“The suit lost its cool when it became an obligation,” Justin O’Shea recently lamented. “I’ve never been able to figure out why Wall Street guys and other men who wear suits every day haven’t been able to mix elegance and glamor with function.”
O’Shea isn’t alone in longing for the days when the epitome of style was a dapper man-about-town in a well-cut suit, and thanks to his new role as Creative Director of one of the most storied houses of Italian tailoring, he’s paving the way for the suit’s comeback. Earlier this year, O’Shea was appointed to his role at the helm of Brioni—the Rome-based heritage brand that has been setting the bar for quality men’s suiting for over seven decades, even becoming the go-to house for a certain British secret agent that goes by the code name 007. It’s a position to which O’Shea—an Australian, tatted, and bearded street style magnet with a background in e-commerce—is bringing his own signature mix of elegance and edge.
That mix is one that O’Shea embodies in his own wardrobe, so he wasn’t shy about bringing his personal style to the centerpiece of his new spin on the brand, an entirely new cut of suit that he’s dubbed The Continental. Sporting a wider lapel, longer body, and stronger shoulder, the silhouette epitomizes modern masculinity in a way that took the master tailors at Brioni’s atelier in Penne di Pescara, Italy, a bit of time to adjust to, with O’Shea recounting the back-and-forth exchanges it took to get the pants cut slim enough for his liking.
When it came time to show his first collection for the storied house, a capsule called Paris One that walked the runway earlier this month during Paris’ couture shows, O’Shea turned to an unexpected source for inspiration as far the glamor and elegance he sought to exude: the world of vampires. Or more specifically, the 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
“I believe in the idea that any man can embrace multiple characters in his wardrobe,” he says. “You can be both a good guy and a bad guy at different times.” He further underlined this duality in casting the show’s models, with the ‘good guys’ sporting shaved heads and the ‘bad guys’ rocking more disheveled locks and styling that O’Shea describes as ‘super pimp.’
He doesn’t stop with the juxtaposition of good and bad, though—he further wanted to explore the tension between masculine and feminine, citing the work of his close friend, Gucci designer Alessandro Michele, as part of the wave of the future for a more androgynous way of dressing. Not that pure androgyny is to be seen in either O’Shea’s own style or the direction in which he’s steering Brioni.
“I’m putting the men back into menswear,” he says. “There’s a femininity that’s become popular recently, which I think is important and interesting, but there’s still a way to dress that’s cool and masculine. You can take elements like pattern or color and play with them. The feeling is the one of ultimate masculinity, yet with a feminine confidence. The coolest guys are always in touch with their feminine side.”
To that end of working with the coolest guys, O’Shea went out on another limb when he conceptualized his first ad campaign for Brioni, a black and white photo shoot with the members of Metallica. The band, whose song “One” provided both the soundtrack and title for the Paris One collection, jumped at the opportunity to be part of something new and exciting when it came to their style, O’Shea says.
And that excitement is catching as we continue to see how Brioni continues to grow, change, and become ever cooler under O’Shea’s guiding hand. And if you want to bring a bit of O’Shea’s new flair into your own wardrobe, you don’t have to wait: thanks to Brioni’s ability to create all their own fabrics, the collection that was on the runway less than two weeks ago is already available for purchase at Barneys.