When he was the fashion director for the German luxury e-commerce store MyTheresa, Justin O’Shea clocked in about eight shows a day and followed the international fashion-week circuit for up to 10 months of the year. But now, in his new role as the creative director of the men’s wear label Brioni — his first position as the designer for a brand — his fashion week is vastly different.
O’Shea unveiled his first collection for the stately Roman brand yesterday, in an off-schedule show during women’s couture week in Paris — a decision that set a precedent for future presentations. “Obviously we still need to fit into some sort of formula that suits our wholesale, but we won’t fit into show seasons: we’ll fit it with product deliveries,” he says, pointing out that the collection will be available to purchase from the new Brioni e-commerce site starting today.
In the lead-up to his debut, T followed the 37-year-old Australian around Paris, trailing the final 48 hours that were filled with model castings, seating plans, last-minute fittings and the digital rollout of his new campaign, plus the requisite interviews and photo shoots, punctuated by a very disciplined exercise regime.
O’Shea’s jam-packed schedule speaks of the magnitude and diversity of his new role, which, surprisingly, didn’t find him pinning clothes at the last moment. But he makes no bones about his lack of experience as a designer: “To create a movement, you need to do more than just the clothes — it’s everything,” he says.
Just last week, only three months after his appointment, O’Shea revealed Brioni’s new, neo-Gothic logo. The next day, he released his new ad campaign, starring the American rock group Metallica. Both moves were pure O’Shea — a die-hard fan of hard rock and all its associated tropes (he sports a goatee and rides Harleys). “There’s quite a drastic difference between the former creative director and me,” he concedes with amusement, referring to Brendan Mullane, who kept things relatively staid during his tenure.
Still, there’s more than just personal persuasion behind the new direction. The new logo was actually found in the archives — and referenced what he perceives as the brand’s Hollywood heyday, when it dressed the likes of John Wayne and Clark Gable. “That era and aesthetic — that is my aesthetic,” he says. Likewise, the Metallica casting sets a tone for a new breed of Brioni man: more overtly mannish, and provocatively so — tattoos, biceps and all — much like O’Shea himself. “I just want a men’s brand to be masculine,” he says.
O’Shea’s influence, and competitive advantage, will perhaps be most powerfully felt at a retail level. In addition to the new e-commerce site, Brioni will open the first boutique under his new creative direction, designed by the British architect David Chipperfield, in Paris later this month. “I’m not a firm believer in ‘let’s take our time,’” he says. “We can do a lot of things at once, but we just have to work twice as hard.” Click through the slide show above to see how O’Shea spent the two days immediately before his debut show for Brioni.