When in Rome: an interview with Brioni’s executive design director Norbert Stumpfl

By Michelle Johnson | 05 May 2021 | Culture, Style, Design

The fashion guru reveals the timeless Italian style that inspires his collections – and the brand’s sophisticated new scent

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Italian menswear brand Brioni is known for creating chic and stylish suits beloved by the likes of Brad Pitt and Barack Obama. Under executive design director Norbert Stumpfl, the brand embodies classic cuts, fine materials and timeless sense of Italian nonchalance, and has become a masterclass in how tailoring can bridge the gap of skilled heritage to modern maven – thanks to the careful carelessness stitched into every detail.

Now, the fashion house is completing the look with a new signature scent – Brioni Eau de Parfum – designed to take that studied devil- may-care ethos a step further, offering a final olfactory touch to truly finish an outfit.

The men’s fragrance was created in collaboration with master perfumer Michel Almairac, and is presented in a blue bottle – the colour inspired by the brand’s classic navy suits – made by crystal designer Lalique.

“Our new fragrance, like all things Brioni, perfectly balances between sophistication and charisma,” says Stumpfl. “A perfume that does not shout, yet envelops the wearer with an irresistible presence, a comfortable caress and masculine charm.”

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Launched in March via a high-production webcast, it was immediately clear that the Brioni Eau de Parfum has benefitted from as much attention to detail as any of the brand’s bespoke tailoring. In fact, even its tagline “tailor your legend” evokes some of the importance of the new product to the 75-year-old brand.

The purpose of the Brioni Eau de Parfum is to create a signature scent for the world of Brioni – “the perfect complement to its sartorial universe” – an invisible touch to complete the impeccable outfit.

For this dinstinct task, Stumpfl turned to French master perfumer Almairac. Born in 1953, Almairac is one of the world’s most prolific modern masters, creating signature fragrances for the likes of Gucci, Burberry, Escada, Van Cleef & Arpels and Chopard. Working with sustainable fragrance company Robertet, which specialises in uses raw materials, Almairac set out to define a simple but perfectly balanced scent.

“For this fragrance, I sought to glorify Brioni’s sophisticated and refined elegance. A creation with few raw materials, this perfume sublimates them all,” he says. “They are juxtaposed perfectly to create this authentic sillage which translates the savoir-faire of the Italian couture studio.”

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The crisp top notes are lifted by a modern ozonic accent and pink peppercorn and luminous apple; at the heart notes, green, powdery violet contrasts with the musky warmth of ambroxan to represent the “discreet charm” of the Brioni man. The base notes are structured by the clean scent of cedar, lined in smooth almondy tonka bean and soft musk.

Guided by Brioni’s sustainable ethos, Almairac selected responsibly sourced ingredients including pink peppercorn harvested in Madagascar and the island of La Réunion from trees planted around villages – which support their inhabitants by bringing work to the region’s unemployed – and Virginia cedarwood, sourced via Robertet’s partnership American distilleries, the wood comes from upcycling scraps and unsuitable logs from sawmills.

“Working with Michel Almairac was a real pleasure,” says Stumpfl. “He is a master perfumer and quickly understood what I was looking for. I wanted to create a perfume like a Brioni suit, something which gives you comfort and a feeling of strength without overpowering the personality of the wearer.

“Michel created a formula which is rather short for a perfume, ingredients are limited and the effect is delicious, like Italian food: few ingredients which under the right hand become unforgettable.”

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The brand is renowned for its high-profile fans of statesmen and celebrities; a quality Stumpfl credits to the brand’s understanding of its customer – what he calls “the Brioni man”.

“The Brioni man is someone who is at the top in his field. Someone who appreciates quality,” he says. “He is not looking for fashion but something which makes him feel amazing.

“When I am designing for our customers I wish to create something which fits into the times without ever overwhelming the personality. My key features are to always make the Brioni man more desirable; my personal style is almost invisible. The customer is more important than what I do. I just create garments that have a light and desirable signature.”

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Stumpfl’s Spring/Summer 21 collection exemplifies this in its playful approach, which focuses on a softening of the formal codes and a celebration of the social – perfect for the upcoming season post-lockdown. The collection is, Brioni describes, about “men at ease with themselves and the way they use clothing to represent who they are into the wider scene of social life” and always keeping “Roman nonchalance” in mind.

Pieces include classically tailored suits with refreshed fabrics – sourced sustainably from Italy – including a lightweight 210s wool, soft cashmere, linen and silk, all available in a seasonal colour palette of soft beiges, blues, greys and greens. Leisurewear is crafted from super-light leggera fabric and silk, while blazers are crafted from wool combined with silk, linen, cashmere and rare Escorial wool.

“Brioni is a company with a long history of style. In its beginning it was ‘avant garde’ with many revolutionary ideas,” he says. “After a long period, Brioni became a synonym for classic tailoring. I want to challenge that.”

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Founded in Rome in 1945 by master tailor Nazareno Fonticoli and Gaetano Savini, Brioni tailoring soon became the epitome of Italian craftsmanship and discerning sartorial style, going head to head with London’s Savile Row.

The brand’s first store was on Via Barberini 79 and became a beacon to international clients. 1952 saw Brioni host the first ever men’s fashion show at the Sala Bianca de Palazzo Pitti in Florence – returning there in 2020 for its 75th anniversary celebration.

“Brioni is, for me, a place of innovation and in this way, we always offer garments which are right for their purpose. I uphold the eccentric feeling of Brioni, beginning in the eveningwear, where I really let myself go,” says Stumpfl, adding that the real key to Brioni’s longevity remains the fearless mix of innovation, quality and heritage.

“What sets us apart is the use of our fabrics, the modernity and wearability of our garments, the technical expertise and the tradition.” Success in a bottle.