Words by Mr Mansel Fletcher
If you suspect that men in Italy enjoy a quality of life that the rest of us can only dream of then our photographic record of a day spent with four guys from Slowear will confirm your prejudice.
Based in the northeastern corner of the country, just outside the city of Venice, where we shot this story, Slowear has come to define a sophisticated off-duty look with an international appeal, but a distinctly Italian character. The brand feels very contemporary, but the company's history goes back 60 years, as president Mr Roberto Compagno explains. "We started in 1951, when my father started producing trousers," he says, "and that was all we did for 50 years. At the beginning we worked as a producer for big companies, but in the 1970s we started with our trousers brand, Incotex."
The market was divided into young men who wore jeans, and more elegant men. We proposed a new casual style that was more sophisticated with better fabrics and a range of colours
The ambition for Incotex was not simply to produce new styles of trousers, but to pioneer a whole new way of dressing. "Why we started was simple," remembers Mr Compagno. "Back then the market was divided into young men who wore jeans, and more elegant men who went to very different boutiques. We proposed a new casual style that was more sophisticated, with better fabrics and in a wide range of colours. We concentrated on the fit, looking every season to see what was changing."
Following the logic dictated by the success of Incotex's single product line Slowear decided, in the early 2000s, to expand its range of clothes, but without compromising its specialism. To achieve this it bought three existing Italian brands, each of which already enjoyed a great reputation - Zanone for knitwear, Montedoro for jackets and Glanshirt for shirts. Mr Compagno explains what happened next: "The style of the clothes was already similar because the look was sophisticated, and then we worked on the products the same way we had with the trousers, improving the fit and doing research on the materials."
The four brands are produced separately, to ensure that the unique know-how possessed by each isn't compromised, but they are united by a common aesthetic. Mr Campagno says, "The way to dress has changed. We used to dress more formally for work, in ties, shirts and jackets, but our idea is to be elegant in comfortable garments. However, this isn't classic, because classic is close to old. We're about good design that you can wear for a long time." Logos are notable for their absence, with good reason. "We don't use a lot of branding, because we have in mind a consumer with a personality," he says.
We're about good design that you can wear for a long time
Rather than focus on branding, Slowear's emphasis is on its clothes. "We think about trousers every day," says Mr Compagno. "We work on a lot of new materials, we're always looking for new interlinings and new ways to increase the comfort - the product must be perfect inside and out. Everything is important, because you only appreciate the quality after the tenth time you wear something - then you can appreciate the buttons, or the waistband." Because Slowear is a family-owned company it takes a long-term view with regard to production.
Mr Compagno explains, "We could save money producing in the Far East, but then our clothes would be the same as 90% of the products on the market - we'd lose our originality and what makes us special." One of the things that makes the brand special is its name, which owes an obvious debt to the Slow Food movement, which originated in Italy in 1986, defines itself by its opposition to fast food, and is dedicated to the promotion of locally produced, high-quality seasonal food. "The philosophy for us is that it's better to buy a quality garment that you can wear for longer," says Mr Compagno. "Rather than buying three pieces of rubbish you can only wear for one season."
This approach informs both the design and the production of the Slowear clothes. "With our consumer we don't need big changes every season, just little by little we introduce new styles - the changes are invisible but the customers appreciate being updated. "The fit may change over the years but the aesthetic remains the same. In Mr Compagno's words, "The look is understated, it's more style than fashion."
With thanks to Hotel Danieli, Venice. danielihotelvenice.com