CP Company is famous across Europe but its heart is set on New York, where the 52-year-old Italian sportswear label once operated a short-lived flagship store. So, when Lorenzo Osti, president and son of founder Massimo Osti, elected to host the first exhibit celebrating CP Company’s inimitable Goggle Jacket in Brooklyn, it was akin to the American flag planted in the surface of the moon: an assured promise of future exploration.
The early ’90s, when CP Company had a store in New York’s Flatiron district, was “kind of the peak of success” for the brand, Osti told Highsnobiety outside of the Goggle Jacket exhibit.
“New York is for us the epicenter of the youth culture,” he continued and, though youth culture has always driven demand for CP Company, New York is one of the few global cultural hubs that CP Company hasn’t completely conquered.
Founded in 1971 in the historic capital city of Bologna, Italy, CP Company belies its age by consistently attracting a young audience.
Groups as distinct as Bologna’s ’70s-era leftist counter culture movement and ’80s British football fans all made CP Company’s inimitable Goggle Jacket their own. Recently, the jacket has been adopted by French rappers.
“We have never targeted or marketed to the football fans or rappers or whatever,” Osti said. “We just do great products and are open to interaction with these communities.”
“Goggle Jackets,” the clearest tangible example of CP Company greatness, come in many different forms and fits, from retro garment-dyed anoraks to boxy field shirts. The one throughline is that they’re all fitted with CP Company’s built-in branded goggles, a feature that makes them “probably the most iconic jackets in the world,” according to Osti.
He’s not wrong: the Goggle Jacket is an instantly recognizable symbol of CP Company that works on various levels: as a metaphor for CP Company itself, for instance, the lenses represent a window that peers into the brand’s world.
The Goggle Jacket’s inherent appeal is obvious even on a physical level, too, and it serves as a perfect case study for CP Company as a whole, hence why it’s the subject of this recent exhibit, held in late July within the same upscale Williamsburg building that hosts KITH Brooklyn.
“I think people are just attracted to the goggles because they make you look really weird,” laughs Osti. “But I also did some semiotic research on [the appeal] to try to understand. I think the opposition between hiding and showing off is interesting. You can be the center of attention while still hiding yourself. It’s like a mask.”
Despite the Goggle Jacket’s innate appeal and the inherent beauty of other influential techniques that Osti’s father, Massimo, pioneered at CP Company before founding Stone Island — garment dying, futuristic nylon, archival military cues made modern by peerless craft — CP Company has historically struggled to find footing in the United States.
It was a quick hit in Europe and remains huge domestically, but breaking into America has always been both desirable and challenging for CP Company.
“I’m very committed [to America],” Osti asserts. “CP Company tried hard to make it [in America] in the ’90s but it wasn’t successful. I would really love to make it [here] now but we’re not in a hurry. We’re not a marketing-driven company — we’re a product-driven company. We’re focused on doing great product. Let people come see it, wear it, talk about it with friends.”
Osti sees this exhibit in Brooklyn as a first step to making this dream a reality.
An immersive, concise showcase of CP Company legacy, the Google Jacket exhibit showcased the Goggle Jacket throughout the ages, displaying decades-old ads, archival garments, and even ultra-rare editions like Aitor Throup’s stunningly rare 1000M Mille Miglia Goggle Jacket side-by-side, presenting a comprehensive picture of how CP Company’s most famous jacket has evolved over time.
“It’s important to me that CP Company’s innovations are contextualized properly, because we’ve done some really groundbreaking work,” said Osti.
“My father and [CP Company designer] Paul Harvey were driven by the idea of creating something that doesn’t already exist. Though we’ve always looked towards the future, we aren’t walking away from our heritage.”
The exhibit hopefully “gets people interested in discovering the brand’s richness and makes them want to study it more,” explains Osti. It’s also perhaps the first of several CP Company exhibits and heritage events, though Osti is staying mum on future plans. Another New York flagship store? It’s not entirely out of the equation.
But, above all else, Osti wants this exhibit to be a case study in CP Company’s most valuable asset, and I’m not just talking jackets.
“CP Company has the ability to connect on a personal level with people because they can see the authenticity,” Osti said. “This is what we need to showcase.”