Meeting Fabio Panzeri in person can be an eye-opener; his tattoos and carefree black T-shirts and jeans appearance serves him more as a member of a rock band but this Italian-born designer has 25 years of experience in the fashion industry, having worked for some bigwigs previously.
His first fashion foray and beyond
“My first ambition was actually to be a comic artist, but my grandfather advised me to re-think as I can’t spend my time on the streets to draw caricatures of tourists because it is really difficult to make a living. Then I studied fashion design in Istituto Marangoni and went on to work for Jean Paul Gaultier in Paris for six months, because I won a special scholarship. I returned to Italy and worked as an Accessories and Fabrics Designer at Mila Schon in 1993, for 4 years. I found it more interesting to design bags than clothes, so fortunately Prada contacted me to join them. I served as their designer at Prada and Prada Sport and was also appointed as the Leather Accessories Designer for Helmut Lang. At Helmut Lang, it was possibly the first place that changed my perception about style and design. They told me to, ‘do whatever you want, it’s important you don’t respect the rules, you have to create your own designs,’ while being sustainable,” Fabio mused.
His other notable appointments include Head of Design, Men’s Leather Goods and Footwear Department at Dolce and Gabbana, as well as Design Director of Men’s and Women’s Leather Goods collections in Calvin Klein and Calvin Klein Jeans.
Moving to Singapore for Braun Büffel
“One day I got a call from Singapore and we started to discuss the opportunity for me to be based here. The challenge that was handed to me was, to change the brand to something more unpredictable. A lot of companies talk about change but they continue to do the same things over again; I know it takes a lot of bravery and there’s the fear of losing customers to change from one style to another,” he added.
Fabio flew to Singapore and stayed for four days in the country: “It gave me a positive feeling, so I decided I can do the job.”
With Braun Büffel, he went on to a fresh start.
“We started on the new advertising campaign, making it a more sophisticated approach by not segregating it to men’s or women’s collections. It was like a short movie, a story of four criminals who met together inside an old street club in Milan.
Work continued to the Spring Summer 2019 collection, where instead of just concentrating on leather as Braun Büffel’s tradition – craftsmanship and history are actually the right tradition – we used different fabrics like reflective material. There is a little aspect of me in the collection because it correlates to my lifestyle – avantgarde design, a bit of electronic, industrial music, underground – immersed with today’s time and culture. I would consider the collection to be global and unisex, androgynous,” a far cry from the brand’s timeless and classic approach.
Fabio understood he was taking a risk. “If you take a walk around Marina Bay Sands, you’ll realise everything is of the same displays and you can’t compete like that. My team started to design the collection not just on the basis that this is for our customers, but it is cool and it has a different energy to portray. The language is different now. Without emotions, everything looks the same.
That is why you’ll notice our latest campaign to be a tribute to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Blade Runner’, which have been remade today. We released the 16-hour bags collection which can take you from day to night, in style,” he referenced the style for someone who’s desk-bound, but can take the bag straight to the airport immediately.
Moving on to a new direction
The Spring Summer 2019 collection is synonymous with the tagline Retro Future Vision. But what exactly does it mean for the brand?
“The DNA for our company has changed, so using the words Retro Future Vision: ‘Retro’ reflects our brand’s heritage for sure, but because the brand has history and is honest, in terms of respect with its customers and pricing; ‘Future’ is the direction where we are heading to; and ‘Vision’ is about feelings and imagining emotions.
For sure we are leaving the comfort zone, but it is good to be in competition (with other brands) as there is a new generation of customers. Moving on using the same futuristic approach we used in our campaigns, I want to draw to a ‘different’ type of street style. The next collection will be an ‘evolution’, stronger in terms of exploring a younger culture. With every season change, we hope to also create a different retail experience in the flagship store here at Marina Bay Sands, with some interesting installations,” Fabio teasing some hints for what’s next to come.
Singapore is home, for now
Now having settled in Singapore, and loving it, Fabio also finds time on his hand to experiment with food.
“I bake my own cakes and I don’t use eggs, just flour, and I don’t like them too sweet. I realised I cannot always be eating outside, and I finish my crossfit trainings at 10.30pm which is late. So I started to experiment with eggs and destroyed the kitchen (laughs) but now I have a steamer to cook vegetables and meal prep ahead. My wife is here with me, and she’s always looking for new things to try as well. Having finished my first Spartan Race here, I’m egging my wife to join me for the second one,” he laughed.
Braun Büffel is available in Singapore at their boutiques in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, ION Orchard, Suntec City Mall, Westgate, and Terminals 1, 2 & 3 (Departure/Transit Lounge) as well as in retail counters located in leading department stores.