In her debut book, Clobber! Writer, Roo Oxley explores the thinking behind Casuals and tackles a number of different subjects, using her own unique and irreverent style to undercover the relationship between fashion brands and terrace culture.
In part two of this behind-the-scenes look into Clobber! Roo talks about the enduring legacy of the Paninaro movement with C.P. Company President, Lorenzo Osti and discusses terrace culture with Plurimus visionary and renegade Fabio Cavina.
PANINARO, OH, OH, OH
So just what exoticness was occurring on these Transalpino trips abroad? What was this Paninaro style they were bringing back to jaw-dropping effect and making lads drool with jealousy over their effortless styling? In one word, Paninaro culture was swish. Cool as fuck. Casuals appropriated this style, which had its long-lost twin in the UK’s Mod culture – their commonalities being youth culture, smart attire and love of scooters as described in the blog of Liverpudlian store Transalpino.
We can’t talk about terrace culture without talking about the Paninaro subculture; the influence of the Paninaro movement without doubt underpins the Casual subculture and how the lads on the terraces dress. Key looks and brands included Best Company, Moncler, Stone Island, and C.P. Company, all stalwarts of Casual dressing even to this day.
In the eighties and nineties, eagle-eyed Casuals in the UK would take bits of this style. Self-proclaimed Casual (Tottenham), tailor and archiver of one of the best Stoney collections I’ve ever seen, Simon Dowling, says: “We never saw a whole look but would pick up on individual items through magazines. Some people have really jumped on it recently.”
So, do our Casuals still get inspired by the Paninaro even today? The plot thickens.
Interestingly, even though the Paninaro-inspired Casual movement is still going strong in the UK and abroad, does it still exist in Italy today or have the cool and apathetic Milanese youth moved on?
Interviewing C.P. Company’s President, Lorenzo Osti, son of iconic C.P. founder, Massimo Osti, I asked him this very question.
Lorenzo: “In Italy, it’s totally different. Casual is really small. Really, really small. So, the small part that we have, actually looks to you, Northern UK, as an inspiration, as a uniform, as a brand they carry. But here the same brands are adopted by different cultures. It’s more, I want to say fashion related…more lifestyle.”
Roo: Don’t you think it’s actually quite ironic then that this now small Casual group in Italy look to the UK when obviously we went to Italy to get it in the first place? Some of the Paul & Shark and obviously C.P. and Stone Island, you know, high-end at the time, Italian brands…and then the fans used to go over there a lot and take them. So it’s been a total round trip.
Lorenzo: “When my father started C.P. before Stone Island, the kind of man he had in mind was very different, let’s say, sophisticated, intellectual, left-wing…very close to people he was hanging out with. So, the cultural scene, the political scene in Bologna, someone who really, I mean, could appreciate the products…people with knowledge. And what happened? They pick it up but then the big boom came from Paninaro. That was absolutely a totally different thing.
“I mean, it was really about the power of the brand, the price of what you get, there was no culture about products. And then the Casuals I think looked at the Paninaro and picked up the brand, they transformed it. I mean the connection you have is much more about the culture. And from what I’ve seen coming to visit your place, there is quite a big understanding of the product and the quality, so again, I think it’s weird that my father’s products follow this very unusual path, passing through subcultures, much different from the other.”
Iconic Casual brands that are still held in loving, nostalgic regard include Fila, Lois, Bonneville (Navy Artic), Best Company, Benetton, Ball, Kappa, CP Compnay, Sergio Tacchini, Ciao, Head, Pod, Maccano, Gabbici, Ellesse, Marc O’Polo, Patrick, Newman, Cerruti 1881, Chip, C17, Le Coq Sportfif, Chevington, Peter Storm, Ocean Pacific, Adidas Lendl, Lacoste, Diadora, Liberto, Ton Sur Ton, Reebok, Farah, Fred Perry, Next Safari, C&A, Faconnable, El Charro, Taverniti, Admiral, Stone Island, Helly Hansen, Armand Base, Boss, Lyle & Scott, Aquascutum, Naf Naf, Berghaus, Fiorucci, Paul & Shark, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Timberland, Maestrum, Marshall Artist, Pretty Green, Weekend Offender, Burberry, Left Hand, New Balance, Rockport, Prad, Valentino, Clark, Ralph Lauren, Moncler, Iceberg, Missoni, Henri Lloyd, Evisu, Kenzo, Nigel Cabourn, Plurimus, St95, Napapijri, Belstaff, Barbour, Columbia, Gant, Paul Smith.
I’VE GOT 99 PROBLEMS BUT A COAT AIN’T ONE
When speaking to Lorenzo, it was easy to see how much respect he has for the Casual community, and mutual respect for authenticity from both brand and consumer, whereas Stone Island has arguably turned its back on the terrace culture narrative, focusing on the luxury high-end urban market instead, Lorenzo ardently insists that C.P. Company will stay true to its roots:
Fellow Italian label Plurimus is just as committed to their customers and appreciative of their continued brand loyalty. Plurimus, which is Latin for ‘Many from One’ has its roots firmly entrenched within Casual culture, and by speaking with the sole owner and designer Fabio Cavina, it will remain that way. Cavina is in direct contact with his customers through the magic of online communities which is how he came to establish the brand in the first place.
