ELEVEN SIX MEN | MICHAEL MACCARI
Photography by Michael Fisher | @mjohf
We are proud to feature Michael Maccari in our second ELEVEN SIX Men’s story. Michael is a dear friend, former co-worker of Nick’s and one of the most creatively accomplished people we know. We talk with Michael about his prolific career in fashion design, his desire for sustainability which is firmly rooted in his latest Artistic Director role at Truth Alone (See WWD announcement) as well as pandemic navigation and silver linings. With Michael’s impeccable taste, acute attention to detail and affinity for quality knitwear we are honored that Michael owns and wears the NICK Sweater, appreciating its refined simplicity and versatility.
Can you share with us your career journey from being a fashion designer through to your creative director roles?
I started my career at J. Crew and the first product I worked on was sweaters. I sketched, designed, developed, graphed, (and yes) faxed ideas to various oversees offices, and learned to understand just how the process worked. I was the quintessential sponge and couldn’t get enough. I even went to my first yarn show in Paris on the Concorde (those were the days)!
During my time there, I worked on other product categories, but sweaters is my first true (product) love and still to this day nothing gets me more excited. Every Brand, thereafter, had an element of sweater and knit for me. At Calvin Klein, the jeans line didn’t have much of a need for extensive sweater development but cut and sew knitwear and sweats were a big part of that assortment. At Ralph Lauren, I worked on Polo Blue label knits, so it was all about the pony. It was until Armani Exchange, where I oversaw first the men’s collection, then both genders, did I learn from the true master-yes Armani himself, but the sweater technician Ada. She quickly recognized my affinity for the product and in her nurturing way, when she liked you, provided invaluable technical information that I will have forever. Then at Perry Ellis, hand knits and patterned sweaters, being part of the brand’s historical DNA, were a big focus for me. So even though I was overseeing brand direction, advertising, licenses, a team of twenty, and the many points of distribution for the collection as the face of the brand, I was still obsessed with sweaters more than anything else-it was very personal to me.
Through your current Artistic Director role, we have Peru and sustainability in common – tell us about the Truth Alone brand?
While I was at Armani, it was our goal to create the perfect tee shirt. I had done so at every brand I worked at prior: at J. Crew it was the washed cotton pocket tee, at Calvin it was blended, fitted, and layer able, at Ralph the polo player pocket tee, and the shrunken vintage RRL tee. So, what was the appropriate tee (besides logo) for AX? We had decided to go for a “dressier”, cleaner tee, that for argument’s sake could be in another Armani line, but was opening price-point Armani and therefore a great value. It took a bit of development, but what we landed on was a 40’s/1’s lightweight, immaculate fit, and luxurious hand-feel Crew and V-neck with an enzyme silicone finish. It took some effort to educate the customer, but once they got it, it was a best seller until the end. I still have many, even some unworn, because I wanted it forever. Years later, the suppliers that brought us that tee, approached me to help them turn their new business of wardrobe knit staples, into a full dual gender collection. They managed to create the very same tee, in a completely sustainable way, with the vendors in Peru. My memories of working with Peru, were so positive because of their work-ethic, appreciation of craft, knowledge of organic fiber, and general overwhelming desire to partner with designers. Because of this and my love of Pima Cotton, I jumped at the opportunity. The fact that Sustainability was now part of the equation, made it even more of a bonus. I had gotten so fed up with producing so much inexpensive product for other brands, and was overwhelmed with the methods, waste, pollution and cost associated with the complexities of supply chain, and distribution, that I longed for something simpler and more meaningful.
My partners at Truth Alone Clothing, having proven successes, have done the research and laid the groundwork to insure sustainable methods at every point in the supply chain process. I believe, especially now during extreme levels of climate change, industry excesses and living through a global pandemic, that we are at a turning point in the industry. I do feel like customers are more educated, and fast fashion is no longer desirable to the levels that we are used to. At Truth Alone, the idea is to bring sustainability to the masses, and to introduce luxurious product to every segment of the market. Luxury is no longer exclusive to the elite, and the definition of luxury now includes doing right by your body and for the planet. The idea that you can look, and feel good in beautiful product, while doing good for our environment is a no-brainer for me. It’s simple, the truth matters.
What creatively inspires you?
Inspiration literally comes from anywhere in my daily life. I’m a very visual person, so my environment plays a huge role in my work. I’ve been inspired by the lines of the city’s skyscrapers to the guy on the street going to the gym. Art plays a huge part in color and pattern-work; words of poets, authors, and songwriters help shape concepts; as fabric, textile, yarns, and hand-feel bring it to the reality of creating actual garments. Silhouettes are important, and what’s happening in the world today, is swinging trends to a more useful, wearable place. These days for me, it’s all about nature-the beach is a constant source of hope. The stones, reflections on the water, the light from winter sky, various states of the trees, the colors of sunset-all remind us of how we must preserve this planet, and THAT is inspiring to push forward for a sustainably produced world.
