Runway project: the making of Alfredo Häberli and Cerruti 1881's jumpsuit
Alfredo Häberli has spent a lot of time thinking about speed and travel over the last couple of years. Carmaker BMW enlisted the Swiss-Argentine designer to create an installation that explored movement, luxury and transport as part of its Precision and Poetry project in 2015.
That project got Häberli thinking about the suitable attire for all this speed and travel. We thought we could help and suggested developing a futuristic jumpsuit, a comfortable but tailored take on the classic racing suit – a perfect fit for our travel-themed Handmade exhibition. For over a year, ideas were bounced between London and Zurich, until his design had progressed to the stage where we could look for a maker for our dream suit. We thought Italian fashion house Cerruti 1881 and its chief creative officer Jason Basmajian were the perfect match. Häberli didn’t need any convincing. ‘I have known the brand since I was a teenager,’ he says.
The brand was founded, as its name suggests, in 1881, as a weaving workshop in Biella, a town in northern Italy with a strong textile tradition. Basmajian joined in 2015, after stints at Gieves & Hawkes and Brioni.
Häberli, meanwhile, has previous form when it comes to fashion and textiles, from developing a felt poncho for his graduation in 1991 (from Zurich’s Höhere Schule für Gestaltung) to a conceptual shoe project with Swiss brand Bally. He’s also part of an ongoing collaboration with Danish upholsterer Kvadrat, while a hook-up with Spanish shoemaker Camper in 2009 saw the designer create a collection of boots with add-on galoshes. The Handmade project, he admits, was a step up. ‘This is the first serious piece of clothing I have designed,’ says Häberli. ‘I was inspired by travelling, by finding a piece of clothing that goes well with the journey. I found inspiration in the precise cuts of airplane fuselage fairings, and the details on the body of a Gran Turismo [car], and tried to transfer them into a modern sewing pattern.’
Häberli and Basmajian convened at Cerruti 1881’s Paris atelier, where the designer illustrated his ideas for the one-piece to be developed by the house’s tailors. ‘His style is thoughtful, functional and elevated,’ says Basmajian, ‘similar to the company’s DNA. He conveyed aspects of the design as if he were a designer here in the studio.’
The jumpsuit combines sartorial details and ergonomic design, Basmajian explains. It’s beautifully tailored but practical, created to cope with a designer’s frequent travels, a smart combination between an overall and a suit. Made of a woollen fabric woven in Biella, the suit was created in both navy and black. Häberli tried out the suit himself, wearing it with a Cerruti 1881 tie and shirt during Salone del Mobile this year for press previews, appointments and evening cocktails. ‘It felt very good, comfortable, kind of cool,’ he says. He cites the flattering cut, absence of a belt and integrated cargo-style pockets as the most practical elements of the design. ‘The result is an impeccable blend of precision and poetry, lending me the ineffable feeling of always being appropriately dressed – no more and no less.’
As originally featured in the August 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*209)