Stone Island Special - The Designer: Nicole Bidoli
Stone Island is drawing the attention of a variety of people from collectors, to terrace heroes and nowadays streetwear lovers and hypebeast. The majority of these crowds are “just” consuming and buying the brand, and yet there is a group of people worldwide, that is taking in everything the brand has given and, in fact, is still giving to them. So they turn this influence into sheer motivation, dreams and inspiration for their own work.
I am talking about the designers, who followed the path of Massimo Osti and Paul Harvey and started to fill their own sketchbooks with designs, multi layers, adjustable pockets and bulletproof vests. One of these talented designers and a good friend of mine is Nicole Bidoli. The upcoming Italian designer got her first Stone Island jacket at young age in Italy and since then she never lost track of the badge and passionately followed her path throughout all those years. It was another Stone Island jacket that finally made her choose the same direction as some other special people before and I am more than proud and happy to keep up with her ongoing story as a designer and tell you something about her.
When I first met Nicole, her sheer knowledge about the brand, the fabrics, the characters and all the connecting dots in between those points impressed me unbelievably. And after listening to her story of holding her first Stone Island jacket in her hand back then as a young girl, whilst seeing her continuously smiling, I realized, that her bonds to Rivettis legacy and work are way deeper and more special than for most of the people I met before.
A couple of months ago I finally met Nicole in her studio in Glasgow to talk about all the inspiration she draws from Stone Island, her philosophy of work and her recent collaboration with Henry Spiers, another talented designer from Scotland.
I am thrilled that she is part of this Stone Island Special, and the chance to hear more about her story, ideas, future and the brand that got her into all of this. Welcome Nicole Bidoli:
Stone Island Special - The Designer: Nicole Bidoli
Nicole, what are the first thoughts crossing your mind, when you hear the words „Stone Island“?
Well let’s see where do we start... For me Stone Island or Isola di Pietra represents innovation, progression and purity. I think of Massimo, Carlo, Paul, and Errolson and let’s not forget Serie 100.
Do you still remember when you got your first jacket and what did that mean to you back then?
Yes, I do, Adrian, I remember it vividly. I think I was 13 at the time; I was over visiting my family in Treviso, Italy. My dad had always worn the brand, those amazing wool knits were one of his wardrobe staples, and I guess it was probably him who got me into the brand in the first place... So basically we were out in the city and I remember seeing this jacket, a lightweight off pink Raso Gommato, with the signature 90's contrasting black elastic rim. I tried it on and fell in love with it. I knew then I was hooked and that there was nothing else quite like it. My friends in the UK at the time were wearing Kappa, Lacoste and Gucci; for me Stone Island was a step ahead and leading innovation.
When did you actually decided to become a designer and did Stone Island play a role in this process?
Well, Adrian, funny you ask this. I was on the path to becoming an Architect; I had completed my Part 1 and had an Hons degree by 2011. I was working in Cruise Clothing in Glasgow part time to pay my way through my studies, surrounded by like minded individuals, experiencing Stone Island clothing first hand - the 30/30 jacket for example - I realised this was the path for me. Going then on to study fashion design at IUAV University in Venice, I began to learn more in depth about the process of design, fabrics and the technical aspects involved in the creation of new ideas. To be perfectly honest with you, I've never looked back and have the work of all those talented individuals inspiring me such as Paul Harvey to thank for it.
If we look at all the iconic characters that were or are still involved in the brand, who are the ones you draw most inspirations from and why?
Of course the genius that was Massimo Osti alongside the work of the Rivetti family is what has made the brand what it is today. For me personally it is the work of Paul Harvey that resonates with me most. I was honoured to have met him at an event in Glasgow a couple of years back, we spent time flicking through the pages of the Stardust Book and speaking about his 6 seasons of Serie 100 - which I am lucky enough to own two pieces of. I guess it's also to do with the fact that he created something that has all the technical aspects of a menswear garment but was tailored to a female. When I create a garment I always look to the pioneers of this industry such as Paul for inspiration, his work is aspirational and unrepeatable - the passion for Stone Island is what makes it all worthwhile and will keep me hooked on learning and creating into the future.
