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Founded in 1949 by Francesco Bacci, Manifatture 7 made its mark as Italy’s first ever denim manufacturer. Two generations later, his grandson Guido Biondi would revive the imprint and lead it with the same authenticity and enthusiasm his grandfather did 60 years before him. Under President’s, Biondi’s foray into the denim and fashion industry has seen much success, aptly merging traditional aesthetics with contemporary outlooks; President’s collections brings forth the know-how of Tuscan manufacturing while employing modern prints and designs over well-fitted silhouettes. While Biondi culls his fabrication from across the world — cotton from Colombia, selvage denim from Japan and American vegetable-tanned leather — the same accustomed Italian training is employed throughout the production, proudly signing each collection off with an unyielding “Made in Italy” philosophy. Fittingly adapting the elegant profiles pioneered by his elders in contemporary examples of streetwear sophistication, President’s collections have found a commonality between retro and modern. While in between the triumph, President’s has also been met with its fair share of friction — one being the fluctuating economy that has been cast over the Italian industry — yet with Biondi’s acute leadership at its helm, the brand’s legacy is accelerating at an unfaltering rate. Here, the creative director shares with us the overview of his label, the balance between tradition and innovation, and the influence China has on fashion manufacturing.
Can you introduce yourself and your role at President’s?
I’m Guido Biondi, born in Florence, where I spent my childhood between huge piles of denim, patterns and sewing machines, in the family clothing factory. After I finished my fashion design studies in the Polimoda Institute of Florence, I entered the family business in which I work now as creative director. My great passion for the vintage world – especially towards jeans and work clothing, and the love for the finest fabrics – have brought me to revive in 2010 the old family brand President’s that was originally registered in 1957 by our grandfather, but set aside for 60 years. In this brand I represent the essence of all my passions.
Can you provide an overview of your company structure?
Manifatture 7 Bell, which is the umbrella brand above President’s was founded in 1949 by my grandfather, the first jeans manufacturer in Italy. Me and my brother Niccolò, the CEO, represent the third generation of the family leading the company. Within the headquarters we have a whole department for designing, tailoring and sample production, in which the sample collections and small productions are made. The main production happens elsewhere, always in Italy.
Being almost completely in charge of President’s, you oversee nearly all aspects of President’s. What are the benefits/detriments to this approach?
The greatest thing is to have the complete freedom to guide the brand in the direction that’s in line with my vision, and to be able to choose the channels through which let people know of the brand. The heavy dual responsibility to simultaneously create and manage certainly brings a lot of stress, as the negative side.
“The greatest thing is to have the complete freedom to guide the brand in the direction that’s in line with my vision, and to be able to choose the channels through which let people know of the brand.”
Guido Biondi speaks about the benefits of overseeing nearly all aspects of President’s
President’s has a great successful experience in the fashion industry. Regards of those experiences, what are some of the most difficult things you’ve faced in the expansion of President’s?
The brand name and the original identity were left passive for almost 60 years, and were brought to light in 2010 through my first President’s collection, and from that moment on the brand’s soul has a physical form. The expansion and its challenges were not so much tied only to the brand itself, but also to the difficult economical period, especially in Italy, that brings a lot of difficulties in getting any kind of expansion to succeed. Certainly the attention for the quality and the thorough research of the materials and details – the principals of the brand – have contributed to the success in inserting the brand into a niche market that has been less affected by the crisis.
From the beginning stages to now, how have you seen the company’s atmosphere change?
In 2012 we inaugurated the new HQ, in which rough glass, steel and resin materials form well-lit spaces – ideal as a hub of new ideas. We have now showrooms that are able to emphasize the materials and the various ranges of colors of the new collections. The new structure, able to open up to new markets, has been studied in order to create a more fluid workflow and to let us concentrate more on the creative process.
What’s been the brand’s biggest impact and legacy on fashion?
Manifatture 7 Bell has certainly created and built a huge legacy of know-how that we have inherited, and the generations after us will do too. It’s quintessential to incorporate the knowledge of tradition, like the fabrics and the construction of the clothing item in a modern vision and personal streetwear.
“It’s quintessential to incorporate the knowledge of tradition, like the fabrics and the construction of the clothing item in a modern vision and personal streetwear.”
Guido Biondi speaks about the brand’s biggest impact and legacy on fashion
Production in China has become a trend, what do you think of the Italian craftsmanship tradition?
China has been for long – and is getting even more – an important country for the worldwide production. Who wants to make a difference, and to maintain higher standards, has to produce where they share the same values, like in Italy. I do so for President’s.
How do you feel about the current “Made in Italy” label? Do you feel that it has come under attack in recent years and lost a bit of meaning?
Made in Italy is still a synonym for quality, even though many brands are abusing this term without respecting the true value of it, while producing in other countries. Luckily, the quality of an item that’s been made really well can be sensed from the collections that are truly made in Italy, starting from the finishings to the way it’s ironed.
What is the balance of tradition and innovation to you?
In the President’s collection we value the balance that is established between the world of tradition determined by the choice of fabrics and garment construction, and the world of innovation highlighted by modern fit, matching colors and innovative fabrics.
For President’s’ Fall/Winter 2013-14 collection, where do your inspirations come from?
From the combination of two worlds, that are seemingly very different: the sartoriality and military clothing. I took the functionality of the military clothing and mixed it with the perfection of tailored clothing, creating a mixture of technical clothing with materials that breath traditions.
“Made in Italy is still a synonym for quality, even though many brands are abusing this term, without respecting the true value of it, while producing in other countries.”
Guido Biondi speaks about the current “Made in Italy” label