GINO IANNUCCI INTERVIEW
Gino Talks Poets
Courtesy of Cole Giordano
WORDS: Leland Ware
New brands pop up everyday. Most of them are uninspired, unoriginal, and created by people chasing trends to make a quick buck. Simultaneously, fashion’s obsession with skateboarding continues to grow exponentially. The result is popular culture eating up almost anything that is attached to our world. And it’s not always the best look.
Gino Iannucci’s Poets brand is the opposite of that in every way. Everything from the name, to the process for making the garments, to the Instagram account are meticulously curated and uniquely Gino. The same aesthetic that he’s applied to his skating is being applied to Poets. Less is more and quality output are the cornerstones of the brand’s principals.
Poets unveiled its first collection a little over a month ago. The signature piece—an Italian-made cardigan sweater inspired by Burgess Meredith's character in the movie Rocky—retails at $395.00 USD. The price point alone differentiates Poets from the typical skate brand. And Iannucci is reluctant to define it as such.
Hovering somewhere between high fashion and the streets, Poets is providing a unique take on mature menswear. Just don’t ask Gino if he’s becoming a fashion designer. The answer is a solid “Maybe.” Right now, he’s simply enjoying the process of learning how to manufacture clothes, and building a brand that is a reflection of who he is as a person.
Start with the origin of the name Poets. It was originally the name of your skate shop on Long Island.
I grew up in Westbury, Long Island. My neighborhood is called Poets Corner. That’s where the name comes from. Each block in the neighborhood is named after a famous poet.
You closed the shop around 2012. This year, you brought Poets back as a brand. What sparked that?
We did the shop twice. The second time we did it, I started getting the bug to start making some clothes. I wasn’t that serious about it until I met my now good friend Antonio K. Ciongoli. He used to be the creative director for an Italian clothing brand. He reached out to me back in 2015 or ’16 about wearing some of his clothes and doing a shoot out in Italy. So we started talking.
I was interested because he’s a designer that makes really amazing men’s clothes. I was excited to go on the trip, and rock some of the gear. He just kept putting in my ear, “You should do a brand.” I had always thought about bringing Poets back as a clothing brand. But I didn’t know what direction to go in. So it was his influence as far as the style of clothing that I like—well-made, sophisticated, adult male stuff. It’s mixed with a little bit of skate stuff, the roots of who I am.
He planted the seed. We started collaborating on something that was going to be Poets with his brand Eidos. It was going to be a Barney’s-only release. That was going to be the introduction to Poets. That’s how it all started. I would link up with him, and we would go through designs and things that I wanted to put out. He would help with the technical side and whatever needs to be done on the computer. I’m really not good at that.
It was kind of just the snowball effect. I got psyched on it. He introduced me to a manufacturer in Italy. I met up with him and he was really interested in doing some stuff with us. Now, it’s kind of taken on a life of its own. I’m just seeing how it goes. It’s all a learning experience. There’s ups and downs, but that’s to be expected.
Courtesy of Glen Allsop
"It’s all a learning experience. There’s ups and downs. But that’s to be expected."
Let’s talk about your Instagram. You stayed off of it for a long time. But now that you started, you’re actually really good at it. All of the movie clips and things that you post really give a feeling. It seems like that’s becoming the image of Poets. So I wanted to ask you how you pick that stuff. Is there a bigger message, or are you just having fun with it?
It’s a little bit of both. I like to think that I love movies and stuff like that. My library in my head isn’t like a ridiculous movie buff. But I like my movies. And I can absorb certain parts of movies that I really love. They just stand out, and I never forget them. Being that I’m really into movies and certain music, once I knew we were going to do the brand I knew I had to get an Instagram going to basically define Poets through movies and music. For me, that’s the easiest way that I know to define what Poets is, what we represent and like. So I just try to keep it like that, whether it’s humorous, dramatic, or good beats that I like. It became fun. I realized that Instagram can be addicting, too, but I knew that from day one. I just got psyched on it. It’s a fun thing to do—coming up with clips and stuff. I usually don’t sit there and try to think of something that I want to post. It’s usually that I just catch a movie that I’ve seen hundreds of times and see a scene that I think is dope. Then, I try to think of a song that might clash or go with it. I don’t know if it’s that deep. But I try to make it so that it’s pleasing to the eye and the ear. Hopefully people just enjoy it, and that’s it. I just want to keep the same kind of vibe going with it.