Since you have met Paul Harvey and obviously being a big fan of his work, can you please tell us what makes his work so special for you? Also, what do you think were his signature moves, designs and screamers during his time with Stone Island?
Paul Harvey joined Stone Island in 1996 the same year, Osti left and from the get go began to push the boundaries of research and innovation while style maintaining the DNA of the brand. Working on a total of 24 collections over a period of 12 years - that's 1 more than Osti, he created some of the most innovative garments to this day.
The true beauty behind Paul Harvey's work lies with him finding the perfect combination of garment construction, fabric choice and manipulation. His design choices are perfectly executed and there is a reason for each and every detail; be that functional for use or agility of movement.
Although hard to narrow down to a few main innovations at his time with Stone Island they would have to be:
1996: The first Fomula Steel-a Nylon Canvas bonded to a polyurethane film.
1999 – 2001: Pure Metal Shell Silver and Pure Metal Shell Bronze.
The Silver Jacket' and the Bronze Jacket', created with 100% stainless steel and % bronze metallic mesh bonded to a fabric base. Released within the Stone Island Spring Summer 2000 collection. The Silver Jacket is made from vacuum sprayed stainless steel polyester and shields the wearer from electromagnetic radiation.
2002: The design experimentation with various layers of meshes; developed for the Serie 100 range which revealed the internal construction of the jackets and which was later developed into the Stone Island main collection. Explains Paul's concept of construction perfectly.
Let’s talk a bit more about Paul Harvey’s Serie 100! Can you please explain further details about this special series and tell us why - besides being tailored only for woman - it has a special meaning for you?
Well, Mr Bianco, first of all can we take a moment to appreciate how special these pieces are as they are also becoming increasingly rare nowadays. The very special manufacturing processes, the quality of the fabrics and the overall composition of the series, all perhaps been lost along the way with clothing manufacturing industry:
Meshes. Originally born out of the Serie 100 - pieces created out of a continuous thread of nylon. Made up of a transparent nylon monofilament mesh protected by a double-layered transparent micro polyurethane film, which creates second super lightweight layer.
Knit Research highlighting double and quadruple needle beds. Thin lightweight and transparent made from a continuous piece of yarn moulding around the wearer's body shape.
Where did you get your two Serie 100 pieces, Nicole, and how hard is it for you to get your hands on more?
I guess I should be honest with you on this one Adrian. The mesh piece from season AW 2001/2002- I acquired in 2013 in a second hand market in the north of Italy. I hadn't arrived at the place long thrifting through the stands at 8am there it was. The woman who sold me it didn't have a clue what was leaving her grasp. This is my favourite piece and it cost only £35 Euros. Paul Harvey's reaction when I explained this story to him was second to none.
The other I got in Italy when it was released in Spring Summer 2001, I was 12 at the time I remember wearing it in first year of secondary school at the time and other pupils would shout at me in the hallway "hawl has someone cut your jacket too short" I didn't care, I appreciated what I was wearing and still do.
As for getting my hands on more I guess I would need to up my eBay game and continue to search in vintage markets for those gems. Anyway I feel there's much more beauty in that. The mystery and the adrenaline of not knowing what you will come across that day.
Let’s try to imagine: fast-forward the time of 5 years and - in a perfect imagination - you start your first day at Stone Island. You sit down at your desk and start brainstorming what you gonna design and work on next. Would you think about bringing back a female line or either go for something totally different?
