Fashion is a world of perfect: measurements for clothing are precise, designs are scrutinized almost as much as the next rocket NASA is sending into space and models are carefully handpicked to evoke the right image for a designers body of work. And in some regards, that perfection is needed, or else we wouldn’t have some of the designs we fawn over on a day to day basis. But the idea that perfection is a universal standard is something rarely challenged – unless you ask Cravatta Pelliano, a Dutch brand that is aiming erase the status quo with their newest ad campaign titled I’MPERFECT, a campaign that uses models usually considered outside the boundaries of traditional perfection: two burn victims, a downhill skiing paraplegic and a field hockey goalkeeper with a handicapped hand, who all maintain a high level of class while dressed in Cravatta Pelliano wears. We recently talked with campaign model Jeroen Bosch and Cravatta Pelliano founder and designer Marin Licina, who believe that “the best dressed men always go dressed as themselves.” We couldn’t agree more.
Marin Licina (Founder & Designer)
You call yourselves the “renegades of Dutch fashion.” Where do you find the inspiration for blazing a new path? What is your ultimate goal for the brand? You combine both Dutch and Italian influences in your clothing. What different aspects do you draw from the two distinctive countries for your designs?
The Dutch culture is a natural melting pot: very eclectic and ready to remix concepts in new ways. Also, the Dutch are culturally very contempt of authority, this is exactly what creative people need – the ability to challenge the status quo.
Italy, for some reason, probably has the best cultural sensitivity to aesthetics of all. Another advantage is that Italian design culture has always been so adept at synergies between the pure Apollonian beauty and high aesthetics on one side and sexual, visceral aspects on the other.
Both cultures are quite playful in their own way, this is also true for the core of Pelliano – we don’t like life to be too organized, strict, we like people to find their own ways.
Where did you find the idea for your new I’MPERFECT campaign?
The best dressed men go dressed as themselves. Your style will always be very dependent on how you carry yourself. Clothes can and do help, but there’s something about some men that’s just magnetic: they have this sense of calm in the storm, alpha male quality. Not of having everything under control, but of being confident that whatever happens, you’ll work it out.
So at one point, we realized that that’s rarely true for the male image fashion presents: it’s either these super-polished, Ken doll kind of men, or these (severely styled) extreme guys. When we asked our friends whether they’d want to be the guys in regular fashion ads, almost everyone said no.
We really believe it’s time for a new, more real aesthetic in menswear. Especially as there are so many democratizing currents in fashion. Thus, we wanted to make a statement: Find real guys who dress amazingy well and look fantastic.
Soon after, the idea popped to our heads to actually look for men with whom there is something ‘wrong’ from a societal point of view. Men who couldn’t be models. Just to polarize the discussion.
The name came later, as we really wanted a short sentence as a banner. And this was ideal – “I’m perfect” or “Imperfect”. You can read it either way.
What do you consider a model of perfection?
Effortless cool. The most cool-looking people seem to be in a state of flow, as if they are in a bubble and outside elements can’t affect them. Like a beam of light: whether it’s shining on a heap of gold or a heap of trash – the beam doesn’t get affected.
Cool can be many things though – a Hell’s Angel on his bike, a suave limousine driver, a southern gentleman going to church on Sunday morning in Alabama, a Shanghai banker… It’s all about looking very, very well in your context and making it seem you don’t even try. Sprezzatura.
I do want to say that I believe perfection is achievable, not some impossible standard. It’s a higher mode you slide in and out of. And people can feel it when it’s there. You could call it ‘the sublime’ as well.
How do you hope to inspire men through such a unique campaign?
Many men we talk to tell us: “I’d like to dress better but I don’t know where to start. I don’t feel like wearing exactly what I see in lookbooks, ads and on display in stores.” – This is a valid issue: there’s so much noise going on that it’s hard for an average guy with limited budget but ambition to dress well to filter things out. Our advice is: find out what works for you. Find out what makes you feel comfortable. Not in a sweatsuit kind of way, but comfortable feeling to face the outside world.
