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Massimo Osti Studio: Q&A with Lorenzo Osti

We take an in depth look at the late, great Massimo Osti's legendary studio practices and design process!

Earlier this year we caught up with Lorenzo Osti, C.P. Company President and son of the infamous Massimo Osti: designer, creator & mastermind of C.P. Company + Stone Island. Lorenzo Osti sat down for a chat with us to discuss in detail the studio practices and design process of his father and also how this has influenced his work with Paul Harvey and Alessendro Pungetti at C.P. Company today. Keep reading below to check out the Q&A with Lorenzo Osti and get our breakdown of Massimo Osti Studio!


The Showroom: Hi Lorenzo, we hope you are well and firstly we would like to congratulate you, Paul Harvey, Alessendro Pungetti and the team on another great season at C.P. Company! We wanted to ask you some questions about your father, Massimo Osti's studio practices for design & fabric development and also how that has influenced your work with C.P. Company today. Massimo's approach to design was widely recognized as unorthodox and forward thinking, did he have a universal starting point for beginning new designs?     

Lorenzo Osti: It's a pleasure, thank you for your interest and support to the brand! Yes, one and only one, his archive. He always started every new collection with a walk in the archive to get ideas and inspirations from the many garments he collected over his career.

The Showroom: After beginning work on new designs when would Massimo begin making prototypes and would these prototypes be full production quality jackets or just patterns to gauge shape and develop his ideas?

Lorenzo Osti: I need to say first that I never worked with my father. I got into this business only once he passed away, to keep his memory alive! That said, I don’t have many first hand details about his working process, but I used to pass time in his Studio, so I can tell you that he usually started from an archival piece, on which he put some photocopies, creating a sort of patchwork. This “draft” was then designed on paper by someone from his team and sent for prototyping. I remember that prototypes were very far away from the final production: they often used spare fabrics and accessories, so you would have needed a very good eye to imagine the final result from the first stages of prototyping!


The Showroom: Judging from the archive images of Massimo's studios they look like some form of organized chaos! As with most geniuses this is often the case, do you have any funny stories around this organized chaos from your time at your father’s studios over the years?  Lorenzo Osti: To me, it was just chaos. Of course, he felt at ease in that environment, that was the way he wanted to work. But for someone who had the chance to walk in, it was just a mess. With fabrics, accessories and sketches on every flat surface, from tables to scaffolds or the floor. Many times you would hear things falling over from being piled too high or lack of space on the floor! The Showroom: Did Massimo make any major changes to his studio processes throughout his career? i.e. technological advances or new influences prompting a switch. Lorenzo Osti: Not really. He tried to move into digital design with the first graphic application in the early 80's, but he never really left his traditional way of working. He felt comfortable with his processes. He did though experiment heavily with the early days of the internet for promotional purposes but not for design. The Showroom:  Massimo built his brands around developing groundbreaking new materials, do you think there is still enough emphasis put on pushing fabric research in today's industry? Lorenzo Osti: The focus of fabric research and innovation has been in the DNA of very few fashion brands even in the 80's and 90's, C.P. Company and Stone Island more than most others. I think now there is more interest in fabric innovation and seeking of performance than 30 years ago but maybe it seems like less progress is made compared to earlier years as there is less and less that hasn't already been done. The Showroom: Massimo's design processes gave us some amazing, left field silhouettes over the years! Outside of military and workwear did your father have any strange or unexpected influences in the archive/studio? Lorenzo Osti: He was very curious and very open. I could say that everything influenced him and his work. He was seeking for inspiration and ideas from every business field and every aspect of daily life. Of course, military wear and work wear were by far the fields where it was easier to get practical ideas on functionality which was his main direction for design. The Showroom: We know Massimo's design process was heavily influenced by his huge archive of historical garments, in your work with Paul Harvey, Alessendro Pungetti & the design team at C.P. Company have you used the Massimo Osti Archive as a main source of reference or do you, Paul and Alessendro have your own personal reference archives outside of this?   Lorenzo Osti: Paul Harvey and Alessendro Pungetti used some pieces from Massimo Osti Archive, but for sure it was not the only reference. Alessandro has a very interesting archive too, that has been very useful in these years. Paul had a personal archive too, that he sold some years ago. Recently though TRISTATE acquired the full historical C.P. Company archive from Enzo Fusco, that together with Massimo Osti Archive now represent a unique resource of ideas for us. The Showroom: Finally, we can assume that your fathers practices have rubbed off on your work at C.P. Company today, could you tell us one big similarity and one big difference between your working processes? Lorenzo Osti: Well… difficult question! From one side, I decided many years ago not to do my fathers job. In C.P. Company I do not work on the product directly: we have much more talented and expert people than me to do this job. For this reason it’s not easy to make comparison between our working method in a design sense. On the other side, I think me and my father have a similar approach to brands. We both try to have an holistic view: R&D, design, marketing, communication and customer service are all aspects that concur to build a brand identity and they need to be coordinated and connected, because it is the sum of all these aspects - and others- that shape the consumer experience and the brand identity in the mind of the consumer.


