"Dondup’s founders are back"

Manuela Mariotti and Massimo Berloni, longtime fashion insiders and founders of the brand Dondup, are back. After a period dedicated to inspiration and personal searching, in July 2019, together with Franco Stocchi and Enrico Catani, they co-founded Academy Srl with its headquarters based in Fossombrone.

The new business project involves Berloni as president, Mariotti as partner and creative director, along with Catani as a chief executive and Stocchi as a partner, whose firm is dedicated to the development and production of the collections.

Academy Srl will create a series of creative projects and brands focused on the fashion and lifestyle scene in the Italian and international market, involving young artists, designers and emerging talents.

The first project Academy is involved with is the relaunch of Seafarer, an American historical brand, founded in Brooklyn in 1896 that later became very popular among celebrities.

Mariotti explained the new projects she is involved with.

Why did you found Academy?
By founding Academy we wanted to create a creative and experimental hub through which we could develop projects and brands but also involve young creative talents and emerging designers.

Did you buy Seafarer? Why did you choose it?
The first project we started to work with is Seafarer, a brand born in New York in 1896 that we bought in July 2019. We liked it as it has always transposed values we strongly believe in like, for instance, care for quality and manufacturing, but also the fact that in the '70s it was worn by celebrities with a strong personality like, for instance, Jane Birkin, who had discovered it while visiting some flea markets, Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot.

I always liked the brand as it offered timeless contemporary pieces, but also because the ’70s, when it was worn by those icons, were very fascinating times and there was great freedom of thought. For this we thought that by revamping this brand we might have started setting a new wardrobe for our new creative hub Academy.

We have started presenting a first collection for f/w 2021-22, and it was immediately appreciated and will be distributed to selected Italian and European retailers, while the s/s 2022 collection will be presented in September during Milan Fashion Week.What products does Seafarer offer?
For this first collection it offers a total look of about 100 pieces where denim works as a frame. It includes both women's and men's pieces such as trousers, outer apparel like blazers, shirt, cabans and knitwear. It includes some items that can be part of a daily wardrobe, complete with unique and particular items. Everything is offered at premium-high prices.

Our idea is to start offering more than just an apparel collection, but a complete lifestyle. For instance, Seafarer might evolve to express the lifestyle of a couple and also include, for instance, a design lamp and a few more objects for their house, eventually designed by one of these young designers. As part of the Academy’s overall project, we might also eventually offer other products we produce locally, like our own wine and oil.

According to which rhythms might the brand be offered?
In this starting phase we aim to offer two main collections–f/w and s/s –but later we might offer four mini trunks presenting small complete collections to be delivered beyond the classic seasonal rhythms to help stores offer always new products.

Is the collection produced responsibly?
We have always been very careful about this aspect as we produce according to true sustainable criteria as we use processes that keep a low use of water and chemicals. We mostly use fabrics made with recycled fibers. Out of their total, 90% are made with recycled fibers. Moreover, 100% of the collection is made in Italy. Until now, we have only been using laboratories near to us in the Marche region. In the future we might work with others, though always based in Italy. This aspect has always been very important for us as it is a guarantee for good quality and careful use of resources.

As part of this new partnership, our collection is produced by Stocchi Group, a shareholder of Academy. Instead, from our headquarters in Fossombrone we focus on design and sample making. In the future we will also open a showroom and office in Milan.