“Anyone could do it”. I interviewed quite a bunch of people with my job and this is the first time I get this remark. Jimi Roos, Swedish, 36, moved to Italy 16 years ago chasing for the sun and a warmer way of life. Now he lives in New York, where his wife works as a designer for Marc Jacobs, but his business keeps growing in Tuscany.
Jimi Roos is the name of the brand, a collection started all by himself, with an artisan attitude. He’s famous for his embroidery, a tecnique rather associated with grandmas then cool boutiques like Colette or Dover Street Market. His first best seller, T-shirts, are machine embroidered with a child-like touch, but now his weird stitching spread also on shirts, duvet, knitwear and sneakers.
“After my diploma at the Accademia Italiana in Florence I started working for Silvana Manetti, an artisan producing top quality felt for Givenchy, Armani, Etro, Marni, Valentino and such. I loved to get involved with the artigiani, with their heritage”, says Jimi. Then he invented his own definition of contemporary artisan by turning into one.
“I was a very bad student. I couldn’t draw nicely as other blokes did and I was a real disaster with sewing machines. My plain stitch was so awful, still it meant something to me. It was a gross mistake, one of the first things fashion students try to improve, except me. I liked it and decided to put it on top of basic white T-shirts. I got a small corner in a shop in Florence and spent my time embroidering. I did one T-shirt a day, I sold it and that was it. I could have gone on like that forever, when a buyer from Harvey Nichols Hong Kong contacted me, because he had seen my job, and wanted to know more”. The guy asked about Jimi Roos distribution and when Jimi said he had none, because there was no one but him, the deal obviously didn’t happen.
“I realised I needed help to create a small company, a productive unit, and by that time Cristiano Foderaro was hanging around that shop as an agent for another company. We liked each other and got into business together”. In 2013 Jimi Roos enters Pitti Uomo and buyers, especially the Japanese, go mad. “Oh boy, what a time. They all popped in and wanted to know everything about us: it was so exciting, international market longed for us”.
In 2015 I met them at White fair in Milano, where I was supposed to select and award the most promising collection among a group of upcoming brands. I had no doubt and chose Jimi, because there is something more than cool in what he does: it’s old and new at the same time, it’s a naive reinvention of embroidery which can be industrially reproduced without loosing its charm.
Right now 6 people are working and stitching in Jimi’s atelier in Florence, while there is a company in Varese dealing with his production. “We are delivering 8.000 pieces for Spring Summer 2016 and 1.500 of them, the most difficult ones, were done here”. The place is small, it used to be an office, and the team works closely in a way that really makes me think of the old botteghe. “People don’t stitch the way we do, so each time we hire somebody we must teach our mistake”. When Jimi says that anyone could have done it, he means it. “I had a small sewing machine and no financial support. I think we are a living proof that you can be successful without investing a fortune”. As long as you have a strong idea.
Jimi Roos and his dog Ozzy