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Words by Mr Adam Welch

19 November 2015

Long a cult-casual outfitter for magazine insiders, Aspesi steps out of the shadows for this limited-edition collaboration.

There is a coterie of brands out there that might not have a prominent logo or a 100,000-strong Instagram following, but who are continually name-dropped by the stylish elite. Aspesi is one of them. Founded in 1969 by Milanese entrepreneur and designer Mr Alberto Aspesi, who still runs the business, it specialises in the kind of understated, yet meticulously designed smart-casual clothes that you want, but also genuinely need, such as unstructured blazers, both in traditional and technical fabrics. And sleek, lightweight outerwear in Japanese nylon, perfect for nipping about the city as winter comes on. And high-quality denim shirts. And cashmere-mix sweaters. Mr Scott Schuman, aka The Sartorialist, is a borderline-evangelical fan, describing Aspesi as “one of my first stops in Milan when I go shopping”. So is editor and creative director Mr Nick Vinson, who, in an article for _Wallpaper* _in 2011, called it “the secret of the chic Milanese”.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is pretty much everything that we at MR PORTER have been able to dig up about Aspesi on the internet. Or by calling the press office (strictly speaking, there isn’t one). If you scroll far down the Google results, you can glean a bit more info, via the brand’s history of inventive, iconoclastic advertising campaigns, or frequent assertions that it issues clothes as and when it wants to, ignoring the traditional fashion calendar. But that’s as far as it goes. It’s a level of mystery that’s almost unheard of in these highly connected times, which testifies to the fact that when people describe Aspesi as “an insider brand” or a “secret”, they aren’t joking. In fact, before the early 2000s, when its products became available online (both through its own e-commerce-enabled site and partners such as MR PORTER), they were only rarely available outside Italy, which means that historically it has only been worn by those clued-up and jetset enough to treat Milan the way we would treat our local high street.

It’s with considerable excitement, therefore, that we present the fruits of our first exclusive collaboration with Aspesi. “This is the first time the brand has ever done anything like this, and we are very proud to partner with them,” says Ms Robyn Ferris, Junior Buyer at MR PORTER, who applauds Aspesi for its constant “focus on fabric innovation”. To develop the collection, Ms Ferris took a trip to Milan to visit Aspesi’s capacious archives, selecting key fabrics from the company’s past to incorporate into the new pieces, which mix traditional tailoring textiles such as Harris Tweed and bouclé wool with the thoroughly modern technical fabrics that are an Aspesi trademark. “We wanted the capsule [collection] to be a juxtaposition between past and present; using its amazing archive and mixing this with modern-day Aspesi fabrics and technologies,” says Ms Ferris.

The collection itself riffs on some signature Aspesi designs: the down-filled overshirt (here embellished with Harris Tweed); the chambray shirt; the lightweight, zip-through jacket. In each piece, the archive fabrics have been ingeniously incorporated into these trans-seasonal styles. “Some of these fabrics make up a full garment, for example, the field jacket and gilets,” says Ms Ferris. “In others, there are contrast trims and patch pockets, or they’re completely reversible, which is in plaid flannel with nylon on the reverse.”

Because this capsule collection relies on archival materials, each piece is strictly limited – once we’re out, we’re out. It feels appropriate really, this scarcity, given the general air of cultiness that seems to surround the brand. Which, of course, is a roundabout way of saying: if you want a piece of this, add to bag now.

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