Credit: C.P. Company

Why It Matters: C.P. Company Illustrates the Passage of Time With Its SS21 “Tracery” Collection

“Why It Matters” is a compact editorial series analyzing the concepts, products and research shaping the discourse of contemporary design. From unique core offerings, to inspiring in-line rarities, One Block Down is shinning a light on the evolutionary releases that may have flown under your radar.

Earlier this month,Italian sportswear mainstay C.P. Company revealed its cornerstone Spring/Summer 2021 “Tracery” collection. Despite releasing alongside a host of special 50th anniversary activations, “Tracery” continued to stand out, as it effortlessly united the interests of new brand admirers and long-time advocates.

With the line built around C.P. Company’s storied Metropolis Series — part of its dystopian Urban Protection range originally developed by Moreno Ferrari in 1998 — “Tracery” did well to connect the brand’s more notable historical hallmarks with an approach fit for the contemporary market.

“The idea is that the technological transfer of processes allows us to identify new product aspects..”

Using sublimation printing to build on Ferrari’s dystopian silhouettes and further the experimental ethos of Massimo Osti, the resulting collection is defined by its semi-finished coloring. Much like the garment dyeing technology (and tradition) pioneered by Osti and his collaborators in the early-1970s, “Tracery” also cements dyeing as the final manufacturing step, building on a base of raw, un-colored shells.

With sublimation printing t
ypically reserved for garments with flatter surfaces, the uneven finishing parallels that of garment dyed goods, making it feel like an “enhanced version” of itself, with each piece exuding something markedly more vivid and present. By viewing tradition through a more modern lens, C.P. Company has re-contextualized the many core elements its fans hold so dear.

Click down below to read One Block Down’s first edition of “Why It Matters,” featuring an exclusive interview with the C.P. Company design team talking about its Spring/Summer 2021 “Tracery” collection.

Credit: C.P. Company

Credit: C.P. Company

Back in the early-1970s, when C.P. Company was still called Chester Perry, Massimo Osti considered himself a graphic designer above anything else. He would apply his drawings to T-shirts before dyeing them, allowing him to buy garments in a single color and reproduce them almost indefinitely.

He knew from having observed the domestic practice of over-dyeing old faded clothes — the most ancient and basic form of garment dyeing – that the T-shirts would come out with a slightly crumpled, worn-in look. What this did was add a new, somewhat softer edge to the harder lines of his graphic output.

Now, some 50 years down the line, and C.P. Company has reinstated one of Massimo Osti’s foremost aesthetic cues, using sublimation to exaggerate the effect of crumpled, worn-in fabric. Likened to a "shadow," the sublimation process casts an asymmetric camouflage-style pattern over the shell and details of each piece. We asked the design team for a rundown of why they chose sublimation printing:


Sublimation is a technique usually applied to (flat) technical polyester materials in sportswear. The idea is that the technological transfer of processes allows us to identify new product aspects. In the case of well-worn polyester garments from the archive, a migration of color across their surfaces can be seen, creating traces that highlight the passage of time.

In the digital printing industry, sublimation refers to the process where ink that is brought into contact with heat transforms into a gas. At 170° celsius, polyester’s molecular structure is then loosened, allowing the color (gas) to permanently combine with it in a way that makes the print resistant to scratches, stress and fading.

Understanding this, C.P. Company purposefully chose its Metropolis line, a selection of garments now constructed from Memri, a densely woven polyester and nylon micro-fibre canvas, engineered with a crease-retaining surface that's naturally water-repellent. True to tradition, the brand has once again defined an aesthetic finish that does not compromise the technology of its pieces.

“The charm of semi-finished products is that they break out of traditional industrial patterns and change the production cycle through more intermediate artisanal processes.”

Credit: C.P. Company

By finding alternative applications for the sublimation process, C.P. Company has drawn attention to the process itself, while visually representing the boundary-pushing narrative behind “Tracery”.The collection underscores the unique results one can gain when straight-line production steps are left to function in rather unconventional conditions.

