Eleventy founder and men’s creative director Marco Baldassari always dreamed of designing a collection that would reflect his personal philosophy of life: casual, comfortable, distinctive and based on understatement rather than flash.
He fell in love with Italian craftsmanship early in his career when working for Cerruti and, with women’s creative director Paolo Zuntini, developed a powerhouse fashion brand based in Milan. After only four years in North America, the Eleventy collection has managed to capture the essence of contemporary style.
“When you look good, you feel good,” says Baldassari, “and your quality of life improves.”
Part of the secret is the brand’s “made in Italy” production—not in a giant factory, but outsourced to 94 small enterprises comprised of highly specialized artisans, each an expert in his or her field.
What’s more, the company’s recent mission—“responsible luxury”—is more than just a buzzword. “We’re using natural dyes rather than chemicals, and we’re heavily investing in research to reduce our carbon footprint,” says Baldassari.
Geoff Schneiderman, manager of U.S. sales, elaborates: “For the past few seasons, we’re increasingly focused on sustainability and protecting the environment. For example, we use mostly Giza cotton from Egypt that has
very long fibers so it doesn’t pill, doesn’t shrink, is incredibly soft and lasts
through 1,000 washes. We’re also using recycled plastics in both product
and packaging to protect the oceans.
“We’ve been at lots of events lately,” Schneiderman continues, “and it seems that customers, especially young people, are increasingly interested in how things are made and why there’s value in the product. For them, it’s not just about buying
clothes but also about learning how they’re produced, how they’re worn, how the new styles are different from what’s in their closets. The sustainability factor is, of course, a plus—but the product has got to be right.”
Has Eleventy got it right? Patrons’ verdict seems to be affirmative—even when shopping comes with a challenge. “For most of our customers, the goal now is learning a new way to dress,” says Schneiderman. “The biggest misconception about ‘elevated casual’ is that all guys have to do is wear the suit and dress shirt without the tie. In fact, the key component is a finely finished knitwear piece—it could be a cotton T-shirt or polo or a lightweight merino crew, but always a luxury fabric with subtle detailing and trim. Wear that as the foundation piece with drawstring-waist pants or slim-fit five-pockets, an unstructured sportcoat (our laser-cut blazer in solids or patterns is a winning example!) and cool footwear, and you’re good to go anywhere.”