As C.P. Company celebrates its half-century this year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the work of Massimo Osti. Like the brands he created, his influence on fashion and the surrounding culture only grew stronger after he passed. It’s the classic case of not realising what you’ve got until it’s gone.
Like many of the disciples of his design, Osti felt turned off by mainstream principles and he often rejected convention. He made an effort to keep his design process pure and went out of his way to ignore what so-called competitors were up to. His roots in clothing came from a graphic design perspective, which he paired with a deep-rooted thirst for knowledge. This encompassed historical military uniforms as well as skirting around the edges of science. Put plain and simple, he was an innovator. His archive of fabric samples remains largely intact in his native Bologna and charts his experimental journey through garment dyeing, bonding fabrics and treatments together which had previously never been tried and just generally trying to move things forward. Much of his research eventually found a dead end, so ambitious it was. But from this experimentation came some genuinely new techniques which became a mark of his uniqueness.
With this ethos at the heart of his work, the casual scene was always going to be a place where he’d find favour. Despite this, he never really fully acknowledged this popularity, preferring to keep his designs true and with less commerciality than more cynical businessmen would like. And yet, it was this stubborn, purist streak that marked him out as an icon. His legacy is littered with innovations and creations which had no place in the world until Osti gave them that place.
The first vehicle for his work was C.P. Company, at least once the well-documented name change from Chester Perry had taken place.
The 90s saw Osti apply his hand to numerous projects. His own Massimo Osti Productions ran from 1995-98, alongside the under-rated ST95 which was available from 96-98. Collaborations with established brands like Superga, Volvo, Dockers and Levi’s also benefited from Osti’s magic. He even worked with Sting to highlight deforestation of the Amazon as far back as 1988. Even now some brands aren’t environmentally aware while Osti knew the score 4 decades ago.
What of his legacy in 2021?
Though many would name C.P and Stone Island as his biggest achievements, his creativity found a home via numerous projects. Left Hand had an all too brief spell in the sunshine during the 1990s, and once again it bore the hallmarks of Osti’s signature innovation. An artificial deerskin-type fabric comprising of pressed microfibre and nylon emerged in 1992, followed by Thermojoint a year later. The latter didn’t stop at a mere 100% waterproof fabric – it also gave 80% protection from radiation.
Quite rightly his family have dedicated time, passion and money to rebuild an archive of his best work. Two amazing books have been released along with exhibitions (one of which we curated), video content and generally a really respectful, tasteful display of his life’s work via social media. The affection for Osti only continues to grow.
Stone Island has never been more popular, something which culminated in the brand being purchased by Moncler last year for over £1billion. Osti left long before his passing, eventually handing over the keys in 1994, just 12 years after establishing the brand.
C.P. Company retains strong links with the Osti family, with Lorenzo Osti occupying the position of brand president, having previously done a great job as marketing director. Lorenzo (pictured above as a child with his father) is no stranger to the industry, having designed the first fashion website in Italy, for ST95.
Meanwhile, with brands remembered fondly from the 1990s re-emerging in various guises, both Left Hand and ST95 have received a reboot, each with award-winning designer Christopher Raeburn at the helm. His uncompromising nature combined with a deep understanding of military garments (and a large archive of his own) makes him the ideal custodian of both brands. Having spent most of the last decade collaborating with the likes of Rapha, Victorinox, Fred Perry, Clarks, Moncler, Barbour, Timberland and The North Face, he occupies an unrivalled position in the industry and his unwavering commitment to sustainability means anything both brands do going forward will keep the health of the planet at its heart.
Often, the re-awakening of brands revered in the mists of time rely on retro. That isn’t going to be at play here, and the fact both Left Hand and ST95 were only around for a short time suggests scope for new chapters to be written. Time will tell.