Guido Biondi of President's

Interview & Photography Ryan Willms
Campaign imagery courtesy of President's

With the Spring-Summer '16 collection from President's about to be released, we sat down with the brand's creative director, Guido Biondi, to discuss his vision for the emerging Italian label. In a relaxed conversation, he opens up about a family history in fashion that goes back decades, the inspirations and philosophies that underpin his work, and the important role played by Tuscany.


There appears to be an atmosphere of West Coast and surf culture that's been with the brand ever since I've known it. Have you spent much time in California?
Absolutely. Surfing is one of my biggest passions. I'm not a good surfer, but I really like the atmosphere of the West Coast and Los Angeles. When I design collections for the summer, I take a lot of inspiration from the West Coast. It influences the fabrics I choose – nice feeling jersey or cotton – and also the different print applications. For the T-shirts that we make, we get the feeling and style from California, but try to be more sophisticated. I like to use like Japanese application T-shirts and maybe Bermuda shorts with the best cotton and linen from Japan or Italy. My idea is to use street wear and often basic inspirations, but elevate them in a unique way through my own perspective and the best construction possible.

I think that's obvious too, once you look at the clothing – it feels quite sophisticated. With the fabrics you're choosing, you have to have a certain eye or an ability to see with your hands in a way, and also know which fabrics are going to be right for which garments. You're able to find a good balance over the whole collection between the utilitarian ripstops, cashmere-silks, beautiful cottons, and the more refined shirting fabrics.
What I want to do with President's is to create a sort of melting pot of fabric and selection, to create difference, but find a natural balance it in. Between Loro Piana yarns, Japanese ripstop and the best Italian poplin, alongside Egyptian cotton and rough denim, striking the right balance between all of these textures and shapes is important to me, and hopefully the customer can see that too.

Overall there's a certain American influence with denim, sweatshirts and Hawaiian graphics, among other things. Were you influenced by American culture while growing up in Italy?
Stüssy was one of the brands that I was originally really drawn to. I was also a big fan of Brooks Brothers, J. Press and other traditional brands, as well as more casual surf-style brands. I always loved older American aesthetics, mixed with American street wear. I really like American street wear, combined with more artisanal brands, but that came later on I think. In my mind, finding a balance between Brooks Brothers and Stüssy has always been a nice idea to me.

Your family has been in the clothing business for a long time, were you interested in it from an early age?
Yes, when I got out of school at around 14 or 15, I started to take lessons on the sewing machine. After school I would go to my family's business. At dinner we would talk about textiles, fabrics, construction, selection and research. It didn't feel like work or business, it was just a part of our lives. I really enjoyed working with all the old women at the sewing machines. I liked to do hand repairs on jeans. It was exciting for me to learn and with that my vision of what was possible evolved as well. It's very important when you design to concentrate and know your abilities. When you're drawing on a piece of paper everything is possible, but sometimes the technical aspect can be more important than graphics and imagination. A famous Italian designer, the first one that comes to mind, Valentino, is very good because he is more of a pattern maker.

When you were growing up, did you ever consider doing something outside of clothing?
I actually wanted to create a small but very sophisticated food shop. Like a food boutique. I'd have the best pasta and ham from Tuscany. I still have this dream. Eventually I'd love to combine this shop with other items – some clothing, some kitchenware – and also have a small area where you can eat. There would be a bar offering the best spaghetti with tomato. It would be very contemporary with an emphasis on back to basics Italian dishes, especially Tuscan dishes.

You made some spaghetti and sent it out in President's packaging a couple of seasons ago, right?
Yes! Spaghetti represents that stripped-down basic, but when done right it's the best thing. I think spaghetti is art. There's different spaghetti in Italy; sometimes it's bad, sometimes so-so, sometimes amazing. It's a kind of a subculture, similar to the way I think about clothing and how I design.

You can be a designer today without really knowing how to be a designer in a traditional sense. With the right reference, direction and vision, you don't necessarily have to be able to draw or make a pattern. If you have a certain taste level relating to fabric, colour, mood and tone, and you're able to communicate that, you can direct people.
That is true. Nowadays there's lots of opportunities to get involved in producing clothing. I think it was much more difficult before, but today more young people are into it, and it feels more attainable. If you have good taste, good hands to choose the materials, and you want to make a button-down shirt, it's easy. But then you have push things in a marketing sense.

How long have you been designing President's?
This is the fourth year.