I guess from a commercial aspect it may not be feasible but who knows what will be happening 5 years from now with the pace of this industry. From a purist design perspective I guess innovations come from meticulous and continuous research developed over time. As perfectly translated with the case of Stone Island the importance of incorporating not only elements of style but focusing on functionality and quality will withstand the test of time. Let's be honest here, who else had created a jacket, which can change colour with the temperature. Ideally a womenswear line incorporating all the functional elements and material properties of the Stone Island menswear collection translated into a woman's soft silhouette could potentially be successfully. Or maybe I would be the only one who would buy it :-)
Nicole since you have been to Venice to study Fashion Design, can you tell us a little bit about the significance and status of Stone Island within the campus and in Italy in general. Do you think there is a difference in which way people understand or interpret the brand compared to the UK?
Since the Early 80's the Italian designers have created a fashion indistinguishable that turned casual sportswear into casual elegance and have created their own signature look "the Italian look". In the dictionary of fashion, Massimo Osti, describes how, his designer objects focused on functionality and comfort rather than trends, (Vali: 2010:892) confirming his role in the creation and developed of the image of made in Italy into an Italian look recognised worldwide. Osti's vision depicts how innovation lies with the manipulation of fabric and it is through this that he has created a brand identity. The performance and quality of the garments are studied in every detail and it is unlikely to find another brand that will replace it to this day.
On the other hand the British casual culture; excited for football and for Italian style, attended football matches in Italy and other parts of Europe bringing Britain "The Italian Look" composed mainly of coats and pullovers Stone Island and C P company, Fila, Ellesse sneakers and jeans- Inspired by the Paninari subculture. This came to a great peak in the 90's and early 2000's demonstrated also by the commercial success of Stone Island opening a flagship store in London and Milan in 1999.
I guess for the British subculture it was perhaps tied a lot to the fact the brand aspirational and hard to acquire while for the Italian customer they bought the garments more based on personal taste, garment quality and functionality. The number of stockist in Italy is vaster and you will see Stone Island mixed with other brands on the rails and in window displays. Selling more of a look rather than the focus on a single garment like we see in the UK. The focus in Italy tends to be worn by an older man, who appreciates it for the quality or has had it passed down from a previous generation. Less trend driven and I guess and a lot more timeless.
At the same time, being in Glasgow for me is always super special because this town seems to breathe Stone Island in and out everyday. There are so many characters linked to the different aspects of this Italian legacy. Can you try to explain, why exactly Glasgow has such a bond or is this just a blueprint for any town in the UK?
From a first hand personal experience living in Glasgow I would have to say that Cruise Clothing acted as the main outlet for Stone Island for many years, Gordon Harry Miller now of Forty Clothing leading this institution. Nowadays we still have the older generation who will continue to collect and wear the brand but we also see a younger customer interested in the brand who will acquire their pieces either from 18montrose or Minted shop.
Having worked with the Stone Island product first hand over the past year, I see the emotions that these garments transmit to the user. Over the past couple of seasons we have seen some amazing innovations, that said; the pixel reflective, the prototype series and the re introduction of the hand painted. It's also about that experience of purchasing that new piece learning about the garment wearing it over and over again before moving onto the next piece. Either collecting or passing it on to a fellow fan. I still remember the day when I purchased my first jacket so I try to pass on that same emotion passion and feeling to those getting their next "outerwear hit".
Can you please tell us something about your own designs? How would you describe a typical Bidoli piece to someone who just walked into a shop that has a rag full of your clothes?
As for my own work Adrian, I would say it is still very much a work in progress brought about by meticulous research, military construction and fabric manipulation while continuing to look and learn from the work of the late Osti and Harvey.
You know Adrian, if I think back to two years ago I would have to say that I was still a purist and looked to Stone Island mainline collections, however through working with the product I feel my tastes have now evolved into a more technical route and now find myself looking more to the Shadow Project Pieces.
The garments are the perfect fusion of understated, technicality and functionality. The transformable and multi functional aspects of the designs fit the user purpose perfectly.
It is also interesting to see a fabric used in a shadow line one season and then see it diffused into the mainline collections the following season. It is that innovation and constant research that keeps you hooked onto the next piece.