Garments from the line are left partially assembled depending on the desired effect and how they need to be positioned on the printing platform. By understanding the pieces which require assembly, C.P. Company was able to account for variations in thickness and the irregularity produced by garment folds, buttons, pockets, and drawstrings.

Detached pieces are then numbered and sent back to the factory for assembly.Once pieced together and checked, the garments are then sent to be washed and softened. To understand the importance of such steps, we asked the team to define the importance of the line’s “semi-finished” appeal and how it linked to its DNA:

The charm of semi-finished products is that they break out of traditional industrial patterns and change the production cycle through more intermediate artisanal processes. When combined, this makes it possible to transform the product and customize it to the needs of our brand. In the case of “Tracery”, we were able to emphasize the functional details of the product in a more graphic way.

Credit: C.P. Company

Credit: C.P. Company

Thanks to an unwavering commitment to the hallmarks of its past, an innovative mindset, and a steadfast appreciation for process, C.P. Company’s “Tracery” line balances the obscurity of new ideas with the familiarity of its experimental legacy. To better understand why approaches like this matter to the contemporary design landscape, we observed the line through two scopes: “familiarity“ and “obscurity“.


For long-time brand advocates, the latest line is a welcome development to its Nylon-Polyester Sublimated Print Trench Coat from 2010.While this reference may have flown under the radar for many, it suggests that there is a future for collections like “Tracery”, with the uniqueness of sublimation still causing visual awe some 11 years down the line. To confirm our assumptions, we asked the team why it was important to bring back this printing process:

It is important to reuse such techniques, because with the aid of new printing technologies, you can work on larger surfaces and with varying thicknesses. The ductility of the process also allows you to produce smaller quantities, with the possibility to even reach a single bespoke garment.

By allowing the sublimation process to interact with the garment in a manner devoid of interference, a more natural and real result is generated.
Some of the brand’s most devout followers will even be able to liken this process to how Massimo Osti would use a photo copier to reimagine completed garments. Not only would he use it to scan the various details he wanted to add, but he would deliberately scan everything multiple times to give the printed image a more natural, worn appeal.

Credit: C.P. Company


No matter how great a new idea is, it will almost always be met with some degree of skepticism. From the moment convention is challenged and onlookers are forced to re-consider their perceptions, there will be friction. And it is a similar friction that makes the entire “Tracery” line so notable. With its semi-finished appeal leaving nothing clear or visceral, the collection calls for constant interpretation.

The fact that no silhouette from “Tracery” presents itself as a finished garment is even more cause to seek out the brand’s true DNA. Like many of Osti’s earliest creations, the latest collection is made rich by its imperfection and lack of adherence to staid production processes. As was in the past, C.P. Company is once again challenging our own understanding of what a garment should (and should not) be.

And in a society where perfection is expected — demanded almost — it is refreshing to come across something that by the nature of its production will never be so. Not only this, but by choosing to realize the collection with silhouettes from its long-standing Metropolis line, advocates are given an access point to understanding the brand’s rich history and its challenge of contemporary design.

Credit: C.P. Company

Credit: C.P. Company

Credit: C.P. Company

Why It Matters

By highlighting a variety of entry points to its design philosophy and clarifying alternative ways of perceiving its product, C.P. Company has established a more enduring brand narrative. Its glorification of process, and the semi-finished appeal of lines like “Tracery” gives wearers the opportunity to participate in the final design and interpret each garment in a manner they see fit.

C.P. Company fused the obscurity of something new with a handful of familiar brand hallmarks to define a collection that feels as present as it does historical. With “Tracery”, we are left with a collection that can — in many ways — be understood, while at the same time perplexing its audience. To conclude our interview, we simply asked, “Why do collections like this matter to today’s design landscape?”

For design, these procedures are important because they combine craftsmanship and technology where the person still makes the difference.

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