The Showroom: Many thanks Lorenzo, it's been a real pleasure and insight to catch up with you today! Grazie mille!

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It was great to catch up with Lorenzo and talk about his fathers studio practices and design process which has spawned some of the most iconic pieces and numerous subcultures over the years! We are going to take a closer look at the bits we discussed with Lorenzo in our Q&A. A perfect place to start has to be the original Massimo Osti Archive, known in circles as the "Mecca" of technical menswear. Massimo Osti can be seen above, standing beside one part of his complex of cargo ship containers which made up the over 35,000 piece Archive which came to be known as the "Mecca". Inside this "Mecca" was Massimo's personal collection of garments which had been amassed over his career starting from his early years of T-Shirt design with his first company Chomp Chomp in late 1968. He ventured out on many trips collecting garments from as close as the markets of Bologna on his doorstep to far flung trips to Japan and Korea. Most of his garments collected for the Archive were of military and work wear origin with some exceptions. Above all though the garments had to be technical and functional, these were the ingredients for Massimo Osti on his quest for garments to fulfill the criteria of absolute efficiency in design and usability. Something which has influenced many of the elements we see in the mainstream today.

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As we heard from Lorenzo, his fathers starting point for his design work was always a walk in the Archive. After selecting a silhouette or style he liked as a first step on the journey to a new design: Massimo would begin adapting the selected piece in to a working model using photocopies. He photocopied everything! From buttons and buckles to pockets and collars. In a way, most of Massimo Osti's designs are borrowed whether it be a fastening from a deep sea divers suit or a pocket from a carpenters jacket he manages to create a perfect blend of fabric innovation mixed with borrowed ideas from functional aspects of garments from his Archive. There were no technical drawings in Massimo's studio which was a huge break from the normal process used by most fashion designers of the time. Using this cut and paste method he was able to jump the design process creating a working model on the spot which was a realistic enough simulation of how the final piece would come to look. This process became a kind of new school of design with many people following suit to this day. The working model would then be taken personally every time by Massimo to the fabric pattern cutter who could see in 1/1 scale exactly the dimensions of the piece which enables them to quickly bring the design to life.

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We spoke to Lorenzo about the chaotic environment that was the Massimo Osti Studio and you can see in the photos above and below just how hectic it was! At one point in the early 90's the studio would have been the hub of design for multiple brands and sub lines including C.P. Company, C.P. Company Baby, Stone Island, Stone Island Marina, Boneville, Left Hand plus various other projects on the side like designing for Vespa, Volvo, Nokia, The Rainforest Foundation and even designing an electric car!! It's easy to see why his studio was described as chaos by Lorenzo. But, in all the chaos like with most geniuses Massimo thrived in this environment and had a system in place to bring some sort of order to these collections. You can see below images of original accessory boards which Massimo used for his brands each season to keep a synergy throughout the whole range with badges, buttons, clasps and labels all laid out in an easy to reference way.

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Fabric research was something that was a huge drive for Massimo Osti throughout his career. When he first entered the fray transitioning from a graphic designer to fashion designer he knew nothing about fabrics or fashion. He did however see a huge hole and would not accept the limited fabrics that the market had to offer. He sets about on his mission to innovate the fashion textile industry! His studios over the years have been more like laboratories with fabric testing and swatches on every surface. He experiments with fabric structure and dying techniques eventually coming to the "Tinto In Capo" method which translates as Garment Dyed, basically meaning the full garment is dyed as one piece. This was something no one in the fashion world was doing at the time but has now become the industry standard. As well as this he was also the first to experiment with combining natural and man made fibers in to one material. He was able to develop these fabrics by jumping the supply chain and going direct to work with the "Greggisti" who were the raw material suppliers for most of the fabrics around at the time, for Massimo fabric became an obsession. He would use these new fabrics exclusively for a season or two then would release them to the scores of other brands who were waiting on Massimo Osti's latest fabric, then he would begin again with a new fabric and so the cycle would continue. Forever moving forwards.

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Massimo Osti was of course an innovator and trail blazer who's influence can be found everywhere, even until today. From the introduction of the casual printed T-Shirt with Chomp Chomp in the 1960's, the Urban Down Jacket with C.P. Company in the 1970's, the Thermosensitive Ice Jacket with C.P. Company & Stone Island in the 1980's and the Reflective Jacket with Stone Island in the 1990's we have seen Osti's imagination and his studio change how people dress and how clothing interacts with its owner in a practical way. In many ways Massimo is the godfather of modern fashion and streetwear who lit the trail for many of the brands and designers that came after him and see him as an inspiration for their work. A special mind who will always be remembered for the work that came out of his studio!


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