Let`s talk about your latest work together with Henry Spiers. When I met you in Glasgow, you showed me these amazing pieces of the little capsule you guys were doing together. Can you please tell us something about that work and the idea behind it?
The idea originates from Henry's GSA degree show work looking into the hypothesis of creating a Government Communication Enforcement Force within the UK. GCE7, dealing with national security and economic well being. In this speculative project he considers what such an organisation might look like. We collaborated to design and produce functional items of their uniform. Bullet proof vest and pants.
My standout piece was definitely the vest with the detachable pockets! Can you please tell us more about the process of getting the idea into real life?
Ah yes. This piece looked great on you!
A discussion over coffee, some drawings, and pattern development then 12 hours at the sewing machine and that's just for the prototype.
The uniform features a modular pocket system allowing the wearer to remove and interchange pockets between vest and trousers, as their needs require. The vest features a reinforced velcro entry allowing quick and easy access, as well as allowing the fit to be altered on the body shape. A small d-ring loop to the right allows items to be mounted to the vest. For easy access a magnetic strip to the left allow a radio or earpiece to be mounted.
I would bet some money that your capsule would fly off the shelf in a couple of stores I know in Berlin. So since this capsule collection only exists as 1of1 individual products so far, will there be any chance to buy or custom order them again?
Everyone needs an Urban Survival Kit these days right?
Sure drop us a message via DM (we are in the process of creating an instagram page send you it as soon as it is complete)
So can we expect more work of you and Harvey and could you imagine how a casual sports wear line of you two would look like?
Functional - Adaptable - Technical
Nicole, you recently quit your job to fully focus on your work, passion, your studio and your very own label Type 000. So how did you feel at your first day in your studio and what exactly did you do on that day?
Ah, Adrian, yes, the time felt right to make the move. As for the first day I was working on a collaborative project at the time so I got the paper and pencil out and began developing some patterns.
So what is Type 000 about and can you please tell us a little bit about Ventile and the reason you choose it for this collection?
As for Type 000, the idea was founded on creating a small capsule for men and women with a high quality British fabric fused with Italian Craftsmanship. The choice of fabric was based on the longevity of the pieces, set out to transcend seasonal trends. It was a good starting point to form the basis of future research.
I also heard that you just recently sold your very first collection to a store in Venice and the fact that it took just 2 or 3 months to sell everything out. Can you still remember your first thought after you heard about your first official sale?
That’s correct Adrian. This was an important moment as it gave me an understanding of who the consumer we were reaching out to was. First thoughts - I called the customer in the store to thank them and speak to them about the product some more. That is why we do what we do, to give our customer a high quality product that they can use day in day out.
My next question needs to be about the one skirt you wore back in Glasgow. That`s a piece of technical womenswear I never saw before in my long history of looking at skirts all around the globe. Is this a part of a bigger collection and how did you manage to mix femininity and technical vibes so smoothly? Could this actually be your signature move?
Thank you Adrian, means a lot! The skirt came as a continuation of the GCE7 collaboration. I wanted to create a womenswear piece that had the same functional aspects, as those developed for the menswear line this was the result. I'm currently developing this concept further.
So what can we expect from your over the next years, did you set yourself some goals and when will I wear my very first Binoldi piece?
Over the next few years the aim is to keep the head down and work hard at this passion.
Nicole what would have happened if you would have not gotten your first Stone Island jacket as a teenager and you would have never gotten in contact with the brand?
I'd be sitting at a desk drawing some construction details I guess. Life would be boring and we might not have become friends. Thanks to Stone Island were sitting in Glasgow talking about Italian engineering, good food and what's coming next. It's perfect.
So when you sit on your desk designing your next idea, finding the right fabrics and methods, how much of Osti, Harvey or Rivetti is flowing through your mind? From inspiration to motivation, do you sometimes think about these great minds to keep your head up?
It's what led me to this path.
Thanks a lot for the time in your studio and the talks with you and Henry. I am more than happy you are part of this and I cannot wait for your next seasons of ideas and garments!