Feminine side

It used to be a question of borrowing from male friends. Now women can buy their own Massimo Osti clothes. By Tamsin Blanchard. Photographs by Gary Wallis
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Massimo Osti might not be a name that you are familiar with, but over the past 25 years, the Bologna-based Italian designer has had a serious influence on men's clothing. The craggy, pipe-smoking, slightly crumpled 51-year-old was the mastermind behind CP Company and Stone Island, two functional, hardwearing labels that have become commonplace in menswear shops up and down the country. Now, after popular demand from women who are tired of borrowing their male friends' industrial nylon jackets, Osti has turned his attention to them. His newest line is called Massimo Osti Production and there is a range for both men and women. There is also a range of jackets called Left Hand.

The collection is not unisex, but shapes and fabrics cross over between the men's and women's ranges. Heavy fabrics normally associated with menswear are made into softer, more delicate clothes for women. The collection includes clothes for hiking in the country, as well as more formal tailoring and some of the best in this winter's chunky knitwear.

"Functional" is Massimo Osti's middle name, and his clothes have always been designed to face the rigours of hard urban or country living. He has a ready-made reference library in the form of an ongoing collection of about 20,000 uniforms and second-hand clothes. Osti regards fabrics as "protection" for the body and uses his own technical fabrics like "Technowool" (wool mixed with nylon jersey to make it tougher), polyurethane coatings on jersey for heavy, sporty jackets, and industrial nylons. While designing for Stone Island, Osti created the "Ice jacket" made from a Japanese fabric that changes colour according to temperature. One of the more extreme fabrics in the Left Hand range is called Thermojoint, a nylon mix that is water and windproof as well as being 80 per cent radiation proof, although what happens to the other unprotected 20 per cent is not worth thinking about.

"It is important to me that my clothes are accessible to men and women," said Osti at the Milan unveiling of his womenswear line last March. "You have to pay for quality, but prices have to be competitive so that people are able to afford a coat or jacket from my line." He is not an elitist fashion designer, and - apart from Left Hand which is being marketed as something of a cult label - wants Production to be available to as many people as possible. Prices are by no means mass market, at about pounds 400 for a jacket, but the clothes are of the highest quality and are designed outside the narrow, trend-oriented parameters of fashion so they can be worn year after year without looking dated or worn outn

An Internet catalogue for Massimo Osti Production is on the World Wide Web at http://www.production.it

Stylist: Jo Adams

Hair and Make-up: Lesley Sayles at GSM

Photographer's assistant: Roger Rich

Models: Tom and Barnaby from 2 Management

Opposite: high-neck chunky cream sweater, pounds 125, and charcoal-grey, three-button suit, pounds 495; black chisel-toe boots, pounds 125, by Jeffrey West from Office London (for mail order inquiries call 0181 838 4447, for stockists call 0171 491 4955); black A-line skirt and cropped jacket as suit, pounds 395; high-neck cream sweater, pounds 115; black shoes with gold buckle, pounds 165, from Patrick Cox, 8, Symons Street, London, SW3.

Above: Ecru zip over-shirt, pounds 155: Ecru zip-collared hooded kagoul, pounds 125; black stretch trousers, pounds 115.

All clothes are by Massimo Osti Production.

Womenswear from: CF, 34-36 Bridlesmithgate, Nottingham; Apparel, 22-24 St Georges Walk, Croydon; N1 and Unit 1-5 Princess Square, Newcastle Upon Tyne; Kafka, 41 Union Terrace, Aberdeen; Limey's, Burlington Arcade, New Street, Birmingham. Menswear from: Harrods, Knightsbridge, London; Selfridges, Oxford Street, London; Woodhouse, 362 Oxford Street, London, and 2 Nadin House, St Ann's Street, Manchester, M2; Giancarlo Ricci, 40 Bold Street, Liverpool; Apparel, 22-24 St Georges Walk, Croydon; John Anthony, Unit 17 Newbroadmead, Union Street, Bristol, branches also in Oxford, Bournemouth and Bath, call 01225 442 856 for inquiries.