At the death of Italian fashion designer Nino Cerruti

Dhis career was already mapped out in his birthplace. Nino Cerruti, who died on Saturday at the age of 91 in a hospital in Vercelli, according to “Corriere della Sera” of complications of a hip operation, was born nearby: in Biella, the Italian wool capital. Here in Piedmont, his grandfather and his two brothers founded in 1881 a textile factory, Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti. No wonder Nino Cerruti, born on September 25, 1930, became a major figure in the legendary emergence of Italian post-war fashion.

Alphonse Kaiser

Editor-in-Chief of the “Germany and the World” section and Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin.

At the age of 20, the young man inherited the business after the death of his father Silvio. He immediately completed his philosophy studies and began working. He was familiar with fabric production, with looms, spinning machines and dyes. But earlier than the companies Loro Piana or Ermenegildo Zegna, he realized that he also had to make a name for himself in the production of clothes. And that name was in the style of the time: Hitman. In 1957, he introduced his first Hitman men’s collection.

Nino Cerruti (right) with his designer Peter Speliopoulos during the 1999 Pret-a-Porter show in Paris.


Nino Cerruti (right) with his designer Peter Speliopoulos during the 1999 Pret-a-Porter show in Paris.
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Photo: Helmut Fricke

It was not Giorgio Armani who was the first designer to come up with deconstructed jackets for men. No, Nino Cerruti, together with Armani, who was four years younger and who had worked for him as a designer for years since 1965, created the basis for the Italian suit, free of thick padding, to become a symbol of fashionable modernity. Heavy British tweed, on the other hand, became redundant with the introduction of central heating and today must at most still protect against the cold on Scottish country estates.

In 1967, he opened his first store in Paris

While Milan, Rome and Florence were still fighting for supremacy in Italian fashion, Nino Cerruti moved his company’s headquarters to Paris. He opened his first store in 1967 on Place de la Madeleine. Cerruti (in Paris), Lanificio Cerruti (in Biella) and Hitman (in Milan) formed the Fratelli Cerruti group. Like Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace and Gianfranco Ferré, who started their own brands in the 1970s, Cerruti also focused on fashion and business expansion with his “casual chic”. In addition to men’s fashion, he also quickly brought out women’s fashion, in addition to ready-made clothes, he also created sports, jeans and sports fashion. He did good business with fragrances and equipped athletes such as the American tennis player Jimmy Connors, the Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark and the Ferrari Formula 1 team.

Not only the male stars adored him: Nino Cerruti with Catherine Deneuve in 1999 in Paris


Not only the male stars adored him: Nino Cerruti with Catherine Deneuve in 1999 in Paris
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Photo: AFP

Even as an outfitter for actors, he was faster than most designers – because his client Jean-Paul Belmondo asked him to. His film fashion career began in 1965 with the film “The Great Adventures of Monsieur L.”, in which he made Belmondo look incomparably relaxed. That’s one of the reasons Don Johnson appeared in “Miami Vice” (since 1984). Bella figur, because he wore t-shirts under the Cerruti blazer and leather shoes without socks in a casual way. Louis de Funès, Tom Cruise, Gérard Depardieu, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford – Nino Cerruti saw so many different actors as a challenge to the variation in his style and of course as a great marketing tool.

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When he reached retirement age, Nino Cerruti renewed his fashion with outside help. From 1996 to 1997, Narciso Rodriguez designed women’s fashion for him, from 1997 to 2002 Peter Speliopoulos – two American designers who, with their sense of good fabrics and minimalist cuts, matched the style of the house. Cerruti, who in 2000 awarded the honorary title of Cavaliere del Lavoro by the President of Italy, gave them the freedom to reinterpret his name. Until he sold the fashion department of his company and finally left it in 2002. Then the importance of his brand declined. After being sold on to a Chinese company, the Cerruti 1881 brand is now almost exclusively available in China. He himself remained in business with Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti.

Even in old age, Nino Cerruti embodied the style he had spread: classically dressed but loose and without a tie, a quiet man who looked dazzling, a tall gentleman who was happy to let others go first because he no longer was in the foreground had to push. In the end, he once ironically said that he only dressed himself.

On Saturday, many of his acquaintances, friends and fans expressed concern. “It is with great sadness that I heard about Nino Cerruti’s death,” Giorgio Armani wrote on Instagram about “il signor Nino”. “Even though we’ve lost touch over the years, I’ve always looked at him as one of those people who made a real and positive impact on my life. It was he who triggered my love of soft cuts, and he taught me also the importance of having an all-encompassing vision, as a designer and as an entrepreneur. ”

Carlo Capasa, president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, called him “the smartest man in Italy”, “a great innovator, a visionary creative and a mastermind behind many of today’s developments”. And the mayor of Biella, Claudio Corradino, wrote that Nino Cerruti made the city of Piedmont known all over the world, “with class and elegance, but also with the way he expressed himself – an exceptional gentleman”.

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