Clothes To Make You Happy

Italian brand Sunnei’s carefree wardrobe is here to put a smile on your face

When a brand has a bastardised, Italianised version of the word “sunny” as their name, you can guess there’s going to be a sense of optimism, freedom and fun to what they do. With the fashion industry mostly drawn to sex, drama, glamour, darkness, high concept and cool, there are few designers who dare to pull off straight-up joy and happiness, but that’s what Sunnei are all about.

If you like the idea of dressing like you’re always on holiday, enjoy putting stripes, colour and clarity at the heart of your look, or if David Hockney is your style icon, then this is the label for you. And whilst it springs from Milan, Sunnei doesn’t feel remotely Milanese - probably because its cheery Creative Directors are not actually natives.

Simone Rizzo may be Italian, but he comes from Italy’s Southern toe (the beautifully rugged Calabria). And Loris Messina may speak fluent Italian, but he moved here from Grenoble (the French town most famous for its proximity to the Alps). It means the duo are not really drawn to the flashy or the formal, like most of the fashion-obsessed people in their adopted city. “In Italy, people love to wear big logos, or formal wear,” says Rizzo. “It’s also about shapes: people like small things, stretch things!” he laughs. Of course, in Prada, Miu Miu and Marni, Milan style does have a playful fashion pedigree, but Sunnei feel like its carefree new wave, born more out of streetwear, skating and “surfing the web.”

Their most recent Autumn/Winter collection referenced ‘90s snowboarding and rave with baggy silhouettes, acid colours and beefed-up cord. There were ragamuffin hats, big-buckled cross-shouldered bags and characters painted on roomy jeans. This season’s Spring/Summer collection on oki-ni is full of their signature bold stripes, their love of loose fits and their knack for gorgeous colour (although they provide solid blacks, blues and greys as well as greens, azures and yellows).

Like most brands, Sunnei was first started because Rizzo and Messina wanted to dress themselves and their contemporaries, many of whom appear in their collaborative lookbook with Dazed, Pop and Arena Homme + photographer Andrea Artemisio. For the limited edition book of 100, Rizzo says they shot the 20 people that they think represent the new Milan. “Maria who studied art and is an actress, Riccardo who studied sociology and is an anthropologist. This is the cool Milano, not the glamorous one!”

Messina agrees: “It’s about our daily life, our friends in architecture, fashion and music, the new art scene of Milan.” Things are now spreading beyond their immediate circle, who they hang out with at the Spazio Sunnei near the city’s famous Bar Basso. The pair are selling well in America and Canada, but are particularly popular in Japan, China and South Korea – the latter coming off the back of some big K-Pop stars organically wearing their clothes in concert, generating them immediate Instagram fame.

Messina still sounds a little shocked that their dreams of success are happening so fast. “We just wanted to make clothes that our friends wear, then our friends from Milan became friends all over the world!” he says. “We’re very happy, because we’re creating a community all over the world.”

Words by Stuart Brumfitt

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