues. After Stockholm, Athens, Birmingham, Riyadh, and Cosenza, the first boutique in Madrid is opened, with 3,500 square feet on Calle Velasquez in the total Cerruti style, with white opaque crystal walls. Available are the first men’s and women’s lines, Cerruti 1881, and the Jeans line, plus accessories and perfumes. The next openings are in Dubai and Chester, and for the following year Panama, Bucharest, and Bordeaux. The boutiques in Abu Dhabi and Paris (4,000 square feet on Avenue de l’Opéra) are reserved only for the men’s lines.
Facchini, the principal shareholder of Fin.part, which at June 30th 2002 had accumulated a debt of €510 million, reaffirms that he intends to bet on Cerruti, from which he anticipates new products.
Sophisticated and very feminine, although tough and witty: that is the woman imagined for Cerruti by Istvan Francer – a tapered and slender silhouette, tight bodices with large necks, stirrup slacks tucked into boots, short black dresses, low-necked and strapless, or else Empire with a gold or crystal-embroidered T-shirt; small and tight soft leather tops to wrap the breasts, with tight skirts. But also, in a game of contrasts: large capes; long redingote cloaks, wide and flared; overcoats that flutter about, covered with feathers.
The revenues for the first quarter of Cerruti clothing are €24.8 million, an increase of 12.2%, while the gross operating margin is €2.7 million, an increase of 58.8%.
After only two seasons, Istvan Francer, the designer of the women’s line, quits Cerruti. His place is taken by the young Colombian David Cardona. At the men’s line, the position of Adrian Smith is reconfirmed. The Scottish designer had joined Cerruti in 2002, after working for Gianfranco Ferré Uomo, the Gucci Men’s Line, and Chiara Boni’s women’s line. Renewing a relationship with Los Angeles, in May Cerruti opens a boutique on Rodeo Drive that is dedicated to the men’s and women’s Collections Cerruti and Cerruti 1881, and to fragrances and accessories.
At Milano Moda Uomo, there is a cowboy atmosphere for the Cerruti man interpreted by Adrian Smith who wears a trench coat like those worn by Clint Eastwood, in waxed and pre-washed cotton instead of horsehide. The classic overalls no longer have a front bib but are fastened at the waist like a sash.