Leonardo Fasolo combines the unusual characteristics of fabrics and dyeing processes with a supply chain based entirely in Italy to develop a new level of apparel. A great admirer of Massimo Osti, the owner of Finest Cloth Studio offers a vision of clothing as a product of painstaking research and development, which combines the immediate functional side of the product together with industrial processes. TECHUNTER talked to Leonardo about the new NEMEN and PUMA SS21 collection, combining NEMEN cutting-edge technologies with PUMA Motorsport heritage.
Words: Nikita Osaulenko [THM]. Questions: Alexander Zabelin, Nikita Osaulenko [THM]. Answers: Leonardo Fasolo [NEMEN, founder]. Layout: Alexander Zabelin [THM].
Editorial by TECHUNTER Media.
Leonardo's journey in fashion design began 20 years ago with his enrollment in one of Europe's leading schools, with more than half a century of history: the Istituto Europeo di Design [IED] in Milan. He took huge inspiration from Massimo Osti's work and a year after graduation he was already a senior designer for MoonRaker Studio, managed by Paul Harvey [STONE ISLAND].
And so began the story of one of the most recognizable European technology brands.
[Hello Leonardo! Congratulations to you and your team on the new collection! Can you please explain the main concept and the inspiration behind the NEMEN x PUMA collection design and how you came to this idea?]
When looking back at the legacy of PUMA, we wanted to find areas in which they were leading the field and it's impossible to miss their incredible accomplishments within the world of motorsports. We wanted to take those strengths and translate them through the design language of NEMEN. Particularly graphics were very inspirational, this 360-degree approach to visibility became a cornerstone when developing our collection. Along with certain technical aspects of their pro-racing shoes, where they're really whittled down to the bare fundamentals of form and function, which was very inspirational.
Among geeks and casual enthusiasts, NEMEN is recognized above all for its colouring methods that produce unusual results. One of the brand's magnum opus is their collaboration with ACRONYM. The products were colored using the complex 'object dyed' method.
Given that the products are made from high-tech fabrics, the coloring involves the use of dip dye and acid dye. The first one is based on dipping the fabric in a special solution over certain timings. The second method allows nylon to be dyed using special powder dyes. The final result is stunning: ranges from soft gradients to ombres.
[On the one hand, NEMEN is all about dyes and expression. Then what's behind the concept of creation of the monochrome b&w collection for your team?]
It's quite simple really, there are no NEMEN colors, without our particular NEMEN garment-dyeing processes, which wasn't an option in this case. So we opted for monochromatic black and white, to give focus and visibility to the more graphics-oriented approach we were taking.
[High-tech fabrics have always been the hallmark of the NEMEN [Komatsu, for example]. Which fabrics did you choose for this collaboration and how can you explain this choice? Any additional unique features or elements which we should point our attention to?]
The definitive fabric in this collaboration is a 3L fabric that we developed together with the Italian producer 'Limonta'. They're a leading textile producing company, stretching back for more than a century in developing fabrics for all sorts of applications, including the automotive world, so it felt fitting to incorporate their expertise into this project. It's a multifilament polyester fabric that's water and wind-resistant whilst also being very resistant to abrasions, thanks also to the ripstop backer, whilst having a super nice hand feel finish.
Now to the most eye-catching piece in the entire collection – Centaur Mid Disc Neo Trainers. You can literally see how the blending of technology and heritage works.
Speed Cat (as well as Future Cat hi-tops) originally combined a simple and strikingly effective design: an anatomical shaped footplate and two-panel construction with a high toe box to give a pilot freedom of movement for a better responsiveness of the car. Kimi Räikkönen's championship run 2007 in these shoes is the best proof of that!
Today's version goes even further, retaining the benefits and lightness of the original silhouette and adding a Disc Blaze system, as well as additional PU zippers.
