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Sunday, June 21, 2009

A New(ish) Designer With a World of Experience

Antonio Azzuolo's New York-based menswear line is very new (Fall '09 is only its 3rd season), but that doesn't mean Azzuolo is a new designer. This Montreal native has worked his way through the great triumvirate of fashion cities, from Milan (his first stop after studying apparel arts and tailoring in Toronto) to Paris (where he designed for Hermès, Kenzo and Galeries Lafayette) and New York (which, most recently, saw him at the helm of Ralph Lauren's Purple Label and Black Label collections). With so much experience under his belt, it's no wonder his own label already seems fully formed--there's none of the dithering that sometimes plagues other "new" designers.

As Azzuolo himself explains, "Inspiration is like a pyramid. The base is broad and fundamental, like one's past. As you move up to the point, there are flashes of things one sees, seasonal influences." For Fall '09, the designer brought together two opposing forces: a sexy, roped-shouldered silhouette reminiscent of mid-'60s Rolling Stones, and a sober, more gentlemanly style suggested by George Bernard Shaw circa 1950. In Azzuolo's competent hands, this sartorial fusion produced a Big Bang collection of "mismatched" suitings, elegant tweeds and handsome classics, sharpened with touches of Continental tailoring and Parisian flair. His deft use of recycled fur adds hints of dandyism: one vest reverses from lustrous mink to simple wool pinstripes, and even something as ostensibly basic as a pea coat looks more polished with its bold fur collar, tight twill cloth and bright metal buttons.

It takes a mature talent to create interesting menswear that's not outlandish, and to recognize that even fashion consumers don't always want a designer to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes, the most satisfying solution is one that feels vaguely familiar. As Azzuolo himself puts it, "the idea is to be both old and new, to go forward while looking to the past." We're already looking ahead to Spring '10, and we can't wait to see what Antonio Azzuolo will show us.

: Fur-trimmed wool coat and cotton shirt by Antonio Azzuolo. Silk tie by Band of Outsiders. Bottom: Tweed jacket, reversible mink-and-wool vest and cotton shirt by Antonio Azzuolo. Jeans by Dior Homme. Wool tie by Hermès. Shoes by Acne.

www.antonioazzuolo.com and www.kesner-ny.com

Photograph: Noël Sutherland www.noelsutherland.com
Grooming: Stacy Beneke for Mark Edward, Inc. www.markedwardinc.com
Model: Jake Madden at Ford Models www.fordmodels.com
Styling: Mark Grischke Portfolio 1 and Portfolio 2