CERRUTI’S 1881 CREATIVE DIRECTOR, AFTER THREE YEARS AT THE BRITISH BRAND GIEVES & HAWKES, JASON BASMAJIAN TOOK THE ITALIAN-PARIS-BASED BRAND TO STAY FAITHFUL TO NINO CERRUTI, THE BRAND’S FOUNDER. AND HE DID IT. BASMAJIAN IS A FABRICS, CUTS AND TEXTURES LOVER. AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT CERRUTI IS ALL ABOUT.
photographed by MATTHEW BROOKES
words by JASON BASMAJIAN
“As a child, I had dreams of being a restaurateur. I would sit for hours and sketch out ideas for my restaurant. I imagined myself holding court nightly in a tasteful and elegant but relaxed space that served innovative creative but real food. I would have my treasured regulars, chat with tourists, and welcome the locals. My visions featured me dressed in a velvet jacket and permanently holding a Martini in my right hand. I later learned the impracticality of my fantasy – having worked in a real restaurant, I can assure you velvet would be the most impractical thing you could wear and a martini would be the most awkward accessory imaginable. How would I shake hands, answer phones, take down orders, host people to there tables without puddles of intricately-mixed vodka cocktail landing on the floor? After years of restaurant dreams and hundreds of naively-configured floor plan variations and restaurant façades, my dreams morphed into my becoming an architect. In my head, I traded the swishy velvet jacket for a dark chic Jil Sander suit and the martini for a drafting pencil.
I would build modernist homes with huge expanses of glass. The interiors would be functional but fabulous, theatrical yet warm and inviting. I read Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’ and fell in love with an idealised notion of no compromise and fighting against the unenlightened establishment. I was a celebrated dark horse of minimalism and elegance in landscape of mediocre neo-classical monstrosities. That dream didn’t last long when I realised my drawings were terrible and I had very little mathematical and engineering acumen. My love of design endured though, so I set my sights on interior design. How many late nights I remember my parents yelling at me for moving around furniture at 2am in pursuit of perfection. My mother would wake up to find a her family room in the breakfast area, her dining room now a library and every knickknack packed away into the nearest closet. I could never quite shake the minimalism.
Eschewing objects, I started to fall in love with fabrics, colours and textures. Later in life, while attending Boston University I held down two summer jobs on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The first was an evening job waiting on tables in a Bohemian health food restaurant where I took myself way too seriously. I desperately tried to convince clients to upgrade their brown rice and beans to the pan seared tuna with wasabi reduction butter and gingered bok choi. I would discuss at length the limited wine list advising clients they need to start with a crisp dry white with their starters and perhaps an elegant Pinot Noir with their entree. Of course it made no difference that they only ordered fish and chips or a lobster roll with a beer. I was determined to transform their dinner into an extravagant dining experience.
At the same time I worked days in a beautiful luxury clothing store. I sold beautiful, Italian-made menswear. Hand-tailored suits, Loro Piana cashmere, and English bench-made shoes. Everything felt so luxurious and fit so well. The attention to finishing and detailing was overwhelming, as were the price tags. This was the beginning of the Anglo-Italian look where Italian brands had this way of doing English country better than the English. Melt in your mouth 6-ply cashmere sweaters and three piece suits that would make anyone look like an extra from a Visconti film. I was in my element; I couldn’t get enough. I started saving my pay checks to build my own luxury wardrobe. I would skip lunch and pocket the money towards my next fashion purchase. I would loose sleep worrying my size might not be available at the end of the season, when the item I couldn’t afford might finally be marginally obtainable on sale. It was blissful torture. I was bit by the fashion bug. This was it
I would devote my life to creating beautiful things. I wanted everyone to feel as excited about fashion and luxury as I did. I would make people feel confident, successful and sexy, and transport them to another emotional level. I would be a fashion designer.
I also dreamed about meeting an awkward clumsy layabout who did little, but edited my writing beautifully.”