The Tomato sweater is a Rocky reference. That’s a dope idea—designing stuff based on pieces from popular culture. Do you think you’ll keep going in that direction?
When I started Poets, I didn’t really have this big library in my head of clothing that I wanted to do. That was just the main piece that I’ve wanted to do for a really long time. I thought it would be a great way to set off the brand. Make a mark right off the bat with such a loud, but amazing, piece. It’s made beautifully, and it’s also from such a classic movie. I’d like to think that if things do stand out in my head from movies or whatever, I wouldn’t hesitate to do that—make pieces that are influenced by movies or actors.
We were supposed to do the Rocky II cornerman jacket. It was like a lab jacket in black. Then, that jacket turned into a completely different piece. It’s still influenced by the Rocky II movie but it’s nothing like the cornerman jacket. But, initially, the first drop was supposed to be the Rocky cardigan, and the second drop was supposed to be the Rocky II lab jacket. But like I said, that turned into a whole new jacket that’s a completely different style. And that’s what I like. It’s cool that an unexpected spontaneous idea came from a movie piece. That’s what I’m learning as well. Things change and turn into something creative that you didn’t expect.
But in the future I wouldn’t hesitate to reference things like the Rocky cardigan. That’s a piece that we all know, especially my age group and older. Everybody knows Rocky. If you’ve seen that movie, I don’t see anyone forgetting that salmon cardigan that Mickey is wearing in the corner. That was a hard one not to do.
You said that you’re not too up on all of the computer stuff. Are you working with someone on your T-shirt designs? How does that process work?
Yeah, I have a partner in my business. His name is Brenden Wyant. He’s really computer savvy. I’m on the computer a lot. But things like Photoshop and graphics, I never really got into. He pretty much does all of that. And, again, Antonio is helping me out a lot with little stuff. I’ve been blessed to have people like him that are willing to help all of the time. But my partner Brenden is the one that does all of that. If I have a graphic and I need it sized, or a font, he’s the one to go to in order to get it done.
Courtesy of Poets
"I had to get an Instagram going to basically define Poets through movies and music."
In the Monster Children article on Poets, you’re quoted as saying that it’s not a skate brand. And you can see that with the price point of the Tomato sweater. So I’m looking at it as more of a fashion thing. I wanted to get your perspective on it. And also, with fashion borrowing so much from skate culture in recent years, I wanted to know if you’re aware of that and your thoughts on that relationship.
I guess I’m aware of it. Just through Supreme, and what they’re doing and who they’re collaborating with—and just other brands. I’m not hardcore paying attention to it. I just want to continue to do my own thing, and be somewhat ignorant of what’s going on. But it’s hard not to know. I think that fashion and all of that stuff has always been a part of skating regardless of if we’re buying $10.00 shirts or $300.00 shirts. I said it wasn’t a skate brand because I didn’t want to define it as a skate brand. But, of course, it’s partially a skate brand. I’m a skateboarder. It’s in my blood. And it’s going to be in my blood forever. It is going to be a skate brand. But I don’t want it to specifically cater to skating. Just having stuff for sale for a month-and-a-half now, I’ve seen a lot of comments from kids. They trip on the price of the sweater. But these are people that don’t know the cost and process that it takes to make a piece like that. The price is probably a little bit less than it should be because of that fact. Shit dude, when I was younger—I don’t want to say I would buy $400.00 sweaters and go skating—but we were spending some money on clothes. And we didn’t hesitate to skate in that stuff. I don’t know, dude. I’m a grown man now. And I like some nice clothes. It’s just the natural progression of getting older. You want finer things that are made well.
You kind of touched on something that I think is interesting. Our generation grew up on what we grew up on. Now we’re adults. We’re seeing what Tony Ferguson is doing with RONE, and now what you’re doing with Poets. With the whole fashion and skate thing being what it is right now, it makes sense that skaters are stepping into the role of designing and presenting these elevated pieces. We’ve been setting the trends. Do you see yourself evolving into a fashion designer?
