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Justin O'Shea Exits Brioni

O'Shea was appointed creative director of the Kering-owned fashion house in March of this year.
Justin O'Shea | Photo: Mario Villanueva for BoF
By
  • Tamara Abraham

MILAN, Italy — Justin O'Shea is to leave Brioni, the fashion house has announced.

BoF exclusively revealed that the Italian menswear brand had appointed O'Shea as creative director in March of this year, succeeding Brendan Mullane. He had previously held the role of global fashion director at Munich-based luxury e-tailer MyTheresa.

Brioni's forthcoming Autumn/Winter 2017 collection will be presented to buyers in the Milan showroom from mid-November 2016. It will not be staged on the runway.

In a statement, Gianluca Flore, chief executive officer of Brioni, thanked O'Shea for his collaboration with the brand during this period.

"The strategy of revitalisation of Brioni that started at the beginning of this year is set to continue being implemented through a long-term plan aimed to further establish the brand as a leader in the luxury menswear category," the Kering-owned brand stated in a press release.

The appointment of Australian-born O’Shea — who has no formal training or experience as a designer — was an unconventional move for Brioni. In his role as creative director, O’Shea had been responsible for the brand’s collections as well as its image.

Indeed, O’Shea’s first advertising campaign for the brand, released in July ahead of his first runway show for the label during Paris Couture Week, was a far cry from the previous Brioni identity. Starring heavy metal band Metallica, it was shot in black-and-white by Zackery Michael and art directed by O’Shea himself, referencing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” album cover.

"The risk is always that of losing 'traditional' customers — to whom Metallica, for example, may have appeared irksome — without gaining new ones," says Luca Solca, head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas. "Breaking with tradition to inject fresh energy into the business — the same way as Gucci and Saint Laurent very successfully did — hasn't seemed to have worked at Brioni, at least so far."

"Brioni tried to reinvent itself. To go in a totally different path from its past, which means they changed their logo, they wanted to be more fashionable. It was a big change that probably the consumer was not ready to appreciate," adds Mario Ortelli, senior research analyst at Sanford C Bernstein. "The brand was not performing well. When a brand is not performing well, one of the things that you have probably got to work on is the creative director. Like when a soccer team doesn’t perform well, you can decide to change the manager of it."

When a brand is not performing well, one of the things that you have probably got to work on is the creative director.

Brioni, which was founded in Rome in 1945, is best known for its traditional suiting and has long held links to the film industry, having outfitted numerous actors in the role of James Bond, as well as stars including Richard Burton, Clark Gable and Matthew McConaughey for red carpet appearances. Brioni's products are made in Italy, some by tailors educated at the Scuola di Alta Sartoria tailoring school, which the company founded in 1985.

Kering (then known as PPR) acquired the house in 2012, the year Mullane joined the company. Mullane pursued a younger aesthetic for the luxury house, introducing more modern items such as nylon parkas, metallic striped suits and suede bomber jackets. Today, Brioni’s offering encompasses men's ready-to-wear, shoes, leather goods, jewellery and fragrances, as well as eyewear, which is produced through the Kering Eyewear division.

In the year prior to the Kering acquisition, Brioni shuttered its womenswear line, closing the manufacturing plant in Italy where its women’s collections were produced and parted ways with then-creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua. Last year, Brioni returned to the catwalk at Milan men’s fashion week, after a 10-year absence, presenting its Autumn/Winter 2015 collection.

Brioni’s performance in 2015 was weighed down by weak demand in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and the company streamlined its distribution channels, becoming more selective with its third-party distributors. At the end of 2015, Brioni had 46 directly-operated retail stores.

A spokesperson for Kering declined to comment further on the official Brioni statement.

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