Confidently rooted in its Italian sartorial heritage and savoir-faire, Milan-based menswear label Pal Zileri has taken an ambitious leap forward into the future. Founded in 1980 by a pair of Italian garment entreprenuers, the brand gradually grew into a global enterprise which has established itself as one of the most recognisable Italian menswear labels. Nevertheless, the brand became, as current creative director Mauro Ravizza Krieger described it, “a bit dusty” over the years, during a meeting I had with him in the recently refurbished Pal Zileri London flagship store last week. As part of the brand’s global rebranding operation, the luxurious Bond Street store was given a complete makeover, in order to reflect its new core philosophy and aesthetic: Avant-Craft, "a concept encapsulated by a contemporary approach to a timeless tradition.”
Ravizza Krieger joined Pal Zileri in 2014, after its majority share was acquired by Qatar-based company Mayhoola for Investments. At the time, Pal Zileri was producing only formal menswear and its overall image was rather neglected and yet in just one year, the brand has been transformed completely, both in terms of product design and visual identity. As Ravizza Krieger explains, the whole endeavour proved to be a rather challenging task: “When I proposed a few radical changes in internal affairs and some new cuts for the clothes, everyone’s first reaction was fear. But we have overcome that phase now. The biggest challenge in this whole project so far has been to change the mentality inside the company, and at the same time communicate the brand’s new DNA to the market.”
In order to propel the brand’s evolution, finding a concept which concisely encapsulated Pal Zileri’s new philosophy was crucial, which is exactly how the Avant-Craft concept was born, as the brand’s two aspects —namely, traditional craftsmanship and avant-garde creativity— are now merged. These principles are eloquently conveyed in the brand’s back-to-basics AW15 campaign, starring British actor Morgan Watkins - as well as in its recently-unveiled SS16 collection, which is full of graphic patterns inspired by kinetic art. Striking a harmonious balance between sporty comfort and formal sobriety, the kinetic-art reference behind this new collection aptly conveys the sense of momentum, equilibrium and beauty that Pal Zileri now stands for.
Art has a very special place in the Pal Zileri newborn universe, but not in a rigid, institutionalised way. The brand constantly keeps an eye on younger generations of artists and on “what is moving” in contemporary culture. The brand’s relationship with the arts commences with a collaboration with two young international artists, namely British multi-media artist Amba Sayal-Bennett and Italian painter Matteo Callegari. Inspired by notation, geometric shapes and her everyday life, Sayal-Bennett assembles small individual elements into symmetrical compositions using flat surfaces, three-dimensional objects and projections of light. Meanwhile, Callegari creates abstract canvases with a rich, tactile surface, inspired by his adopted home of New York, all the while deploying neon colours and contrasting layers that create a sense of depth. Works by Sayal-Bennett and Callegari were acquired by Pal Zileri and installed in its London flagship store in tandem with last week’s Frieze Art Fair. For creative director Ravizza Krieger, Sayal-Bennett’s work in particular perfectly captures the spirit of Avant-Craft, particularly in the way she combines isolated elements to create a whole, “much like the cut pattern for a suit”, as he explains.
Not only will these artworks take the form of unique in-store exhibitions, but by collaborating with up-and-coming international artists on a global scale, Pal Zileri aims to curate and build a contemporary portfolio that will become part of the brand’s heritage, specifically conceived to be housed in Pal Zileri stores around the world.