It hasn’t been a dream of mine to do that. I wanted to do something. I wanted to be productive. It was a thing that I could do that I’m actually interested in. And that I would enjoy. I’ve always been interested in clothing, looking good, and dressing nice. Just wearing good gear, whether it’s expensive or not. Fashion and skating go hand-in-hand. There were always trends and styles of clothing in skating, from cut-off army shorts and the Hensley chain and so forth. But to become a fashion designer? I don’t know, man. I’m taking this brand seriously. I want to put out some good shit, and see where it takes me. I want to see where it goes. I don’t know how to categorize myself in this business. But I see what’s out there. And I know what I like. I want to continue to enjoy putting out stuff, and enjoy the process. I could see myself doing this for a while. But like I said, it’s such a learning experience. Learning shit about design, about manufacturers, how to get a piece a made. Just getting a t-shirt made was so difficult at first—finding someone to do it. All the little ins and outs, there’s so many little things that go into each piece that I was unaware of. But to answer the question, maybe. We’ll see.
When is the next Poets drop coming out, and what can we expect to see?
We’re not rushing. I’m not trying to jump into seasons already. We just want to start off slow, and see how this first one goes. We’re hoping to get the second run out around the beginning of summer. It’ll be a small run, just like the first. People ask me if I’m going by seasons and I’m like, “Man, I don’t know.” I’ve heard people say, “I just want to put out shit when I’m inspired.” Dill said that when he started FA. And that’s how I feel right now. But now, FA is doing its thing. They’re doing seasons. They’re constantly dropping shit. That would be great to get to that level. But at this point, I just want to put shit out when I’m inspired. I want to make stuff when I have a piece that I’m really psyched on, and put all my effort into it. That’s when you get the best product instead of just continually pumping shit out. So that’s kind of where we’re at right now. Just waiting for inspiration before putting stuff out, and learning the timing. How long it takes to make something? When will it drop? Is it a piece for the summer or the winter? That’s a process too. But I’m learning dude.
Right now you’ve got the webstore going. Did you put Poets in physical stores yet? Do you plan to?
Definitely, but not yet, right now we’re strictly online. We do have people reaching out that want to carry and distribute it. We have a meeting next week with somebody on Long Island that I’m excited about. But we’re going to take it slow. And put it in places that tap certain spots in—it sounds kind of weird to say—but the world. Being that it’s online, people are reaching out from Japan, Europe, and all over the place. It’s pretty amazing. It’s flattering that people want to carry it. That’s awesome. We’re going to place it in certain spots. But as of right now, we’re not sure where. But it will come soon.
Courtesy of Poets
"I just want to put out shit when I’m inspired."
I could see it being in Supreme, Dover Street Market, and places like that for sure. Back in 2010, there was a Poets Nike SB Blazer. So you’ve already done that. But do you see yourself doing stuff with Nike again, or collaborating with other brands like FA? Obviously, you’ve got sponsors that are super popular. Are you going to link up and do Poets stuff with them?
I don’t want to say that I am. But I would love to. I already have something that I’m hoping to get in the works with Nike. But it’s only in the verbal stage right now. So we’ll see. I don’t want to say it’s definitely happening because I can’t speak for everybody over at Nike. But I hope we do get together and put something together for Poets because I have some ideas that I need to get out. It would be amazing, and a pretty unique avenue. I think it’s something that people would be psyched on. And I’m always down to do something with FA. I don’t see why that can’t happen in the future. But, as of now, there hasn’t really been talk of it yet.
You already have an amazing legacy with all of the skate stuff and the aesthetic and style that you brought to it, and now with the brand and how that’s translating to that. But going down the road 10 or 15 years from now after things have progressed, what do you want to be remembered for in skateboarding and the culture?
It’s something I think about sometimes. I always go back to when I was young around the time when I first turned pro. I always just wanted to be respected by my peers, the skaters, and the industry. I think I even thought about that today. I was driving my car. It’s funny that you mentioned that, because I really did think about it today. What would make me happy when I’m looking back on skating or this part of my life? Would it be if I got financial reward from skateboarding, or would it be respect? I feel like respect is the most important thing in this thing that we do. I think that’s the one thing that I would love to have—just the respect in the industry that I did my thing. I did me. I just kind of stuck to who I am. I put out whatever I felt I wanted to put out. I didn’t conform. You do find yourself doing that sometimes. It’s kind of hard not to when you have sponsors. You find yourself doing things that you aren’t necessarily extremely into. I feel that throughout my career I’ve just tried to stick with my gut, and what I feel that I can do to promote myself and my sponsors the best without selling my soul. So I guess I want to be remembered for being true to myself, skateboarding, and being honest. And that’s all. It’s as simple as that.