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The Obsession: Neil’s Massimo Osti Jackets
At Oliver Sweeney, we have an obsession for traditional craftsmanship, and for blending it with modern design. And while we know that if you’re reading this you definitely share our obsession, there are also plenty of other things out there that inspire passions to rival the Cobbler-in-Chief. With that in mind, we return to our editorial series on Obsessions. Massimo Osti, the Italian menswear designer most famous for the Stone Island and CP Company brands, was recognised by Arena Homme Plus magazine as the ‘Most Influential Man in Men’s Fashion of the ’90s’ and commands a huge following for his pioneering obsession for design and technology. Describing himself as a “devoted disciple and passionate collector” of Osti’s work, Neil has an extensive archive of rare pieces that he’s been amassing for over 20 years.
Where did the obsession begin
It’s very much linked to football for me. I’ve always been a keen football fan, and from going to games in the early to mid ‘80s you started to see the now-iconic compass badge on people’s arms. That caught my eye, and the jackets themselves were unlike any other jacket I’d ever seen: completely different fabrics, looks and details. They just stood out, and made everything else look drab & uniform. I realised that they were something just completely different, and that really struck a chord.
What made them popular at the time
Well, that depends on who you believe. Certainly there’s a school of thought that says when British clubs played abroad, the fans were exposed to new brands that they hadn’t seen before and jumped on them. My own view is that while there’s an element of that, the Casuals era was about one-upmanship; going to someone else’s town and making a statement by how you dressed and how you behaved. Those jackets were standout jackets, but they were also incredibly practical, because football stadiums were very cold in those days!
But the jackets were definitely a status symbol too. The nature of one-upmanship means that trends change very quickly; what was in one week would be out the next stone island sale 70 week, depending on who you were and where you were in the country. I used see all sorts of different styles around when I went to lots of different matches as a teenager, from the early ‘80s onwards.
What was your first Massimo Osti piece
It was a very simple, plain ribbed crewneck sweatshirt that took me 6 months to save up for. Naturally, I wore it to death. I no longer have that sweater, unfortunately. I’d say that it wasn’t until a good few years later – in the mid-‘90s – that I managed to afford to indulge my passion properly, because the pieces were just SO expensive.
One of Neil’s earliest Stone Island pieces, this jacket is from the brand’s first-ever collection in 1982
When did you make the transition from fan to collector
Well it wasn’t a conscious decision. I find the best way to describe it is that the world is split into two groups: you either have collecting in your DNA, or you don’t. As a child I collected stamps and as an early teenager I collected football programmes, so it didn’t surprise me that I ended up being obsessed (or taken, rather) by something else, which happened to be these collections of clothes. I realised it had become a bona fide collection when I couldn’t fit all the coats into a wardrobe!
One of the most recent additions to the collection is this field jacket from Stone Island Shadow Project AW15
How many pieces do you have now
The jackets I try to keep around the 200 mark, otherwise…well, it’s important to maintain some domestic harmony. The whole collection including jackets, jumpers, shirts, POS and books is probably somewhere between 400 and 500 pieces.
Do you find time to wear them all
Absolutely – that’s the crux of the collection, for me. Part of the fun is that I can go into the rooms, see what’s there and then pick out something to wear. At one stage I did have the idea that I’d have one jacket for every day of the year! For the moment though, it can be whatever grabs my fancy at any given time, there’s no particular set plan. Obviously I have favourites, and pieces I only wear for special events, but in general I wear as much of it as possible.
When exposed to temperature drops, the Stone Island Ice Jacket’s technical outer changes colour as demonstrated here
How does that affect the curation of the collection
For me, it gets harder to part with pieces. Over the years, you get to a point where almost everything you’ve got is something you really, really want. I’ve often been quite impulsive at buying things, so I used to have a bunch of things that either were the wrong size, or ‘what on earth i thinking at the particular time ’ so these are easily divestible without too much of an emotional problem. The sadness of one piece going is usually outweighed by the joy of the next piece arriving. It’s constantly evolving, it’s dynamic, and it’s meant to be a collection that is worn.
Some of the most fragile pieces in Neil’s collection, these two jackets are made with real metal thread and are extremely heavy
What do you look for when examining a new piece
The first criteria for adding is that it has to be something I could wear, however outlandish it could look (especially given my age), but it’s got to be something that I could fit into. Then it’s about the details, something catches your eye about the garment and there’s an instinctive, emotional attachment to it. The colour, the fabric, the styling in some way of it, it just there’s no strict pattern to it, but I have to say I’m drawn to brightly-coloured pieces particularly.
The label inside the Metal Shell jackets explains how they are made (and includes advice on how to discharge static build-up)
Where do you go to find new pieces
Everywhere. Over the years, I’ve got to know people all over the world! I’m part of an online community called the Osti Archive Forum, and there’s quite a thriving marketplace there. eBay is obviously a hugely popular place, but it’s harder to find those rare pieces as its popularity increases, but it’s amazing where things crop up. The Metropolis jacket took me stone island sale 70 years to find because they’re so big in terms of sizing, but I eventually got hold of one when I was chatting to a guy who ran a store in Exeter and by pure chance he mentioned that he had an old CP piece in his wardrobe that he hadn’t worn for years…
The built-in pollution mask was an integral part of the Metropolis jacket
How did you feel when you found that
It’s a mixture, really. Obviously there’s huge excitement and elation that you’re going to get hold of something; in the collecting community such finds are known as Grails (for obvious reasons) and that was definitely one of mine at the time. I imagine collecting is a little like drug taking, in that you’re always looking for your next hit; in some ways it’s the downside of collecting – you’re almost never satisfied, there’s always something else that you want to move on to. And whilst the thrill of the chase and the hunt is fantastic, there’s always seems to be that yearning for one more…just one more!
The now-iconic CP Company Mille Miglia jacket had built-in goggles and was designed for the infamous Italian road race
What’s the root of the appeal of these pieces for you
Once I got more into the history of the man and learned all about the brands, it absolutely appealed to me even more. I think what I admire most about him is the creativity and dedication – he was absolutely devoted to experimentation, he never sat on his laurels and was willing to dream extraordinary things – for example who would think of putting goggles in the hood of a jacket 30 years ago Today it’s an iconic piece. There’s a film they did for the 30th Anniversary of Stone Island which says that Osti put experimentation into the DNA of the whole organisation, and I think that’ still there today.
The inside label from one of the earliest Stone Island Ice Jackets
Is there one that got away
Plenty! In terms of Stone Island itself, the Ice Jackets [Editor’s note: finished with a thermo-sensitive resin treatment, these chameleonic jackets are icons of the Stone Island brand. The molecules of the micro pigments encapsulated in the resin change the path of light and get darker as the temperature drops.] are my particular favourites. There’s a very rare version of the Ice Jacket that had a helicopter visor in the hood; I think it was a prototype, not necessarily a production piece, but unfortunately that was one that got away. There’s always another day