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January 20, 2022

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Nino Cerruti, @lanificiocerruti Instagram

In the middle of the twentieth century, young Nino Cerruti, then a student of philosophy and journalism, dreamed of pursuing a career in journalism after graduation. But at the age of twenty, his carefree student life with a clear idea of the future suddenly changed: after his father passed away, he was forced to take over the family company Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti. He was then required to end his studies and dedicate himself to a career as a textile industrialist. He committed himself to studying fashion and the business of it, and his aspirations to become a journalist undoubtedly helped him. Therefore, Cerruti was unable to pursue his dream of becoming a journalist, but, looking back, we can only be thankful that his life played out differently from his youthful desires. Indeed, seventy years later, Nino Cerruti left this world, and it is undeniable that he was the pioneer of the Made in Italy style revolution and the greatest Italian fashion visionary (privately very modest, which is why he would probably wave his hand at these compliments).

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Nino Cerruti in 1968, photography Ugo Mulas

The Made in Italy style emerged in the 1980s when the traditional production of fashion items developed into a modernized factory luxury product. Nino Cerruti, a designer who coined a phrase to imply superior craftsmanship, was the one who initially brought this revolution in apparel. Fashion encyclopaedist Suzy Menkes claims that Italian fashion should be divided into two periods: before and after the appearance of Cerruti, a duplicitous journalist who not only took control of a prosperous family business producing high-quality textiles in Italy, but also established a fashion brand. Signor Nino decidedly took this creative risk and created something that was not known until then–a style called casual chic. He specifically devoted himself to producing high-quality clothing, using the materials from the family factory to make coats, jackets, and shirts, with an emphasis on men's suits.


Nino Cerruti spring/summer 1977


Nino Cerruti Resort 1977

His success was based on a strong sensibility for fashion, not just on typical textile manufacturing (which the family business perfected). Cerruti's greatness is difficult to describe with a series of superlatives, but it is undeniable when we consider that he created Giorgio Armani, a person who fundamentally altered the way we think about the art of getting dressed. Cerruti hired the young Armani in 1964, giving him the opportunity to express himself as a designer of the men's collection. This was Armani's first task in the world of the fashion, and only six years later he founded his own brand. Together, they invented the deconstructed jacket in 1964, modernizing the formerly rigidly defined jacket by making it "lighter" and making a more versatile piece of clothing. In short, they revolutionized men's clothing.
Hitman advertisment from 1959

Cerruti's first men's ready-to-wear line, Hitman, from 1957, is considered a revolution in men's clothing, and ten years later a women's line was introduced, which was equally successful. At that time, Milan was not yet known as the Italian capital of fashion, which is why Signor Cerruti opened his first boutique in Paris, where he also debuted his haute couture collection. He gained notoriety by designing the costumes for more than 130 movies, primarily Hollywood productions. He established stores in London, Milan, Tokyo, and New York over the years, but up until the end of his fashion career, he was primarily concerned with making high-quality garments that people would feel at ease wearing. The fabric production division, Lanificio Cerruti, specifically, lasted until 2001, when Signor Nino was forced to find partners to integrate with big fashion conglomerates during a crisis that threatened many family-run companies.

Cerruti defined the concept of style as the ideal fusion of culture and art. He ran away from the idea of elegance, which for him represented a terrible old taste. If only we could –even for a short time–discuss it and clarify this paradox with a creative genius and a passionate man of remarkable vision, taste, and style, whom we would be among the first to crown with the term "pure elegance". Be as it may, Cerruti stood out for his entrepreneurial spirit, which in the fashion industry is just as crucial as creativity. After all, this is the only way to ensure that the clothing is worn by the intended recipient and does not languish on the racks at the tailor's shop, lost to time and forgotten.


Nino Cerruti with models in 1977
(Fairchild Archive)

Cerruti was fascinated with both creation and the sociological perspective of clothing. Signor Nino created personal, relaxed, and breezy clothing. Garments that give a sense of satisfaction. He said that he does not like fashion photos in which models look miserable, alluding to forced shots that distort reality and naturalness. He was believed that the purpose of the fashion industry was to help people feel good and at ease in their clothing so they could express their pleasures.  Cerruti designed for himself: each prototype of a new garment was first worn by himself, and he only gave the finished product to clients after being certain that it functioned as intended. Therefore, if for no other reason, Cerruti should be remembered for his attitude that nonchalance is a fundamental element in creating a certain style: "When you want to be elegant at all costs, then you become an object of laughter", he stated.


Fotografija Simone Ubertino Rosso
@simoneubertinorosso Instagram

With the departure of Cerruti, the culture of a time also disappears. We didn't just lose a brilliant visionary, an outstanding designer, and a mentor whom many thank for his support and opening opportunities. His modesty in everything he did proves his greatness and confirms that only hard work leads to real results. If someone is the creator of the art of getting dressing, then let that title go to him–to Nino Cerruti. Fortunately, his thoughts, which we had the honour of hearing, remain written down, and he also leaves us a legacy of clothing items that marked the Cerruti era and the creation of the Made in Italy revolution. It remains to be hoped that Cerruti's colleagues will continue to pass on his form of visionary mentorship to new generations, to whom Signor Nino said: "Today more than ever, we must have the courage to surprise, restart our imagination and that something incredible". Thank you, Signor Nino, and adio!

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