And this is exactly what our 4 men in the I’MPERFECT campaign are. They know how to pull of their own style. And they do it so well, you forget that there’s something ‘wrong with them. Heck, they won’t even let you acknowledge the fact that they are different is a disadvantage.
We hope that men will recognize that quality and realize it’s not about looks, it’s about swag. That if someone with burn scars on their face can get compliments from the ladies for looking good, that it’s not about looking like a model. “I can do this too.”
We want them to aspire to that level of style and confidence, but on the other hand believe it’s achievable. Contrary to reigning fashion ideals.
Where did you find the models for a campaign with such a different purpose than a normal fashion campaign?
Lots of personal networking. You can’t call a modelling agency and ask for a guy who’s missing an arm or is in a wheelchair. But I think the fact that we had such tremendous response is what validates our vision.
We were actually very careful, not to offend the men we approached to model, to make sure they understood why we did this. But they immediately got it – they were enthusiastic about it from the get go.
Of course, people in real life and in pictures look different. So the real struggle was, for our photographer Sascha Varkevisser, to pick out people who are photogenic enough, who would come off as themselves in the picture.
You stress the importance of men being confident with themselves. How does confidence play a role in your designs?
We always design for the bold and individualistic. To an extent, we filter our customers by our designs – people who’re afraid they might stick out by wearing a certain suit won’t buy one of ours.
Our themes are always elegant, masculine and playful. Elegance requires confidence, and so does masculinity. If you think about it, playing definitely requires a kind of confidence as well: most small children don’t care much about what the outside world thinks when they’re busy playing. At some point, most people lose that.
More concretely, our suits and jackets are designed to have pretty strong (but not ridiculous) shoulders and emphasize the male v-shaped torso. Our ties combine a sense of masculine firmness with the way the knitted silk falls, and a vivid color or pattern denotes that playful character. Elegance comes from the materials and the fact that we do adhere to our themes, but we don’t take them too far – it’s not a costume.
Jeroen Bosch (Model)
It’s obvious that you don’t let your “imperfection” define you? So what does define you?
Actually, the same what defines all people. The choices I make in my life, and the friends that surround me.
Where do you find the inspiration for your personal sense of style?
I believe that if you just live your life, your sense of style will slowly take shape. You become influenced by your surroundings, don’t you? Your sense of style must come to represent your personality, so that you feel comfortable in your clothing and that doesn’t mean that you can wear sweat pants all the time, but also that you don’t need to stand hours in front of your mirror. It’s more of an easygoing, just-be-yourself attitude.
What is your model of perfection?
There isn’t one. No one or no thing is perfect. If nothing else, imperfection is perfection. That’s why I choose to participate in the Cravatta Pelliano campaign “I’MPERFECTION”. They get it. We should look beyond the superficialities that indicate ‘perfection’, nowadays, and understand that what is slightly off just makes us more interesting. Differences are perfection.
Has being a model for a fashion campaign changed your everyday life in any way and how?
Yes massively. Since I took to the cameras for Cravatta Pelliano, hordes of girls come running at me all the time now. Really.
No, just joking. It has not been my first time as a model. Though this truly was a nice experience.
How do you hope to inspire people with what you do?
I hope that if people see my photo, they think: “Look at him, he is doing so well”, and then realize that if I can do it, they can do the same. If I can inspire just one person, I got the result I wanted.
What is your source of confidence?
In my opinion, confidence means that your are happy with yourself. And I am. So it flows from within, I guess.
We don’t want to get too preachy, but it seems pretty impossible to hold a narrow view of the menswear world after seeing the brilliance and confidence behind Cravatta Pelliano’s I’MPERFECT campaign. Some inspiration these days is cheap, but it’s evident that this Dutch company knows how to find it in the most interesting of places.