[The other part of the collection besides the clothing is footwear. As we know, it is the first NEMEN footwear collaboration design work. Can you explain the choice of these 2 models for the collection? What features have you noted for yourself as a fashion designer when designing shoes?]
The original inspiration came from PUMA's Speed Cat pro racing shoes, as they really embody pure functionality. Together with PUMA's iconic Mostro sole, we wanted to then try to improve by adding some of PUMA's iconic technology, like their PUMA disc system, with additional zippers on the side for added range of use. Plus give a material update in the form of the Nubuck leather on one to increase durability and longevity and the neoprene on the other for increased wet weather and wind protection.
[NEMEN garments are always produced in Italy. What about this collaboration and did pandemic restrictions somehow affect the production process?]
PUMA has their very own lab in Turin that creates all the suits for F1 racing, which we had the opportunity to visit and distill some of that wealth of knowledge into the collection. That together with the Limonta fabric I'd say we're the two main 'Made in Italy' elements that we could bring into the collection. PUMA obviously has almost all their production in Asia so it was more a matter of philosophy rather than directly applying geographic location. The pandemic definitely affected us like it did everyone else, with delays when it came to samplings, deliveries, etc.
The 'Made in Italy' concept has been a hallmark of NEMEN for many years, which makes the company especially unique.
[In this collection we can see how graphic design elements meet military-inspired details and sportswear silhouettes. Can you please describe the inspiration behind each of the directions and how did you combine it all with PUMA's legacy?]
A part of our fascination with military aesthetics is rooted in the idea of the uniform. This approach of creating a total look, which is also a factor when designing, or as we did, deconstructing pro-racing suits, was one way of cross-pollinating these three elements of graphics, military inspiration, and sportswear. Also, the vest is a good example, where the classic functionally of a military garment, is combined with ergonomically placed graphics, whilst also adding a dimension of sportswear utility. It's more about application than inspiration, where we take various strengths within each field to create something more than merely the sum of the parts.
[Back in the days you've worked with pretty wide-ranged soulmates [ACRONYM, Masterpiece, Airinum]. And now there is PUMA – a sportswear giant. What do you think about the work on the design with the PUMA's team, compared to previous collaborations? How much impact do you think it will bring on NEMEN in the future after the work on such a new level?]
Looking back at when Rudolf was establishing PUMA, we felt a kinship and admiration for his approach. Of course, working with a giant like today's PUMA has added some new levels of complexity, where previous collaborations have been, let's say, more personal, PUMA due to its compartmentalized structure has perhaps been slower and less dynamic, but on the other hand, to reach such a vast audience, also through a different price range, has definitely been insightful and useful when going forward with hopefully our own growth and developments.
[NEMEN concept was always about technical fashion at the intersection of form and function. And now there is a huge trend when fashion becomes more functional, and technical sportswear companies care more about the appearance and design. What do you think of this trend and how do you feel it will evolve in the future?]
We've never really self-applied this notion that we're a technical brand. We don't have restrictions. Of course, we prioritize technical functionality, but it's equally about textile research. When an end result isn't known, we can't predict if it will be technical or not in the end. We're honestly not too preoccupied with the market, we're still doing what we've been doing since the beginning before many of these terms were popular. What I hope is that brands will find and use the best elements from specialists, creating an awareness of this true knowledge within certain brands that goes beyond anything that's created due to trends or demands.
We will stay on our path, as for us it's more about product-driven research than a market-fuelled enterprise.
NEMEN x PUMA SS21 collection is now available on NEMEN and PUMA official websites, as well as via selected retailers worldwide.
Editorial by TECHUNTER Media:
Prod: Alexander Zabelin. Ph: Ivan Dzhatiev. Asst: Vasilisa Mityaeva, Denis Samsonov. Md: Denis Bezugly. Mua: Elis Pushkarskaya. Clothing asst: Alexander Stepanov. Grade: Dmitry Pirozhnikov.
Special thanks to:
Supertvar, Arseniy Kleimenov, Sammaster Club Service.