Sergio Zambon is a technical wizard when it comes to shaping and shifting styles in mens fashion. Formerly head of menswear at Fendi—the Italian designer is now heading up 2 MONCLER 1952—a menswear subsidiary of Moncler, and his latest project is a collaborative collection with Awake NY.
A frontrunner in luxury streetwear, Moncler has always looked to escape the norm and their 'Moncler Genius Project' sees them link up with rising names in fashion with an aim to push things forward. Following collections with the likes of Palm Angels and Craig Green, Moncler is now joining forces with Awake NY—a brand that captures the unique spirit and diversity of the Big Apple. Throughout the collection, we see the logos of the two brands boldly juxtaposed on the garments. Graphic designer Fergus Purcell offered an interpretation of motifs inspired by African wax prints, while South African surf brand Mami Wata Surf provided "mischievous" patterns for t-shirts, sweatshirts and swimming shorts. The shapes here are kept easy and straightforward, yet subtly tweaked and twisted.
The collection features trench coats, windbreakers, parkas, padded vests, jumpers, tees and trousers, in a palette of white, grey and black shot by bright dashes of green and electric blue, broken by imaginative prints. Ocelot spots add a wild twist to easy pieces, such as jumpers and trench coats; crinkled nylon is used for summer travel jackets, kimono shapes sport hoods and Nbedele geometries adorn narrow scarves; and the outdoorsy feel is shot with hints of '90s rave culture. Sergio likes to keep the crossover as far-stretching as possible.
In celebration of the new Moncler x Awake NY collection, which is set to drop in September, Complex caught up with Sergio Zambon to discuss the inspirations behind this project, his thoughts on streetwear as a whole, and what he really thinks of British fashion.
COMPLEX: The Moncler Genius Project is such an exciting challenge that merges so many talented designers into one place. How would you describe the time you had with Awake NY when you designed the new collection?
Sergio Zambone: The first thing is that it has been a big challenge professionally. Being part of a project where you are with another seven or eight designers is something so different, but the exciting thing is that when you are involved in something like this, when the collection is finished, it feels like some sort of festival or movie festival. So I would say the cultural attitude of the project is something completely new between the designers, but when the finished projects meet the public, it is very exciting. It is a new cultural approach to showing fashion. It is, of course, important to be an individual, but when presenting in a group, it's such a new experience.
What kind of head space were you in when you were piecing it all together?
I immediately thought of a street movement in Italy called 'Paninaro'. That was a group of people in the '80s: girls and boys, wearing Moncler jackets and Timberland shoes. Pet Shop Boys actually made a song about these people, called "Paninaro". So I particularly went back to this movement from Italy and I reworked the iconic jacket in a new pop version. And when I say a new pop version, it's like the jacket has two different colours both inside and outside and the logo is in a block colour in contrast.
What made you chose Awake NY, specifically, to be your latest partner?
I live in Milan, and near my house there is this very nice shop where you can see a lot of very cool brands, and I came across a rack of hoodies and t-shirts from Awake. At first, I really liked their impact of colours. I liked their t-shirt with Michele Obama, too, and I generally feel like when I see something has a spirit and is interesting, I just love it—so when this came up with Moncler, I just thought I'd go for it. We contacted Awake and we decided to go for it. But the challenge I proposed for the collaboration, it's always got to be matching inside the breadth of the collection, and my proposal was to work on the two logos and use our work on good items. I chose an iconic vest from Moncler and, of course, the hoodie, t-shirt and tracksuit from Awake.
Does one item from the collection stick out as a favourite for you?
I really like a patterned shirt I designed; it's like an oversized shirt, with a nylon fringe on the back. When you see the shirt, it looks like a normal patterned shirt but then you see the fringe, and you can even zip out of the fringe. I'd say that's my favorite.
Would you say the chemistry between yourself and Awake enabled you to create items that you wouldn't normally design if you were working alone?
First of all, it's important to say that collaborations are always different; a very modern way of working. I always work on collaborations at the start of doing a collection: when I worked at Fendi, I was doing two for the runway shows for menswear. It's important with collaborations for each designer's aesthetic to come together in a mutual space, where we can come up with something together. In this collection, we made sure you can see Moncler and you can see Awake. And if you take the vest, for example, you can clearly see Moncler, with the big logo, but you can also see the streetwear realness of Awake. So the goal is to do something that I wouldn't do with just Moncler, but something I would do in a mutual space of creativity.
Following Virgil Abloh's comments on streetwear dying out, how healthy do you believe the streetwear industry is right now?
[Laughs] Well, you know, in my professional career—even back when I was working in Fendi menswear—I never believed that streetwear was only tracksuit, hoodie or these kind of things. It comes from what is happening in people's lives. It can be from their professional or personal lives, or from a movement someone follows or many different things. I think it is about the attitude people have towards the way people dress nowadays; it is not about all these collaborations, and how all the people who work in streetwear are going on. It's something more organic. I would not call it a trend—it is something organic that is happening culturally. It's like punk, which is still really relevant and has been going on for 40 years. It's not just a fashion—it's institutionalised fashion. So to answer your question, I think streetwear is very healthy and will continue to be.
Do you consider Moncler to be more high-end fashion or streetwear?
If you look at some looks on the street, or if you look at people in their 20s or people who are maybe 18, the way they dress nowadays, they mix everything! They can mix Balenciaga accessories with a windbreaker from another brand, and put some Nike shoes with it. So I consider Moncler, now, to be a high-end expression of streetwear and outerwear. That's my technical opinion. But every designer has a different approach, of course!
What makes this Genius collection different from anything you've worked on before?
The main difference is that everything starts around one piece. So I started the project around the gown jacket, which is a staple of contemporary wardrobe—that's the strength of Moncler. I worked with one piece and had to build an entire collection around that one heritage and, of course, that then turns into 20 different other pieces that come from that, so there's knitwear, fleece collaborations, graphics, etc. But the difference is that you have to show the heritage in the pieces, and the difference is the gown jacket. That's the big difference.
Did you find it important to ensure this new collection resonates within youth culture rather than anything else?
I completely agree that this collection has to be involved in youth culture. I want to inject the realness in what the collection has—not only being a luxury item for outwear, but in being accepted from kids in one of the few street movements in Italy. I really love real expression, and real expression can be real luxury or streetwear, but in this case, the first big expression is to be related to a youthful expression and being involved in that.
What do you think of fashion culture in London and in the UK in general?
Well, going back to youth culture, I believe that Great Britain is one of the three countries in the world who is leading the contemporary scene for music and for youth culture. As we know, that has been going on for a long time, for maybe 50 years? So I think it is a continuous transformation which is always changing and leading. And because London is such a diverse and cosmopolitan city and mix of culture, it's even more interesting. There is this attitude in London to create new things, new styles, new attitudes and new images. It's like they really feel the rest of the world and lead the way with this youthful culture, and one way they are doing this is through the music scene—as well as in fashion, for sure.
The Moncler x Awake NY collection will be available from September 3. Head over on the Moncler website to peep the full line now.