Marco Baldassari describes himself as a “50-year-old with the enthusiasm of a 20-year-old.” His fashion label, Eleventy, does a similar job of reflecting two generations: while only 12 years old, the brand is already carried in many of the world’s most historic boutiques — no doubt thanks to the balance that Baldassari’s designs strike between playful and dignified.
Think suits that are casual enough to be worn with a T-shirt, but still sophisticated enough to accompany a shirt and tie. We sat down with the brand director to find out how how Eleventy keeps gentlemen in touch with their inner youth.
What guides Eleventy?
Four things. First of all, sustainability — both socially, and in terms of using fabrics that are not damaging to the environment, like natural cotton. That allows for our second pillar, which is responsible luxury. The third point is, made in Italy. Our style and production draw on our tradition and culture so that, behind every piece, there is someone with the kind of passion and knowledge of detail that you will only find in Italy. We top all of this off with incredible service. I love to educate people, and to explain to a consumer what they’re buying — to explain to them what is real luxury.
How, then, do you define luxury?
Everybody speaks about luxury, but I don’t think that everything expensive is automatically a luxury good. In our philosophy, luxury means that, first of all, your company is based where you produce. Secondly, when you see something and think that it’s a higher-ticket item than it is. When people see our product, they think it’s more expensive than the ticket price.
Eleventy was founded fairly recently — 2007. How do you see yourself in comparison to brands with a longer heritage?
Eleventy is a young brand, but it is a global brand. We invested a lot of time in travel — in meeting people to make them more confident with the brand and in teaching people to understand the real value of the brand. There is strong storytelling behind it.
How do you describe the story behind Eleventy?
Eleventy stands for “elevate yourself” and the philosophy that we should try to do better every day. The worst thing you can do in your life is to start to relax after your first taste of success. Always think about how to improve — take inspiration from what’s in the world, read, and speak with the people around you. This requires something that makes you comfortable in many environments. This is what our clothes offer — something that’s a natural fit for someone to wear to a meeting with the CEO, then to dinner with friends, then to the gym.
What’s the inspiration for your latest collection?
Our latest collection is inspired by travel. We might not all necessarily be taking a plane every day, but we still need to find something comfortable and timeless for being on the go. Jersey is very important in our collection, because it takes the shape of your body, it doesn’t wrinkle, and you don’t need to iron it every day. It’s perfect for when you want to wear a jacket, one that is not too classic, or too formal — one that is true business-casual style.
How did you get your own start in fashion?
I started as an agent 32 years ago. Back then, I was carrying the bags of the masters, but I was listening. Step by step, my knowledge of the collection grew. And eventually, the company I represented asked me to help with the collection, because I had feedback from the clients, and I had the sense. As I started to make clothing, I began to think about what I could make for myself. What started as a very small collection is now in the best specialty stores in the world.
What do you think of the current state of menswear?
The right word is balance. I try to take inspiration from all of it — from streetwear, from formalwear, from luxury goods, and then to make our interpretation. Like a chef. Everybody makes spaghetti, but everybody has a different way to prepare it. Everybody makes a jacket, but we make it with different details, with our personality, with our style, with our lengths, with many details that make the difference.
What’s the best advice you’ve received over the years?
Every year I add another year to my age, but I also believe that age is only a number. I feel young and happy because I have something I love. This is my suggestion to young people — make something you love, because then, it’s not work. You enjoy the life and the ride.