Fabio Cavina - 12th Man Interview

12thMan - A brand story from Bologna about a passionate man with a clear vision.

Originality is not something you can teach. You are not born into it and you can not buy it. Originality comes from the heart and soul. Originality is like a flower in the big city that defies the asphalt and hard living conditions, to grow into a beautiful thing that gives its own unique colour to the city.

This is Italian Fabio Cavina from Bologna, he is 41 years old and is better known as 12th Man, the unique clothing brand from Italy, that specialises in dyeing processes.

Few are allowed to sell 12th Man

Casual Clothing is one of a very few selected stores in Europe that are showcasing the 12th Man's products. - Ever since I started my business I have dreamed of my clothing being sold in Casual Clothing, says Fabio. Fabio's dream came true, and we stock his collection as wide and deep as we can. We went to Bologna to meet the man behind one of the most spectacular and innovative clothing brands of the moment.

Fabio Cavina showing his Fall 2011 collection in his studio in Bologna.

A strange name!

12th Man is not just a name for Fabio Cavina's clothing label, it is also a term used in football. This is where he came across the phrase '12th Man'. - It sounds good and feels good. I liked the phrase and made it into the name of my brand. The exceptional and somewhat odd name has certainly helped to sharpen the mystery surrounding Fabio Cavina and his products. Now who is this 12th Man? Where does he come from and what does he want?

No compromise!

Fabio Cavina explains: - I'd rather sell much less and make an honest product than to be wealthy and unhappy. I'm not interested in becoming rich and having my clothes sold in hundreds of stores worldwide. I only want to do what I believe lies close to my heart. I will not compromise to accommodate commercial interests.

Not always easy!

Today's 12th Man products are known among dedicated fans of brands such as CP Company, Stone Island and Massimo Osti's products (Massimo Osti was the man who created C.P. company and Stone Island).

But it has not always been like this. Fabio Cavina is not born into or trained in the clothing industry. He had no experience and no contacts, when he started, just the love of clothes and the passion as a propellant.

He had a desire and a need to produce exceptional products for people who desired quality over quantity.

A hobby that took hold

It all began as a hobby, when Fabio Cavina started to colour clothes in the basement in his home in Bologna. Here he stood for hours and waited anxiously to see the result using the family's old washing machine for the dyeing process.

Spectacular beautiful colours through experimental dyeing and washing processes.

This could not continue as a pastime. Fabio Cavina was passionate, and completely preoccupied with shape, colour and developing his brand, so he took a drastic make or break decision.

In 2009 Cavina Fabio quit his job as a salesman to devote himself to the 12th Man 100%.

As time passed and the results began to show, he developed contacts in the clothing industry. Today Fabio co-operates with some of the most advanced dyeing factories in Italy, he has created numerous contacts within the industry, and today people contact Fabio for help to create their collections.

Small brand - great modesty

Although Fabio is a success and his small clothing brand grows, he is humble and would rather not be called a designer.

- I'm no designer, I do everything myself. A designer swims on top and is the architect, I'm more of an engineer who ensures that we manage to create the product", says Fabio.

The collection and experimentation - everything is made in Italy

- The logo is inspired by an old military graphics design I once saw in a book. It is an Eagle on a branch - it is "L'aquila", Fabio explains.

“L'aquila” – the Eagle Logo of 12th Man.

The collection as of Summer 2011 consists of sweatshirts, T-shirts and polo shirts.

The polos are classically simple with contrasting collar and sleeves and an embroidered logo on the chest next to the heart. The quality is impeccable and they keep the colour and shape after multiple washes. The polos are dyed beforehand and the sweatshirts are dyed individually. Fabio applies the garment dyeing, to each piece of clothing until it is completely finished and then coloured. It is a technique that CP Company and Stone Island are known for using. This method of dyeing means that no two sweatshirts look the same.

The T-shirts in both the Spring and Autumn 2011 collections surpasses anything else on the market. They are individually dyed and processed in a way that both makes them retain their colours and look washed out. Fabio was young in the eighties and it is reflected in the garments. This was a strong decade that offered meaningful youth movements, significant developments in music and design and it is mirrored elegantly in the T-shirts from 12th Man.

When it comes to the production of the collection, Fabio alone selects his fabrics and the sewing factories , as quality is his number one priority. When visiting him, the office is filled with t-shirts with different colours and prints. Some are sublimely beautiful, others just weird, and some are experimental; an attempt to hit the right notes in colour and combine it with the right material. The many T-shirts show us a man who experiments in an attempt to reach perfection: "An honest product" as he calls it. A product where colour, dyeing and quality blend together.

