When you play the game on the front foot, often it’s a task that is pioneered by innovative thinking. Embodying his company with clinical creative consistency is the man behind Stone Island, Carlo Rivetti. We sit down with him exclusively for SoccerBible Magazine Issue 7.
To start at the beginning, how would you describe the values of the brand?
“Well, I think with Stone Island the keywords are “research, technology, treatment, heart and passion.” If you put all of those together, after 34 years of working consistently in this direction, these are the most important values for us. I think it’s important to acknowledge that I have made many mistakes in the past. Fashion moves and if you try to move you will always be late. So the idea we stick to is that we move in our way and then the market, sooner or later, will hit us. That has happened many times over the years and now is quite a good moment for us all around the world including the U.S., which was pretty unknown for us. Things like NikeLab and Supreme got us thinking that something is happening in the U.S. and so we decided to try to open a new market, which was America. Again, the key point for me is that I don’t want to change my language or the story. I also think the future is for storytelling and [laughs] we have a lot of stories to tell. It’s all about consistency of the brand, through the good moments and the bad moments because we believe that we have the right values.”
What do you remember about the game from when you were growing up? Has it always been in your life?
“One [event] that I remember well was the World Cup of 1966, in England. I remember watching that on television. The television was black and white. Before that, the first football match that I saw in the stadium I think was in 1961. I remember I entered the stadium with an Aunt of mine and all of that part of the stadium was full of men. When my Aunt entered all the people lifted their hats. They still wore trilby type hats then because it was the sixties and the men would go wearing ties too. I still remember them looking at her in a special way.”
It was a stylish game in a different sense back then …
“Yes, the key point was that my Grandfather was the President of A.C. Torino and he built the first private stadium in Italy [where Grande Torino plays]. A record that lives on is that they went through a period where they didn’t lose a game there in four straight years. So my Aunt was the sister of the President of the team that won the first two Scudetto titles for Torino, so she was quite known and respected. The beautiful part of the story in my opinion is the innovation. My grandfather went to Argentina and he found two Italian players who were playing in Argentina. Their family had moved there and these players grew up there and because they had an Italian family name, my Grandfather was able to buy those two players and bring them to Italy and they went on to play in the national team. So he built the first stadium and did so much innovation and football is in the DNA of my family. So I try to do the same.”
Internally, are there a lot of football fans at Stone Island?
“You know, fashion companies do often have a lot more women working there than men. We have a field behind the factory and there is a discussion now; we want to make a football pitch there and some of the women want to build a garden where they can grow vegetables [laughs]. There are a lot of people who follow people at the brand of course – it’s an Italian company – so on Monday morning, you first speak about football and then later on you start to talk about work. That’s normal. I think football is a sort of religion in Italy. It really is a passion.”
In the past, have you tried to distance the brand away from the game or is it something you would prefer to embrace?
“No. We don’t try to go in and we don’t try to come out. We were chosen. I think it’s because of the type of product but it’s important to remember it’s not only football. I think that men that like sports like the Nylon of our products because it is a functional garment. I remember I was in the shop in Milano four years ago and suddenly I was surrounded by young Russian guys and I saw how they approached our stuff. They checked the price, then they checked their money and so I asked them who they were because there were 25 of them. They said they were all basketball fans of a Russian team who were playing in Turin who decided to make a trip to Milano because they knew the shop was there. It’s really people who like sport, active sport players such as football players, basketball players etc. We are involved in sport in general because we do different things. People enter the shop and when you see them put on a jacket, it can be empowering. I always say also, Stone Island is a sort of club. If you wear our patch, you recognise one another and there’s an association there.”
As an observer of the trend in fashion, do you find the evolving style of football fans something of interest?
“No I wouldn’t say so. I go to the San Siro because I am an Inter supporter. In Italy I would say you can’t see so much fashion at the stadium as it’s not the right place. I think if you do my job, you can learn every day by observing what people wear in all kinds of surroundings. At the stadium now, though, I say thank God now that a lot of Italians are wearing the official football shirt of the team. Marketing is one of the most important revenue streams for a football club, but in Italy we have had a history of a lot of fake shirts but something is starting there with people wearing the real kits.”
The football shirt has a very pure connection that a fan can have with their team. It means a lot to you to see people wearing a football shirt then?
“I don’t remember my first shirt but I can remember one that I am very linked with. Kim Williams of Pantofola D’oro was producing a special football like [replica] that was played in in the forties, boots from the forties too, and he asked me to make a shirt for Grande Torino. We got a photo with the shirt and we reproduced the old club shirt with a number but no advertising and it was pure wool. Probably terrible to play in but I was very proud. Aside from that, every year at the beginning of the season my son Matteo as a gift to me gives me the new Inter shirt for the season. In the past, when I have been travelling the world from Japan to China and in every country, I have tried to buy a football shirt from wherever I go so that my children have a collection. Now that collection includes more than 250 shirts from all over the world. It’s amazing. In Japan for instance, the approach to how they design them is completely different.”
Read the full interview inside SoccerBible Magazine Issue 7: 'Northern Quarters' is available now, here.
Photography by Edd Horder.