Over the last 10 years, Antonio Ciongoli has been busy. The 34-year-old Vermont native started his career as a fashion designer at Vineyard Vines in 2007 and subsequently took a position on the design team at Ralph Lauren in 2008. Two years later, he was hired as the deputy creative director for Michael Bastian, and in his three-year tenure, the brand won both GQ’s Best New Designer of the Year award and the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Menswear Designer of the Year award. In 2013, Ciongoli became the creative director of Eidos, a forward-thinking sub-brand of legendary Naples-based suiting house Isaia. Though Ciognoli’s work at Eidos was much lauded, he left the brand last year to head creative at a multi-brand platform called RRR Brands.
In October 2017, RRR Brands acquired Roller Rabbit, a brand founded by Roberta Freymann that focuses on handmade clothing for women. Over the last year, Ciognoli has utilized the supply chain and connections from Roller Rabbit — along with his preexisting industry partnerships — to develop a new menswear brand called 18 East. Like Roller Rabbit, the brand incorporates non-mechanized, hand techniques into its very-limited production collections. The brand’s debut capsule is made up of 30 garments with around 50 pieces of each style available.
And though not every guy can buy it, Ciongoli’s work with 18 East is upending the many expectations associated with contemporary menswear brands. His designs are bohemian, exclusive and relatively affordable — and they’re setting the standard for menswear in 2018.
The collection is inspired by traditional textile production techniques from India and Nepal and explores kalamkari block printing, khadi weaving and hand embroidery. Because each piece is handmade, garments are unique and have subtle variations of in fabric and color. Ciongoli’s love of relaxed knits is readily apparent; stand-out pieces include a cable-knit cardigan made from Nepali yak and wool, and cashmere sweaters made from recycled fibers that look like “something you’d find in a VT head shop but feel like they belong in Bergdorf Goodman or Barneys.”
Unlike most things you’d find in those New York luxury stores, 18 East garments won’t cost an arm and a leg. “The Eidos product was expensive and really targeted at a niche,” Ciongoli told GQ Style. “For this project, I would rather not change the idea so it’s more accessible from a concept perspective — I want to make it more accessible from a price perspective.” According to the article, block-print shirts will cost less than $100, a fleece vest will go for $195 and a field jacket featuring khadi fabric costs just $325.
18 East will continue delivering small-scale capsules every two months and each collection will explore a different region of the world and its textile traditions (look out for Ireland and Tangier in the near future). In-line with its small-scale focus, the brand will sell its goods on its own site and at three retailers — Magasin, Unionmade and 180 the Store. The brand officially launches today at 180 the Store in New York City and will be available online starting on Saturday, September 15.
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