So the eighth season?
The eighth season, yes. We showed at Pitti Uomo in Florence in 2011. We are still young compared to other brands. I think it takes close to ten years to really become established. With brands that seem well-known, people think they just started but the reality is they've often been working at it for ten to fifteen years. I'm happy with the results so far. There is still a long way to go, but I think we're taking the right steps.

When it comes to marketing and design, you're very hands-on with all aspects of the creative output.
Yes, but I am more focussed on the product – designing and choosing materials is my priority. I also design and coordinate the collaborations as well. At first I wasn't as involved in marketing because I didn't care, but as I matured I realized it was a very important part of the brand, so I've become much more involved as we've grown.

You're using more Japanese fabrics for the Spring-Summer '16 collection, have you been traveling to Japan or are you able to source them through Première Vision and other markets within Europe?
Both. With a long history in fashion, I have a lot of friends that have collections of Japanese fabrics. I have a really strong partnership with some of the Japanese suppliers, and sometimes they come to me. I really like Japan, so I go at least twice a year. With fabric mills there, sometimes they ask me if I have something in mind and sometimes they might have a good idea for me, so it can go both ways.

Do you see more potential for President's outside of Italy?
Italy is not the most appropriate market for President's. We have three or four nice shops in Italy, but it is not my real priority. My target now is really the American market. We started in the UK recently and so far the feedback has been quite positive. It's not necessary for us to be all over the world, so for now we're concentrating on the US, the UK and Japan. We're in a some nice shops in Zürich and Berlin too. Where possible, I really like to create relationships directly with the owner of every shop. There is a lot of value for me if we're able to have an ongoing dialogue each season.

You have a showroom in New York now, you're working with M5 I believe?
Yes, this is the third season that I've worked with M5. They're very good because they create the right balance of distribution and volume for us. They don't push you, because at first it's difficult to do production. It works for us, and they make it easier to provide the best product for the customer. We're still a small operation so finding the right balance can be difficult, but when we have partners like M5 who are concentrating on communicating the mood of the collection, it's much easier for us.

Do you think you'll continue to grow the collection in size?
I think so. Little by little I want to increase the collections, especially in certain categories. I'd like to spend more time focusing on knitwear, and I'd like to create more pieces within our shirting and fleece. I think people appreciate these types of categories, at least I know I do.

I'm curious to know how you came up with the name for the brand. Is there a story behind it?
I found it in our archive. My grandfather registered the name in 1957. The President's name was actually ‘President's Trousers' because he was just making trousers under the label then. I really liked the name, so I added ‘Crafted in Tuscany' because my idea was to design and realize production in the region. Tuscany has a very strong reputation for manufacturing leather and textiles, so I wanted to create a collection utilizing Tuscan manufacturing and the best materials in the world.

People in Italy generally seem very proud of their home region.
Yes, and it's the same for me. Tuscan people are very passionate about their territory. I think there is a very strong link to Japan in this way. The Japanese are very proud of things being made in Japan, and I like the idea of that. Tuscan people are especially proud of their food and their territory – their hills and their sea.

If somebody was to look at your Spring-Summer '16 collection piece by piece, what impression would you hope to make?
My goal is to create something that feels interesting, with strong references, but still modern due to the updated production and fabrics. Something you could wear for just one season, but are also able to wear for years. Something that lasts, but you are happy to put on each time you wear it. It should be timeless, but special.

I find there are so many brands that over-detail, over-style and add things that just aren't necessary. You, however, let the the fabrics, stitching, interior details, subtle techniques and functionality do the talking, without adding anything superfluous. There's enough going on; it's not boring, but it's not over-designed. That's an aspect of President's that immediately stood out to me.
I'm happy if that's your impression, because it's the feeling I aim for when I'm creating a collection. To be very honest, I like it if someone buys one of my pieces and discovers the details while wearing it over time.

For the campaign imagery, you've worked with different photographers over the years. The selections add something interesting to the mood of the brand, and usually have nothing to do with clothing. Does that direction come from you?
Yes, I really like photography. I take photos sometimes. I have a Contax G2 and a Leica as well. I'm not a good photographer, but I have a passion for it. It was my idea not to shoot the product for our campaigns, but to use a photographer that I admired, with the goal of doing an exhibition in five or ten years and maybe including the most iconic pieces from each collection alongside the images.

It can be challenging to communicate the culture and references behind a brand in an authentic way. It feels like a nice way to give people a sense of your tastes and the deeper aesthetic of your vision.
It's like how Stüssy represents its culture as a brotherhood – a tribe. I hope that people can wear President's, appreciate the culture inside it, and have a deeper connection beyond the clothing.