“In the eighties, I had this fascination with some brands…Paninaro brands. I think at the end of the eighties, it kind of disappeared for basically about fifteen years. I didn’t look into it anymore. And then in the early noughties, there was no social media but there were forums, And I started getting involved with some forums. Most of them were UK-based. There were all these people collecting jackets from the eighties and the nineties and they knew a lot of things about the brands that I used to like in the eighties and about stuff from Massimo Osti, so basically, that’s how my passion came back.”
Arguably, Cavina was drawn back into Casual culture due to nostalgic forums reminiscing about old brands and old times, thank God as it helped create Plurimus. Even now, Cavina talks about the importance of social media in connecting and engaging with his followers:
“I talk to them through social media, which is basically two forms. One is Facebook. On Facebook, there is a group, which I did not create. Two friends of mine, one from Germany and one from Scotland, basically created this group and it’s closed, It’s not an open Facebook group, you need to be invited by someone. The thing is, they want to keep it limited because they say if they get too many people, they’ll have a problem getting the jacket they want. So that is one platform.
“The other is Instagram, but I’m not that active on it. I always try to make it for people, to involve those following the page and I try to select the best pictures. So again, it’s something I do myself, I don’t have like a media expert.
“Then there is a possibility to subscribe to our newsletter through my website. So, if you subscribe, as soon as the new garment is presented, you will get an email. And that’s how it works.
“Online communities are fundamental. I haven’t been on a forum for a very long time, because I guess Facebook then Instagram, have replaced most of the forums. I think the forums were very important for me because basically, they supplied me with a lot of information from people who were very similar to me in terms of background, taste, and what they were wearing.
“So social media has been my means of promotion for the past three years, not because I don’t want to advertise, but because my customers, I’m very active with them. I’m advertising Plurimus in a very genuine and effective way. I think without social media I would have a problem communicating the brand the way I do.”
Cavina’s modern approach and attitude to social media and the direct relationship he has with customers allow him more control over how his brand is perceived. This gives him the privilege of insider information on what the customer wants exactly. A kind of mass focus group.
“Even now when people write to me on Facebook, and they say, ‘Ah I’ve heard your brand is for the Casuals’ I think, what I’m doing is basically like product research, and I’m aware that the majority of my customers are lads you know, football lads, but that is fine with me. But I didn’t start Plurimus only thinking of football lads, I started Plurimus because of the product, and the heritage, which is, you know, very strong locally, and just following my passion, and doing the things that I would like to wear as a customer, as someone who has always worn jackets.”
The love Cavina has with both Casuals and his brand is clear to see; he’s refreshingly not arsed about becoming a money-spinning brand such as Stone Island, although arguably Plurimus’ quality and technological innovations in its clobber are just as high in standards and it is also becoming a cult classic favoured by original football Casuals.
“I think what they feel, and what they recognise in me is that I’m very similar to them. And I have the same passion that they have, and I always try to do the best I can when I start to work on a new garment. As I always say, this doesn’t prevent mistakes, but even when I make mistakes, my customers recognise my passion. And that has always helped me, and the brand and I think what they really like about this project is that it was created by fashion, and not like, you know, ‘let’s make a business plan’ to make as much money as possible.”
Cavina totally goes against the fashion grain in all aspects of his ‘second baby.’ He staunchly refuses to be dictated to by showrooms, retailers and even the fashion seasons.
“I think when I started Plurimus I was from an experience with another brand and we were developing collections and showing collections to showrooms, and we were doing things back then, the best way possible with a lot of pressure and everything. But when I started Plurimus, I thought I wasn’t going to take the standard model expected.”
This stubbornness and refusal to conform to the fashion norm, this raging against this machine, a naughty school kid doffing his cap, or more likely putting his fingers up to school and the authorities the laissez-faire, free-spirited, almost hippy mentality, makes him stand out as the rebel of Casual couture. Like Alexander McQueen who felt the artistic pain in the rat race of the fashion industry, the incessant focus on financial success and being the most sought-after and published of the luxury brands is no doubt suffocating. Fashion houses pressurising designers to peddle collection after collection, singing every last drop of creativity out of knackered artists.
Both visionaries and renegades have a fuck-the system mentality in their own fashion fields. Cavina, the saviour of Casual culture, and producer of the most Casual-esque clobber we’ve seen for a while will not be bullied or hurried into making his Plurimus brand a part of the mainstream fashion industry.
His ethos of taking it slow, keeping it real, and keeping it limited, is most certainly working. “The 99 concept started when I was designing T-shirts as I had 99 pieces, and to me, 99 has always been a number that expresses the will of a person trying to achieve perfection but in the end, you can’t achieve perfection as a human being, so 99 is like, I do my best, I might not get there but I’ll get as close as possible.
“I kept it and brought it back when I started Plurimus because I wanted to keep it limited. I think people like the feeling of having a number of these which is quite limited. I tell them, if I make more, you could order but I think that’s wrong because I think what people really like about being so limited, is the feeling of managing to get something very exclusive in a world where you can get basically everything; but I think people like that there is only 99 pieces in the world.”
In other words, a Casual’s wet dream.
CLOBBER! Is a book written by female casual and writer Roo Oxley.
It is available to pre-order on Amazon