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The most unexpected menswear collaboration of 2023 started with a cat. Back in March, Jockum Hallin and Cristopher Nying, the Stockholm-based founders of the independent fashion brand Our Legacy, met with a group of designers from Emporio Armani on a farm outside Milan. The Armani team had approached Hallin and Nying about creating a joint collection, and the Swedes arrived in the countryside to pitch their first round of ideas.
The vibe was good, but both brands were in somewhat uncharted territory. Through its Work Shop imprint, Our Legacy regularly puts out clever special projects with companies the staff admires, like Stüssy, Artek, and even eccentric natural winemaker Gabrio Bini. But Hallin and Nying had never tapped in with a luxury fashion house. “We’re used to working like, Should we do this? Should we do that?,” says Hallin. “It’s like family. You just talk and shoot some shit.” Emporio Armani, the sportswear arm of Giorgio Armani’s Italian empire, doesn’t do many collaborations at all, and certainly not with a crew whose only presence at Milan Fashion Week is usually a clothing bazaar-turned party at an art gallery.
As Nying recalls, at the meeting, he pulled out an old Armani ad campaign depicting a model holding a cat. “I suggested, ‘What if we do something with cats, maybe a print?’” Nying says. Unbeknownst to them, the leonine Mr. Armani adores cats. The Emporio team enthusiastically endorsed the idea, and the collection began to come together.
Our Legacy Work Shop x Emporio Armani, releasing November 17 and previewed here for the first time, includes much more than cat graphics, though felines can be found on silk shirts, graphic tees, and a pair of neckties. The wardrobe-sized capsule merges Our Legacy’s relaxed shapes with “grails” from Armani’s immense visual history and its archive, like a nylon flight jacket, a Donnie Brasco-esque leather car coat, and flaxen blazers of the kind that turned Armani into a byword for casual elegance back in the ’90s. “I mean, that's a dream,” says Hallin. “Our hands have been in [the] making an Armani suit. Pretty sick.”
It’s a dream, too, for Our Legacy’s legion of fans, a menswear cult that keeps growing in size and fervor. Over the past decade, the low-key label has quietly conquered closets thanks to a remarkably consistent approach to style. Our Legacy is designer but not trendy, and has a deeply relaxed spirit, with oversized fits and fabrics that are tilted just a few degrees away from classic. It resonates with people who want to make a specific kind of impression with their clothing: that they are fashionable but not trying too hard. As John Waters once put it, Our Legacy makes “clothes so cool that only you notice them,” making you “fashionable without trying.”
Which, as it happens, sounds a lot like what Mr. Armani has been doing for nearly 50 years. “I mean, he’s been the king of that,” says Hallin of the Italian lifestyle kingpin, whose relaxed, refined clothes make rather than set trends. His work embodies an innate style, and appeals to men who do the same. “Mr. Armani is my favorite pioneer of classic elegance,” says Nying. “I love his bold and soft silhouettes, his palette of undefined colors, and his bold patterns.” Mr. Armani wasn’t available for comment, but his presence loomed large throughout the collab’s creation. “We’ve said hi to him at the office,” says Hallin. “He works there every day. Big respect. He has such dedication and passion and love for the game.”
Hallin and Nying developed this admiration surprisingly early for two guys who grew up in Jönköping, a city three hours south of the Swedish Capital. But even there, Armani’s name meant something, especially in the ’90s. “When we were young, Armani was really the mark of complete financial success and good taste—something almost unattainable,” Hallin says. By their late teens, they had discovered the other layers of culture where the house operated. They embraced baggy Armani Jeans, and heard Nas name check Armani Exchange. But with its distinctive eagle logo, the youth-oriented Emporio Armani hit the sweet spot. “With Emporio, you got that clash with utility, workwear and early streetwear,” says Nying. “That to me is an essential clash of clothes that I relate to in my own wardrobe.” Hallin readily admits vintage Armani has been a regular presence on the inspiration rails in their office.
The co-founder says the project represents a new level for Our Legacy, which he and Nying launched in 2005. “We've been very fortunate to have been treated like the upcoming brand or the new kid on the block kind for, I don't know, 15 years plus,” he says. “But I think that's kind of shifted, and we're becoming more of an established brand now.” Case in point: despite the fact that Our Legacy does tens of millions in yearly revenue compared to the Armani Group’s billions, both brands supplied deadstock fabrics for a healthy chunk of the pieces and split production between their respective factories. “We used their beret factory, obviously,” Hallin says. Armani gave Nying and Hallin full creative freedom over the campaign by legendary fashion photographer Mark Borthwick, and is letting Our Legacy sell it across their stores, website, and Dover Street Market. “It feels like they respect our hustle. They're like, No, you should be the one selling this. It should be catered to your audience,” says Hallin.
Work Shop collaborations tend to sell out in a flash. This one might disappear in a nanosecond come November 17. But Hallin says he’s more excited to see the reaction when they drop a cat-themed teaser video they came up with. “The Armani world is maybe not in our customer’s conversation, at least not daily,” he says. “I would like it to feel like a surprise. First the surprise, then, Ah, it makes sense.”
Originally Appeared on GQ