Fabio explaining about the dyeing process.

Some T-shirts are ready for sale; others were never put into production. Fabio has plenty of T-shirts lying around which have small almost invisible errors. These jerseys have not passed his own quality control and are, therefore, not for sale.

Fortunately, for those of us who are fascinated by Fabio Cavinas work, there are many beautiful and unique items, T-shirts, sweatshirts and polo shirts are that are not to be found anywhere else, apart from in the 12th Man collection.

To emphasize his uniqueness, he produces only 99 pieces of each shirt in each size. So, when you buy a sweatshirt, a polo or a shirt, it comes with a certificate, this is a proof that you bought one of the 99 made articles. A super cool way to create individuality in clothing that cannot be recreated or copied. "I do not produce garments that I would not want to wear myself; that would not make sense to me. If I like it, I can only hope that others feel the same way" says Fabio. It is also essential that the clothes are produced in Italy; it is his way of ensuring quality. Even if the clothes could be produced cheaper elsewhere, this is not an area for compromise.

A true result of Fabio´s experimental works – a beautiful dark green reversible t-shirt.

It was Stone Island who lit the fire within Fabio Cavina

Fabio Cavina is well-dressed. His jacket is from C.P. Company, the same with the shirt and knit sweater.

Massimo Osti, Stone Island and C.P. Company were the sources of his inspiration. In the late eighties, when Fabio was young, he was already fascinated by C.P. Company and Stone Island, but these clothes were for rich people. In the years around 2001 Fabio rediscovered Stone Island and C.P. Company. It began with a piece of knitwear from Stone Island, - - It was magical, the clothes were amazing, I got the new catalogues in the mail and I couldn't wait to see the clothes in the stores. It was like I was in love, says Fabio.

But money was tight, so Fabio would often just look at the clothes and wait to buy from the sales. This fascination led to Fabio starting to collect jackets.

- My collection grew quietly, and suddenly I was collecting clothes! I loved the products and was interested in the dyeing, Fabio explains.

The first seed was sown for the company that today is the 12th Man.

Co-operation with Osti Archive

As a part of his research he came into contact with the Massimo Osti Studio in Bologna. Here he had the opportunity to see the amazing Massimo Osti Archive. Several thousand jackets and knits designed by the master himself, Massimo Osti! The archive contains unique examples of Stone Island and C.P. Company's previous products. Design icon and founder of the prominent brands, like CP Company and Stone Island. Massimo Osti died in 2005 and today the Massimo Osti Studio is run by Massimo Osti´s widow and son Loranzo Osti.

Fabio Cavina´s enthusiasm for the old stuff was not to hide. So it was only natural that he began a collaboration with the Massimo Osti Studio. Spring 2011 he helped to design four T-shirts also know as the MO1 Project, celebrating Massimo Osti and the time back in the seventies, when C.P. Company was founded. The T-shirts have historical prints and quality is of the same high standard that 12th Man is already known for.

As with all of the other of Fabio Cavina´s design this collection is made up of only 99 copies of each colour in each size.

Surely these will become collectors items over time.

The dream of the future is modest.

Fabio Cavina has four principles:
  1. The collection must be done by heart and passion.
  2. One must do his best, no compromise.
  3. Passion for his garments and collections must go ahead of commercial interests.
  4. The collections must be produced in Italy.

Fabio Cavina will be recognized for quality and he is proud and happy when he gets positive feedback, or when he meets people who wear his clothes.

Fabio explaining Jonas from Casual Clothng about the importance of details.

"My dream is simple, I will develop what I have already started. I want to be proud of my products. I will never sell out for paltry lucre. I want to keep control over my stuff and then I dream about not becoming too big a brand. Only to make clothing that is beautiful and that people appreciate".

In the future there will be even more reasons to appreciate and rejoice, The 12th Man collection will happily expand. Fabio Cavina has plans to do several things for the future. We are one of many who look forward to seeing the outcome when Fabio Cavina throws himself into producing knitwear and outerwear with the same passion and elegance as he now produces T-shirts and sweatshirts.

The little flower with the unique colours that grows out of the crack in the asphalt sets new seeds, and many of us are looking forward to what the future of the 12th Man will bring.

The logo is embroidered in “catenella”-way meaning small chain stitching.

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Fabio Cavina - 12th Man