Pirelli’s fascination with rubber goes well beyond tires. In the early days, the company produced “sanitary and haberdashery articles.” From there, the decision to make other articles of clothing “featuring a textile and aesthetic use of rubber,” came naturally. By the 1950s, Pirelli Confezioni were known for making raincoats, overcoats, boots and industrial work attire, utilizing information gleaned from tire manufacturing.
Fast forward to 2002, where market research has shown public perception of Pirelli to be “glamorous, sexy and fashionable,” thanks in large part to the Pirelli annual calendar – a limited-availability glamour calendar dating back to 1964 featuring well-known models and personalities of each generation. With this background, CEO Marco Tronchetti Provera decided to revamp the brand’s fashion line, dubbing it “PZero” after the hugely successful automobile tire introduced in 1987.
According to Provera, “The PZero project supports our core business, which targets the premium and prestige segments where fashion has a special appeal, and which shares with our tires a constant commitment to research, innovation and technology.” In other words, ““Pirelli PZero is an Italian premium sportswear brand driven by a new interpretation of Pirelli’s heritage, using high tech materials for everyday wear,” says Giovanni Manzoni, Pirelli PZero General Director.
The PZero line started with humble beginnings, launching with just two items: a boating shoe and a jacket, the Acqua and Aria, respectively. By 2008, the collection had grown into a full line, covering head to toe. It had even produced a technical ski jacket. The following year, Pirelli would start to produce handbags.
With the opening of the Pirelli flagship store in Milan, Italy, this year, Pirelli finally has a presence distinctly separate from its tires, though fully embracing everything the black rubber hoops have done for the company. To Provera, this “physical space makes tangible the creativity, experimentation and capacity for innovation that characterizes all Pirelli products,”
The two-story, 16,000 square-foot building is separated into different stations. Examples of creativity, experimentation and innovation in the store include the use of the same soundproof walls used in the factory while testing tires, rubber carpet throughout, and fitting rooms lined with waterproof canvas originally used for beach waterbeds the company produced during the 1960s.
In the PZero footwear corner, sneakers are cut and constructed like made-to-measure suits; customizable in the color of the laces, leather and insoles. Constructed using the revers technique, the shoe is sewn inside-out, like a bag, then turned out and reshaped, resulting in a reversible shoe.
The Milan flagship store is equal parts museum, art gallery, and retail store, with an overriding theme of unifying fashion and industry. “At Pirelli, fashion and industry go hand in hand,” Provera says. “The new Pirelli space aims to underline this link and renew it.”
Indeed, the brick and mortar store carries a full line of Pirelli’s fashion apparel for men, women and kids, and to help celebrate the grand opening of the store, Scott Campbell, tattoo artist to the stars and avid motorcycle enthusiast, was commissioned to undertake an entirely new project for him: tattooing a tire and jacket.
Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Campbell found the opportunity to mix his two passions – tattoos and motorcycles – one he couldn’t pass up. “The birth of this operation took place last December in Moscow, at the launch of the Pirelli calendar. There, they [Pirelli] suggested that I tattoo a tire and a jacket. I agreed straight away.”
Intrigued by the challenge of tattooing leather and rubber, a material he’d never worked with before, Campbell drew multiple sketches with his signature symbols – the eye, heart and skull – then physically cut and stitched a jacket donated by Dainese and a Diablo Rossi II tire from a Ducati Diavel.
“I worked as a craftsman, like a tailor,” he says, shunning any notion of digital assistance. “Unfortunately, the spread of computers and the mouse is wiping out the art of manual work.” Looking at the results, it’s even more astounding each groove was cut by hand and not a computer. The attention to detail is superb. After presenting both the jacket and tire at the Milan launch, the tire was then shipped off to America, where it was on display at Ducati Island at both the Laguna Seca and Indianapolis MotoGP rounds.
To the casual observer, or those who only know Pirelli for its tires, producing a dedicated fashion line may seem like a stretch. Not so, according to Paolo Ferrari, Chairman and CEO of Pirelli Tire, LLC, NAFTA Region.
“Pirelli remains focused on the constant development of premium automotive and motorcycle tires,” he says. “While at the same time increasing brand loyalty encouraged by various lifestyle projects such as the PZero Moda fashion line of clothing as well as the famous Pirelli Calendar."
If you’re anywhere near Milan, be sure to visit the Pirelli flagship store. You’ll no doubt get an education on Pirelli’s history while fitting yourself with some fancy threads in the process.
And if you can’t make it to Milan, you can purchase directly from the http://www.pirellipzero.com.site/, and shipping is available worldwide.
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