The renewed tradition of Made in Italy, Kiton makes the difference – Mariano and Walter De Matteis talk about KNT
We’re talking with Mariano and Walter De Matteis, twins in their early thirties and the 3rd generation of the Kiton couture house, in their beautiful headquarters in Via Pontaccio, Milan. Fashion, art, luxury and well-being are the elements characterizing the ambiance, making it unique. You simply can’t resist touching the hanging clothing and marveling at the light, supple yarns and leathers, the soft yet defined cut of the jackets and numerous hues and textures around you. Everything embodies the perfect synthesis of Italian couture that knows how to reinvent itself continuously without losing touch with its roots.
The story of the Kiton brand through the eyes of the new generation, Mariano and Walter De Matteis
Q: Kiton is a brand that knows how to reinvent itself. Your presence here is proof of just that.
M&WDM: We joined the Company ten years ago. We were very young and for the first three or four years, we pretty much followed our father Antonio around, like shadows. We spent six months in New York and then six months in London. Always in a car, always with him … he never left us alone! We learned the trade by watching our father Antonio at work; by observing, listening and taking in his every word and gesture. He was an extraordinary teacher and knew how to pass on the values behind the Kiton brand, values that we have experienced since we were children … values we only now fully understand the importance and power of.
Q: What apprenticeships have you had?
M&WDM: We have passed through every area of the Company. It’s been fundamental for us to understand not only how Kiton garments are designed and made, but also how the network of professional relationships behind each collection is made up of suppliers, customers, agents… We’ve had the privilege of learning on the job and of being able to ask our questions directly to those involved. It’s been a tremendously satisfying experience. We started in the fabric warehouse, the place that best identifies Kiton and its roots. Then we moved on to learn how the jackets are made; this took months for us to master all the steps.
Only when our father was certain we were ready did he allow us more freedom to work. Today, even if we can both say we are more experienced, we continue to discuss things with him. He is and remains our reference point on every aspect, from those related to the business side to those creative. I (Mariano) am more inclined to lean towards the business side of things, while Walter has more of a flair for the collections; we complement each other.
D: What have you gained from your uncle Ciro Paone’s teachings, the founder?
M&WDM: Quality and respect for everyone, at all times. We have been taught the value of an education as key to how we interact with the world, to never stop at the stereotypes or at what we have done before. We wouldn’t be here right now; we’d be over it.
Quality and Made in Italy for an intercultural dialogue
D: Who do you interact with?
M&WDM: Daily, we are in contact with a lot of people in the Company. People who have seen us grow and are now sharing their expertise with us. Then there are the suppliers, those in the R&D department and of course, our Clients. So you can see, a number of people.
D: Who are your suppliers?
M&WDM: They are all Italian companies Kiton has long-standing relationships with. We wouldn’t be able to call ourselves a Made in Italy company if we didn’t do business with Italian companies. We’re not talking about a sort of snobbery, but rather about the fact that we do find the best here. For example, the very best fabrics, but also innovative craftsmanship and solutions … the same care for detail we put into designing and making our garments. The world of Italian fabrics is marvelous. There is a wealth that exists nowhere else in the world. We also make quality fabrics in our Carlo Barbera wool mill in Biella.
D: Kiton sells all over the world, what value does Made in Italy have for your customers?
M&WDM: Everyone gives Made in Italy a different worth depending on where they come from; the concept of “made in Italy” is not as unique as people tend to believe. What really counts is that it defines a value that must be earned day after day, focusing on the highest quality and standards, or else it is just a label. What makes the difference is the quality. By just touching a Kiton garment, anyone can understand that simple truth.
Foreseeing trends: the secret of KNT’s success
D: What are today’s customers looking for?
M&WDM: Quality, as we’ve just said, but also a new way of wearing clothes … less formal and structured, more comfortable and relaxed. Our jackets are now all deconstructed, but their tailored quality remains evident in the way they fit and fall; the same can be said for our trousers and other pieces. When customers touch the garments, they feel the difference. That little something extra comes from the fabric and the artistry, all done by hand. This is why we always have our customers try on our clothing. This way, they can feel them.
People are moving towards a more casual style without sacrificing luxurious fabrics, refined pairings of materials and details that make all the difference. The pandemic has accelerated this trend, pushing even those who used to dress more formally to choose more comfortable and relaxed garments.
D: You’ve brought this trend forward with the KNT line.
M&WDM: Yes, it is our line and we are particularly proud of it. Three and a half years ago, we presented the idea of KNT (Kiton New Texture) to our father, and he gave us the go-ahead, as long as we did not compromise the values of the Kiton brand. Following this, we partnered with the Politecnico di Milano. This led to the concept for the Pitti Uomo stand in January and the most recent addition of a new technical fabric we are using for some of our outerwear.
KNT is a line focused on textile research for more casual and sporty garments, inspired by the architecture of the big city and urban culture. We’ve wanted to try to spin Kiton’s yarns with machines different from those traditional for creating new graphic effects and textures. KNT has a more minimalist line of shapes, colors and volumes combining versatility, function and dynamics. It was a winner. KNT was extremely well received by customers. It has earned praise not only from our younger clientele, but has also managed to find its way into the wardrobes of Kiton’s more traditional customers. They have found the same obsessive attention to detail and same quality as with our founding Company. We are doing best in the United States and Asia, but we are also growing in Russia, followed by Europe and Italy. For now, there are no KNT flagship stores, but corners at Bergdorf Goodman and Kiton stores.
D: Talking about wardrobes, what’s in yours?
M&WDM: Only KTN pieces at the moment. They embody us in every way. We really enjoy wearing this line because it captures our vision of what fashion is today and has the essence of what Kiton is all about.