Italian Fashion to Know at Chicago Collective: Sealup, Cortigiani, Belvest
MILAN — The appetite of American consumers for Made in Italy remains strong, and brands from the country want to nab bigger slices of the U.S. market. The Chicago Collective trade show is dedicating a spotlight section to 62 menswear players from Italy as part of a tie-up with ITA (Italian Trade Agency), the governmental agency that supports the business development of local companies abroad.
Focused on updating the quintessential Italian style and waving the flag of the country’s Fashion know-how, here are three exhibitors to check out at the fair.
Established in 1935 by Piero and Germana Chiesa, Sealup has been specializing in weatherproof and technical outerwear for four generations. Best known for its raincoats and peacoats blending form and function, the brand is infused with Milanese spirit in the way it combines understated elegance and a pragmatic approach to dressing.
In light of such a long-standing expertise in the field and history — punctuated by collaborations with designers such as Walter Albini in the ‘70s — Sealup’s collections often take inspiration from its archives filled with more than 2,500 samples, reinventing and updating styles with new treatments and sustainable elements in tune with consumers’ new demands.
Some of these pieces will be showcased in Chicago, along with the newest styles inspired by the brand’s claim “Rain & Sea.” The former will be represented by trenchcoats and raincoats cut in essential silhouettes and crafted from different materials, ranging from classic cotton gabardine to a waterproof cotton and nylon blend that lends a velvety finish to the garment. The “sea” counterpart mirrors the approach in peacoats that run gamut from water-repellent wool cloth to fine cashmere. In sync with Sealup’s eco-oriented commitment, quilted styles come with animal-free wadding in the graphene material.
Hinged on a timeless color palette of navy, military green and beige tones, the collection also offers sweatshirts and accessories embellished with anchor-shaped hand-embroidered patches or the Sealup logo.
The brand has been increasingly expanding its assortment to womenswear and knitwear, ranging from mariniere and fisherman ribbed styles to Irish cable knits, as well as sportier solutions such as sweatshirts and hoodies. As for the accessories, hats, bags and umbrellas add to occasional collaborations, the most recent of which saw Sealup tip-toeing into footwear with a sneaker style developed with Italian brand Velasca.
With an average price of $550 for apparel and $1,500 for outerwear, the brand is mainly distributed in Europe, Japan and the U.S. In addition to its flagship store in Milan’s arty neighborhood of Brera, Sealup is available at 150 department stores and multibrand stores in the domestic market, including Rinascente, Al Duca d’Aosta and Franz Kraler. These add to roughly 100 doors scattered across Europe and 50 retailers in Japan, such as Isetan, United Arrows and Tomorrowland, to name a few. The brand’s most recent market, the U.S., counts about 20 stockists, including Mr. Sid and Button Down.
Like many in the Italian Fashion industry, family-owned menswear brand Cortigiani was originally established as a third-party knitwear manufacturer in the early ‘80s on the outskirts of Padova, in Italy’s Veneto region. Its link with luxury brands allowed cofounders Roberto Ziero and Donato Cecchin to strengthen their know-how and fueled their business ambitions.
In 1992, Cortigiani introduced a namesake house brand building on its manufacturing prowess and Made in Italy supply chain to offer a total menswear look. Over the years the brand has accrued recognition for its outerwear for the combination of sartorial techniques and silhouettes with technical and performance features. Case in point, the fall 2024 collection’s hero piece, a down-filled parka, is double faced and crafted from extrafine wool and high-end nylon.
Backed by strong performances over the past couple of years, Cortigiani is plotting its next growth phase. In the first half of 2024, the label will open its third retail outpost in Milan. It currently operates two freestanding boutiques in tony ski resort destination Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, and in the seaside town of Puerto Banús, Spain.
“The year 2024 will be crucial for Cortigiani, marking a turning point,” said chief executive officer Ziero. “Backed by strong performances in 2022 and even more so last year, when sales jumped 20 percent year-on-year, we believe this is the right moment to kick off an expansion strategy that moving from Italy is aimed at furthering our footprint in Europe.”
The brand counts about 90 stockists globally including specialty boutiques in the Mitchells Family of Stores network and 90 percent of Cortigiani’s business comes from exports, with Europe, the U.S. and Asia, among the driving regions.
Attending the Chicago Collective trade show for the first time, Ziero highlighted the company’s big expectations from the fair. “Sales in the U.S. represent a good portion of our exports. We expect 2024 to mark a double-digit growth in the country, as Made in Italy remains top of mind there for luxury consumers.”
The fall collection originally debuted at Pitti Uomo in January furthers Cortigiani’s penchant for blending Italian sartorial style with sportswear elements.
Filled with luxurious fabrics including ultrafine cashmere often paired with high-tech materials such as outdoor-proof, three-layer membranes, the collection — all done in a neutral color palette of grays, beiges, buttery whites as well as occasional navy blues — has a luxe-leisure undercurrent and ticks all the boxes in the ongoing outdoorsy trend.
High-end down jackets are lightweight and cocooning — and particularly handsome when cut as overshirts and paired with textured knits, zippered sweaters and cargo pants done in tailoring fabrics or denim blended with cashmere. Woolen field jackets and tracksuits tap into the indoor-outdoor conversation happening this Fashion season. The collection retails between $600 for entry-price knits to $3,500 for outerwear.
Over the past 60 years, the Padova-based brand Belvest has been an example of Italian craftsmanship. It was founded in 1964 by Aldo Nicoletto, who wanted to offer ready-to-wear garments made according to the sartorial tradition but with a contemporary fit and modern style.
In 1972, the company presented its collection for the first time at the menswear trade fair Pitti Uomo in Florence, which attracted the attention of foreign buyers. In 1978, the brand introduced the made-to-measure service with two important innovations meant to become main features of the brand: the deconstructed jacket and lightweight canvas.
For its latest collection, Belvest drew inspiration from nature, travel and art and in terms of colors, it looked into fall and winter shades, ranging from warm tones of orange to brown, and different shades of blue.
Signature pieces of the brand such as the natural soft jacket and the “Jacketinthebox” wool jersey jacket are also featured in the collection. The former is part of a line of tailored garments with soft shoulders and regular fit. The “Jacketinthebox” is a patented trademark since 1998 and has a deconstructed structure, half canvas and horsehair on the shoulders and it’s enriched by deconstructed details including contrasting fabric piping.
Wool and cashmere sweaters, ties with geometric or striped patterns and cotton and cashmere jersey shirts complete the offering. The color palette for the shirts range from camel, dark green and chocolate brown to white.
The brand utilizes natural materials such as mohair wool, yak hair and black sheep wool, which does not undergo any dyeing or chemical treatment, preserving the natural colors spanning from black or gray to brown.
Average retail prices start from $1,141 for jackets and swing between $1,751 and $6,916 for coats and between $158 and $305 for shirts.
Belvest collections are distributed in Europe, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. across wholesalers such as Barneys Japan, Tomorrowland and Stanley Korshak, among others.
Italian Fashion to Know at Chicago Collective: Sealup, Cortigiani, Belvest