Just in time for its 75th anniversary celebration last January the house of Brioni appeared to have found itself on an even keel after enduring several years of stormy weather. That crisp 2020 evening at Pitti in Florence, Kering’s François-Henri Pinault threw a beautiful dinner party in an exquisite palazzo soundtracked by some of the world’s finest classical musicians, all of whom looked as good as they sounded sublime in Norbert Stumpfl’s freshly-established expression of Brioni’s peerless Abruzzo tailoring expertise.
With Brad Pitt doing the campaigns, what could go wrong?
Fast-forward to this afternoon, where this correspondent’s antenna started quivering during an appointment for Brioni spring 2022. And it wasn’t that the oomph has gone out of Stumpfl’s work—because it hasn’t.
Shot, perhaps tellingly, in and around the romantically neglected house of a faded textile dynasty near Milan, Stumpfl’s work remained a symphonically sensuous menswear melody you’d want to play by wearing. Gowns, jackets, paneled-front knits, and pants were all crafted from overdyed upcycled off-cut tie silks, some displaying washing instructions (dry clean only).
Scalpel split deconstructed jackets in the finest cashmere and linen, tonal jackets and shirts in English linen, outrageous artists jackets in Jacques Cousteau blues, outerwear in lotus-treated water-repellant nubuck, and a chic bespoke boiler suit in linen/wool/silk provided further notes in the chorus.
Following last season’s frankly decadent gold—not gold-colored, but gold—suits (which sold well in various markets and had a turn at the Oscars), Stumpfl’s closing flourish here was a jacket in gold and silver floral-ish jacquard that was woven at the rate of 5 centimeters a week. There was also a very touching cameo by a pair of silver shoes that were an homage to the designer’s mentor, Alber Elbaz: The late great maestro had worn a pair of the same in gold to Stumpfl’s wedding.
These were only a few riffs worth reveling in from another highly beguiling collection by this designer.
That bum note mentioned earlier was struck not by the clothes, but by something both more abstract yet equally tangible: Even compared to last season’s showroom appointment there was a sparse and hesitant atmosphere to this presentation—just a few pictures on walls, a couple of mannequins, the clothes on rails. The hush in this Brioni showroom, compared especially to the hubbub of the house-clad kids running in and out of Balenciaga next door, was notable.
As Kering’s only pure classical menswear brand—and one acquired so relatively recently from its former Roman owners—this seemed the most muted moment in its narrative since the grand, horsey hoo-ha of 2013’s runway show under Brendan Mullane at the Castello Serbelloni.
Fast forwarding to now, Brioni under Stumpfl does not deserve being allowed to become overgrown through inaction: This is the moment for dynamism, for pressing on, and for highlighting at maximum volume the peerless masculine savoir faire that Brioni’s artisans possess to a world that is fast recovering its appetite for beautiful one-of-a-kind wearables.