“That’s a Brioni suit,” says Brad Pitt, with utter conviction, in the Coen brothers film Burn After Reading. His character Chad Feldheimer is by no means a style connoisseur – he wears bright-red gym kit for much of the film – but he recognises the house’s distinctive Roman cut at a mere glance.
While this interaction was in a fictional context in 2008, the appointment of Pitt as Brioni ambassador late last year formalised the relationship in real life. The first campaign images, released today, were photographed in Hollywood by Swedish photographer Mikael Jansson. “It was almost too good to be true,” says Brioni design director Norbert Stumpfl, of the coming together of man and brand. “We created a tuxedo for him for the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, and it was immediately a perfect match. He loves the tailoring and the new direction the brand has taken.”
That new direction is, in fact, an old direction: a return to the house’s roots as a tailor on a large scale. As seen at Pitti Uomo in Florence on Tuesday, in a presentation marking the house’s 75th anniversary, today’s Brioni majors on well-cut suits, overcoats and presentable casualwear catering to the well-to-do working man. “It’s about wearing super-luxurious garments but not caring too much about how they’re put on,” says Stumpfl. “A collar can stick out, the buttons on a jacket sleeve are ‘carelessly’ unbuttoned, the tie underpart is slightly showing.”
This move follows a difficult period in Brioni’s recent history, in which the company rapidly cycled through creative directors – most notably menswear personality Justin O’Shea, the former buying director of Mytheresa, who lasted only six months. “The company went through a lot of changes,” says Stumpfl, who joined the house from Berluti in 2018. “It veered away from its history and DNA, and lost direction this way.”
The pairing with Pitt is inarguably more in tune with the house’s roots. A few days ago at the Golden Globes ceremony, where he was awarded best supporting actor for his role in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, Pitt wore a black three-piece mohair Brioni tuxedo that looked at once both polished and relaxed: his unbuttoned jacket was slightly boxy, the trousers were loose-fitting and the waistcoat was fastened louchely low. “He wears the clothes in the right way and the clothes don’t wear him,” adds Stumpfl. “Men want to be like him and women love him. It does not get any better.”