Oi Polloi

Dispatches from the Massimo Osti Archive Exhibition

Published: Fri Feb 03 2017

Not content with making one of the best magazines in Ancoats, Mark and Neil at Proper recently took it upon themselves to put on an exhibition down in London, displaying loads of mad jackets and other such wearable wonders from the mind of Stone Island/CP Company founder Mr Massimo Osti.

Pretty spectacular stuff, to say the least. For those who couldn’t make it down (or up), here’s some photos courtesy of Scott Causier (@___causier___), along with a quick interview with Mark about how it all came to be...

For the sake of those who weren’t there (or don’t have Instagram), can you tell us what was going on?

We curated around 50 items from the Massimo Osti Archive in Bologna because we're curators now and that's what curators do, apparently. It ran alongside Jacket Required tradeshow which is an industry event, but the location meant we had that captive audience of fashion types as well as the general public. It was a crazy mix of people.

Am I right in saying you lot went over to Italy to pick all the stuff? How did you decide which bits went in?

Yeah, we originally saw the archive when we went over last May to interview Massimo's son Lorenzo who also heads up C.P Company's Marketing team. He was great and we got on really well. He told us he wanted to do an exhibition. Then when the event was agreed, we felt we had to go over and spend a day in the archive again. It's a work in progress and far from complete, yet among the 6000 garments there's some amazing stuff so it was difficult to choose.

We wanted to go with the obscure items nobody had ever seen but in the end we incorporated the greatest hits too. Ice camo, reflective and goggle jackets plus gas masks, Volvo jumpsuits and ashtrays.

What were your favourite bits?

The ice camouflage stuff does it for me. I had a jacket a while back but the fact they were made around 1990 means the fit is different to how we wear stuff today, and I had to sell it on. It was such an ambitious and involved process that Massimo Osti undertook in making them, they're a genuine work of art.

There's also some of the obscure stuff, like a hand painted parka which never made it into production, plus some overalls he designed for Volvo. You wouldn't have guessed had it not been for the removable patch on the chest, reminiscent of Stone Island's own compass patch. Someone asked me this question at the event and I found myself stroking my chin, pointing out a jacket before changing my mind about 8 times. 

I think some people forget how forward thinking and prog some of Massimo Osti’s designs were. What was the most ‘out there’ thing at the exhibition?

Maybe today, the idea of a jacket with wires and batteries incorporated isn't that impressive. But when Osti got onboard with Levi's and Philips to create a collection with mobile telephones and mp3 players incorporated into the design, it hadn't really been done before. The result is some heavy duty garments which are again a total work of art, yet totally functional. We were concerned that a vest with lots of wires and compartments may not make it through customs but thankfully there were no issues there. 

Aside from that, the Ice camo stuff is again a bit of a landmark. We're talking nearly 3 decades ago. Having managed to make a collection with colour changing properties, he went one step further with the idea of making a camouflage fabric turn to monochrome when in contact with heat. The cotton was treated with a coating developed in Japan and the various boffins involved apparently jumped through hoops to make it work.

In general though, everything he did was pioneering in its day and if he was around today I'm sure he'd be working in a similar way, ahead of the curve and making garments that everyone else says are impossible.

Was there anything too mental for human eyes?

I'm going to take you literally here... the original C.P Explorer jacket was inspired by Japanese Civil Defence garments and was the first item to have goggles embedded. Unlike its successor, the Explorer's goggles were positioned in the collar and when it was zipped up it went all Empire Strikes Back.

Unfortunately, the positioning of the goggles didn't quite work out and a similar design was created for the Mille Miglia race in 1988. The Explorer has since been perfected but back then, it's fair to say it was quite literally too mental for human eyes. 

If you went back in time twenty years and told your younger self that you’d be ‘curating’ an exhibition of jackets in big ol’ London, what would you say?

I'd tell me to eff off. Twenty years ago I was earning a cool £6000 p.a after leaving school without a clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. Proper began a few year later as a hobby. We've always felt confident in what we do and how we do it, but even two years ago it would have been difficult to envisage this sort of thing taking place. Now we're looking at whether it's possible to take it on tour overseas. 

How many people at the exhibition wore Stone Island or CP Company jackets?

We didn't count, but there was some serious history on show. Quite a few serious collectors turned up and weren't shy of telling us where they thought we went wrong, which was really lovely of them. A bit. 

Were any high-profile celebs there? Did Griff Rhys Jones make an appearance?

We actually invited him but alas, he did not come. Maybe next time. We had a lovely chat with Cass Pennant and loads of semi-famous London fashionistas were there, apparently. 

Would you say this was a watershed moment for jacket fans around the world?

I wouldn't go that far. It's a watershed moment for us, I guess. I never thought we'd be able to do anything that'd attract hundreds of people through the door over just a couple of days. I'm still coming down from it all.

Any more of this sort of thing lined up?

As yet, nothing concrete but there seems to be a collective will to do something similar so we'll see what develops. It's likely we'll do something in Manchester, whether it's Osti-related or otherwise. And if we can, we'd like to take the Osti thing to New York and beyond. 

Hear more from Mark (and see more mad jackets) in the new issue of Proper Magazine.