How have you navigated this pandemic year and have there been silver linings?
I’ve been living outside of the city and am fortunate enough to have a place in nature. The silver lining is being able to spend time here, more than I have ever imagined. I’ve had a front row seat watching the seasons change, and this time in our lives will never happen again so I’m trying to take it all in. I’m now a big believer in the concept that everything happens in exactly the time frame that it is supposed to, so I’m enjoying this slower pace day by day. However, it does have its limits and I miss the movement and the energy of the city. Creating the perfect balance seems more achievable in the near future….
I’ve had the opportunity to read more and work on creative projects, in different capacities, which has been a good flex for me. I’ve been exploring other artistic disciplines-all of which I’d like to do more of. I’m a beginner at pottery, revisited painting and markers, and besides Instagram worthy photography, I’ve done some location interior shoots for an art director friend. Interiors has always been a fascination of mine, and I’ve been working on an apartment renovation with my architect-challenging because of delays, but an eye-opening experience and I do like that type of home merch. web search. Cooking and home improvements, have also been high on the list during this time, and I’ve even toyed with putting together a cookbook to combine photography, writing, and preserving family traditions. So, it hasn’t been about a pivot but more of an exploration of passions-I still very much enjoy clothing design and can’t wait to get back to being fully immersed in the process-albeit with more work/life balance this time.
Where are you dreaming of traveling first, once the world heals?
SOOOOOO many places-Europe for one, as I used to go a few times a year. I miss encountering different cultures, and (no surprise) experiencing the visual stimulation of exploration. I think it’s definitely more about an active city to city excursion, rather than a relaxing stay-in-one place trip for obvious reasons.! I want to return to Southern Italy as it’s in my blood, and my most recent vacation was to Sicily where I experienced a taste of this part of the world. I’m even considering getting my Italian passport for future longer stays. I also miss the west coast, primarily the desert, and I predict some travel out there sometime soon, as LA production is on the horizon.
What book, movie or series have you enjoyed recently?
I feel like we’ve watched everything!! The range is great and varied.
From HBO MAX’s “We Are Who We Are”, by Luca Guadagnino, and “Industry” about finance interns in London, to Drag Race (UK and US versions to compare and contrast), to “Mrs. Maisel”, and “Madmen” (rewatch) for a bit of period classic, every fashion documentary (the Dries Van Noten is one of my favorites), “The Crown”, “Queen’s Gambit” and “The Fall“ have been among my favorite dramas, while “Fleabag”, and “I Hate Suzie” are so clever and funny and bold!
Carey Mulligan films “Promising Young Woman” and “Dig”, etc. etc. etc.….
I’ve been reading some old school Gay novels, like James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” and “Best Kept Boy in the World”, Irish coming of age love story “Normal People” by Sally Rooney, “Call Me by Your Name” and “Find Me” by Andre’ Aciman, to name a few.
Can you share one thing that we would be surprised to know about you?
I’m kind of a messy Virgo! (very much) observant, particular, detailed, and fastidious but an organized mess.
Do you have a daily mantra?
I wish I could say I learned how to meditate during lockdown, but it’s just not the case… What I do tell myself though, like I mentioned above, is that everything happens in the exact time frame that it’s supposed to. It’s my way of remaining calm and patient.
How would you describe the Nick sweater and how is it fitting into your closet?
Doing a renovation, I have not been shopping for clothing-every penny going toward the apartment, which seems like a Covid shift as we invest in our personal spaces.
However, The Nick Sweater is exactly what I need right now, not only in my closet, but to satisfy my craving for beautifully satisfying goods. It’s a bit of quality designer knitwear with a realistic price ticket. The signature marle and yarn blend, gauge, weight and refined finish, can be worn in so many different ways-with trousers and shoes, workwear, jeans and boots, or these days sweats and trainers. It’s both familiar, as it reminds me of my favorite Stefano Pilati Yves St. Laurent cardigan that I love, and yet better because it’s a pullover. The neck trim height is somewhere between a crew and a mock, and the fit is perfect, meaning it fits-it’s not skimpy, it’s generous but not oversized. It really is a perfect sweater for sweater lovers, but also for those who love a sweatshirt, and it will last forever. It’s as classic as a fisherman sweater, but modern and not bulky. I can wear it on its own, but it will look great under a padded vest, puffer, bomber or a wool topper. I’m not just saying this because Nick and Catherine are so special to me, but this sweater is a winner!