BRIGHT: Ideas from Massimo Osti

In last month’s issue of Dutch magazine BRIGHT (April/May 2010), an extensive article by Paul

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In last month’s issue of Dutch magazine BRIGHT (April/May 2010), an extensive article by Paul Dezentjé involved a pioneer in the relationship of fabrics and fashion, Massimo Osti. The founder of seminal technical fashion brands such as Stone Island and C.P. Company, the article showcased the comprehensive nature of Osti’s approach to fabric development and design. Many of Osti’s greatest works are highlighted including the Ice Jacket which was characterized by a changing material from solid to camo print based on the temperature as well as the famed Goggle Jacket that was re-issued last year. Excerpts of the article can be seen below while the full translated piece can be seen at FOUND_NYC.

Dye bath

The Italian clothing designer Massimo Osti (1944-2005) created groundbreaking fashion works during the 1980’s and 90’s by combining his revolutionary textile innovations and painting techniques, with functional ideas from mainly military clothing. The combination of new materials, colours, functional aspects and magnificent details, characterize Osti’s work. Originality and functionality are the mainstay of his story. This made Stone Island and C.P. irresistible for many people. Five years after his death, Massimo is still an important source of inspiration for everyone who is involved in making clothing. Without knowing it, each and every one of us probably owns an item that was somehow influenced by Osti.

Because of trademark issues Osti changed the name to C.P. Company in 1981. A year later Osti produced his first collection for his new brand Stone Island. Osti’s wife Daniela came up with the name, ‘Isola di Pietra’ in Italian. In Stone Island (SI) Massimo had the perfect brand to execute many of his ideas. The brand, with its highly recognizable label on the left sleeve, evolved into what might be the most innovative clothing brand ever. During the eighties and nineties, today’s head of design at G-STAR, Pierre Morisset, owned several clothing stores, he was a big client of Osti. “As a shop owner I really enjoyed it when his new collection arrived, beautiful products which actually sold themselves even though their prices were high. It was so beautiful, so highly qualitative and after many years it only became more so. It never bored your customers and there are very few products with that exceptional class”.

Osti turned the textile industry on its head with his innovations. He processed glass, brass and steel1 in his fabrics and was far ahead of his time. The innovation started in the early seventies for Osti, who was a graphic designer at the time. He experimented with printing techniques on textile and brought the serigraph, four-colour printing and the photocopy to T-shirt design. This was new at the time, and printers were reluctant to do it for him but it became successful, as we now know. While Osti was already experimenting further with fabrics and colours he discovered the effect of a one-dye bath on fabrics made of two different fibres. This became Osti’s first important textile innovation: il tinto in capo, or garment dye. Tjerk Brink, who has been SI and CP agent in the Netherlands since 1979, vividly remembers this: “Osti made a jacket in a fabric that consisted of two different fibres, canvas and nylon. He put the complete jacket into a red dye bath. Canvas and nylon react differently to the dye, providing a very special effect. That is basically what tinto was. It was a huge innovation at the time but a standard procedure in fashion ever since”.

Temperature sensitive

In 1987 Osti came up with a revolutionary SI-product, the Ice Jacket. This jacket changed under the influence of temperature change, a principle based upon a highly technical temperature sensitive material. Harry Wonder, owner of clothing store The Globe in Arnhem: “The first winter version of the Ice Jacket was white and changed to blue as soon as it became colder, that was an unprecedented revolution”. Antonella Sevini has worked with Osti for over 30 years and remembers how he tested the first Ice Jackets personally: “In and out of the cold sea water for hours and hours to see if it reacted as he wanted it to. That was Massimo, working solo until it was perfect”. Pierre Morisset also remembers the first colour changing jackets vividly: “It was technically very special, it went far beyond innovation, this was absolutely to the moon! Osti was the first to apply such a highly technical principle in clothing, he was an architect, an engineer.”

The Ice Jacket astonished the clothing industry worldwide. Osti gained respect from contemporary designers such as Giorgio Armani and Paul Smith and celebrities like Sting who turned out to be huge fans (and later collaborated with Osti on the Rainforest Foundation line of clothing). At his peak in the early nineties Osti opened a C.P. Company store in the Flatiron building in New York. Meanwhile he worked on his next innovation, the Reflective Jacket, which he presented in 1991. With this jacket he evolutionized the dynamics of reflective strips from firemen’s uniforms into a jacket that was made completely of reflective material (available in red, yellow, silver, blue or green) and that also protected against electro-magnetic fields. This had never been done before, industrial garments for Bering Sea crab fishermen transformed into designer clothes! Lorenzo: “These jackets contained a layer of minuscule glass particles. Just imagine, glass in clothing, that was Massimo!”

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