Carlo Rivetti: An interview with Stone Island's CEO


This feature originally appeared in Issue Seven of Umbrella

There are few clothing brands that have Stone Island’s cachet. For men who consider themselves modernists in the truest sense, the label’s philosophy of experimentation, innovation and exploration chimes with them perfectly. It is clothing that makes the wearer instinctively <feel right>. 

After 30 years of producing some of the most influential garments in men's fashion, Stone Island have come up with something really special: Archivo ’982 ’012, a weighty, beautifully shot book of the brand's most iconic clothes. From the earliest garments dreamed up by genius designer Massimo Osti to the brilliant work of the mid 2000s, the book is as much a record of period of time as it is a history of one brand.

Here, we speak to Stone Island CEO Carlo RIvetti about what the brand means to him, its position in the canon of Italian design and what the future holds for it. Overleaf, we look in detail at the clothes that have so inspired us down the years. 

Umbrella: Ciao, Carlo. What are your five favourite pieces from the new Stone Island book? 

Carlo Rivetti: A difficult question. I prefer to talk about the team instead of the single player. I’m a father of two sons and a daughter and I love them in the same way – I don’t have a favourite one! With my garments it’s the same. All of them have a story and they’re all special. I’d say that the  <Archivio ’982 ’012> book is like a family album to me.

U:What is the purpose of Stone Island today?

CR: Stone Island is about research, experimentation, function and use. It’s a sportswear brand that carries on an ongoing investigation, through and without frontiers, on the processing and ennobling of fibres and textiles, leading to the discovery of materials and production techniques never used before in clothing.

We test a lot on dyeing and treatments in our internal colour laboratory. It’s a department able to combine advanced technology, experience and human capacity, and has developed more than 60,000 different dyeing recipes throughout these 30 years.

We also study uniforms and workwear. Our archive is very a strong point of reference. I believe that our insatiable curiosity and the continuous sounding of the present and the tension towards possible future scenarios are the conditions for Stone Island’s continuous evolution. We always look forward!

 U: Why are your clothes still so popular?

CR: Why“still”? We’ve just started! First, our fans understand the functionality and research into fabric and treatments that we’ve always carried out. A Stone Island garment does the job: it protects, it keeps you warm, but it’s also very handsome to wear, very masculine. All of this and our removable badge on the left arm make Stone Island pieces recognizable, iconic. When you’re wearing Stone Island you feel proud.

 U: As your original buyers age, will you change your clothes to suit them? Or can your clothes be worn by anyone, regardless of age?

CR: As soon as Stone Island was born, the brand had great success. The ’80s were great years for us! Customers, who used to buy Stone Island 30 years ago, are still customers to this day. A lot of them know almost everything about us.

 A few years ago I understood that the new generation didn’t have all this knowledge and didn’t fully understand the brand. So I decided to engineer the collection in a more complete way. It wasn’t meant to be a shift but a more organic and layered approach.

Firstly, we worked on the product itself and use of the garments, paying more attention by giving a ‘Stone Island feel’ to the lighter families of product. Then we worked on the communication side, to fulfil people’s need to get more information about Stone Island, advertising in <Gazzetta dello Sport>, the Italian daily newspaper totally dedicated to sports – all Italian males read it! 

We also started talking with people through the internet, a truly amazing tool. Stone Island, its history and the value of our products are now known by younger people. Young people are quick and clever, they understand when you have a true story of product, quality and passion. So now we’re worn by a far broader range of people.  

 U: What are Stone Island's great inspirations at the moment?

CR: We get inspired by people, architecture, design. At present we’re currently studying some materials used in the car industry. During the Olympics, the outfits the athletes wear are very technical which is also inspirational. Everything inspires us.

 U:  Where does Stone Island fit in the tradition of Italian design?

CR: The heritage of my country’s culture is very important. I am the eighth generation of my family working with textiles, so the roots are really strong! Also, since the beginning, our headquarters have been in Ravarino, a small town near Bologna. It’s in the countryside and the relationship with the land there is really strong. Twenty kilometres away from us is the distretto  – an industrial zone of cars: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Bugatti, De Tomaso and if you need a motorcycle, Ducati. This is an area that produces dreams, not mere products. Italians are good at this.

 U: What makes you proud about Stone Island after 30 years in business?

I’ll tell you a couple of things that makes me proud. In June, to celebrate the brand’s anniversary, we produced <Stone Island 30>,  a retrospective exhibition that took place in Florence’s 19th Century Stazione Leopolda.

The exhibition included over 200 pieces from the archives, divided in 10 thematic areas staged in some breathtaking settings, representing the innumerable treatments, tests and processes that were required to create them. Entering and walking through the exhibition was very emotional. I saw there in a very clear way the continuity within the Stone Island story. This made me feel really proud. 

U: And the other thing? 

CR: My customers! Just to give you an example: there is an Italian drummer. Every time he’s on tour, as soon as he arrives in a city, he visits our points of sale and sends me a postcard with a note about the shop and the products. After a few postcards, we met and now chat regularly over email. I was really happy to see him at the opening of the exhibition. We also had quite a lot of people attend from abroad, mainly the UK, that visited Florence because of the exhibition. Can you see the point? My customers are special!

Carlo Rivetti: An interview with Stone Island's CEO Comments

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