Interview with Gabriele, founder of Hellequino
A few months ago we teamed up with Hellequino as a marketing partner. Hellequino grabbed our attention with their unique and outspoken designs and their self-assurance in developing new styles. Last month we wrote an article giving you all the basic information about Hellequino, please read it here. As a follow up to this introduction, today, we will host an interview with Gabriele, founder of Hellequino, in which we will dive a little deeper. By asking questions about Hellequino in general, the most important influences, and their production, Gabriele will tell you all you need to know about this new and upcoming brand from Italy. If you are interested in a young brand with an exciting approach to denim, you don’t want to miss this conversation!
Robin Denim: Dear Gabriele, can you please start by introducing yourself?
Gabriele, Hellequino: My name is Gabriele Marcotullio, I am 36, and other than the founder of Hellequino I am head of production for Keo. Keo is an artisanal micro-factory specialized in clothing manufacture, based in Carpi, Northern Italy.
The main advantage of starting Hellequino out of KEO is to have full control of the complete process. We are in charge of the creative phases to the realization. For example, if one thing doesn’t satisfy me, we give it another try, and then, if necessary, another. If you have to hire a contractor for the realization of the garments, you have only have ONE TAKE, and that’s it.
Aside from my job I have a lot of passions, but little time to spend on themJ. Music, in all its forms, is essential for me. I am a musician myself and I have been playing the guitar since I was very young. Visual Arts, I attended Cinema College in Bologna, and also photography. Furthermore, I love good food, like any other Italian. Vintage Cars, and lately I am trying to learn skateboarding quite seriously. Last but not least, Family. I’m a father of two, and in Keo also I work with my father who told me everything I know about fashion.
Robin Denim: Hellequino is part of KEO. What is KEO doing other than Hellequino?
Gabriele, Hellequino: Keo is a contractor for various Italian Fashion Brands, high-end fashion, which means that all the production phases are based in Italy and not dislocated around the world like today fast fashion’s reality. We can handle pretty much everything, from the creative aspects of a collection to the final shipping to the logistics or clients.
Keo is a highly functional micro-factory, with an average production rate of 50.000 garments a year. Depending on the seasons, we can produce around 4500 garments a month.
Obviously, it depends on the season, because outerwear, like parkas or Eco-Leather Jackets, takes more time to craft than a Linen shirt.
Robin Denim: What drove you to start Hellequino in the first place? And, why did you choose to work with raw denim?
Gabriele, Hellequino: In 15 years of experience mostly in women Fashion, there was a strong desire to conceive a Menswear Project that had as guidelines unique style and strong minimalism. Discovering Raw Selvedge Denim was my starting point because this world was profoundly shocking to me. When I first visited a mill, I learned that a shuttle loom makes only 2 meters of selvedge denim per hour while a modern loom can make 100 meters of non-selvedge fabric in the same time. It was amazing to get to the understanding that it is not about the technological progress. When you touch the fabric, you can feel the richness and all of the little imperfections, that makes it so great.
The choice of working with raw fabrics was made with my heart. I love the feel and the sturdiness of un-washed denim, but I am also aware of the fact that the garments will be less commercial. All the bleeding and shrinking will scare most of our potential clients. But I thought if you got to do it, you got to do it the right way, no compromises.
Robin Denim: Hellequino isn’t an average denim brand. How would you describe Hellequino?
Gabriele, Hellequino: Hellequino is a unique research project, rooted in the raw denim community, always searching for uniqueness, in style as in quality.
Robin Denim: What are Hellequino’s most important values? What sets Hellequino apart from other denim brands?
Gabriele, Hellequino: Not following the standards! Respecting them. But, you know, let’s turn that page! Every denim head has a pair of straight drys or a Type X jacket… me too! Let’s try something out of the box and see what happens.
Robin Denim: What are the most important influences for Hellequino’s collections? Where does the inspiration originate?
Gabriele, Hellequino: For sure, a significant influence are vintage military uniforms, and in general, vintage clothing. Back to a time where fashion did not drive the construction of a garment. This also means vintage workwear.
The main reason that vintage clothing is such a significant influence is the singularity of every garment. I mean, vintage uniforms, in general, are very different in style compared to modern clothes. When I choose a look to wear, I hate to look like everyone else. I love uniqueness, customization, and one of a kind stuff.
Robin Denim: How does the Italian fashion culture influence your products?
Gabriele, Hellequino: I think for sure in the garment construction! Like in our jacket, for me was natural to design the front lining, and to leave the back unlined to reveal the selvedges. If you analyze the design, you got the pleats of the type I and II jackets, but no type I or II traditionally is lined. It’s a matter of “hidden beauty”.
Robin Denim: Can you please describe the production process from starting with an idea to ending with a garment that hits the store?
Gabriele, Hellequino: Well, that’s my entire life! You start with a glimpse… something that sticks in your head when you see other garments, or maybe just a car seat, or a watch strap! This triggers my creativity, and I need to get it down on paper, with a pencil. Then I’ll leave it there till it’s the right time. When you have to think of a collection you have to consider how every garment fits in the globality of the collection, so it’s an extended period of tries and doubts, but you got to try, because most of the times, if you don’t make it you can’t tell if it’s good enough. This is the most “painful” and delightful part. Then comes the actual production. Searching for the best fabrics, draft a schedule and stick with it, because no matter what, there is always something that goes sideways in the fashion world, even last minute. So, it’s a beautiful struggle.
Robin Denim: What are typical Hellequino signatures that can be found in your garments?
Gabriele, Hellequino: I can say… minimalism and clean look, Sterling silver button, hidden pockets. And overall, attention to detail.
Robin Denim: What is, in your opinion, the most unique item you have created so far?
Gabriele, Hellequino: I think the jacket is quite a surprising item. From the first sketch, I immediately realized that it was a good mix of heritage and new. Probably the perfect summary of Hellequino’s features.
Robin Denim: About the fabrics, you seem to be focused on Italy. Why? Are you strictly using Italian fabrics?
Gabriele, Hellequino: There is this incredible factory in the denim mills small reality nowadays, which is Berto Industria Tessile. It’s a company that is making denim from 1887, and their factory is located in Bovolenta, Padova, which is two hours from Carpi. So I decided that for our first collection, those would have been the perfect fabrics to represent Italian Fashion Heritage. The only exception in our current collection is for Kurabo – I found a fantastic deadstock fabric, and I fell in love with it. But in general… NO RULES!
Robin Denim: What can we expect from Hellequino in the future?
Gabriele, Hellequino: No spoilers even for you Robin!! But I assure you, we’re experimenting with pure 100% Raw Linen, mixed with Selvedge Denim, and also some more Extreme Outerwear for the Winter coming.