Storied Italian outerwear giants and brainchild of the late, great Massimo Osti, CP Company are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. As part of the Cinquanta festivities, the brand is hosting an exhibition of its incredible archive in Darwen, Lancashire, as part of the British Textile Biennale, and Darwen native and adidas expert Gary Aspden has worked with them on a small collaborative capsule for adidas Spezial.
We caught up with Gary to discuss bringing one of his favourite brands to his hometown, his long personal relationship with CP Company, and how Manchester United’s Luke Shaw became part of the project…
Gary, can you describe your first memories of CP Company?
I probably first began seeing the brand around 87. A few of the locals were travelling to Switzerland and Austria and bringing pieces back in their hauls of designer clothing and trainers. I also had a mate from Northampton who lived by me in Manchester in 88. He was a soul boy and often wore a C.P. duffle coat in a rubberised wool. Around that time, a lad called Dez I knew from Darwen was the first person I saw in a Mille Miglia, and that made an impression on me. Seeing a jacket with the lenses in the hood and the watch viewer was radical—nowadays people have become accustomed to seeing the goggles on C.P. garments but back then it was pretty dramatic and impactful.
What has the brand meant to you over the years?
It has been integral to my wardrobe for over 30 years. I have a very strong connection to my roots (that I still cannot make sense of), and C.P. Company is tied in with that, I guess. Most of my work on adidas Spezial has in some way been informed by my experiences as a youth. C.P. has a very masculine aesthetic, and it sits outside of the circus of high fashion—I personally like that about it.
How did this collaboration come about, and how does it link to CP's 50th-anniversary celebrations?
I am friends with Lorenzo Osti and went to visit him at his father's archive with a couple of old mates a few years ago in Bologna. Our trip was tied in with a concert New Order was playing in Turin. While we were there, I spent the day with Paul Harvey (who I have met a number of times before), and we said it would be good to do a project together at some point. All the best collaborations are underpinned by strong existing relationships. All healthy relationships are built on trust, and brand collaborations are no different in my experience. I believe their success hinges on that.
The link to the 50-year story is built into the design decisions and product choices we have gone with. The adidas Italia SPZL shoe takes its lead from a 1971 version of the adidas Italia and creates a contemporised version of it for 2021. In the shoe, there is a direct connection to the chronology of the anniversary in the same way the Haslingden jacket was originally based on a 1970s British Lakeland 4-pocket walking jacket and is reproduced in an Italian camo from the early 70s for this project. I like there to be legitimacy in the design ideas we have with adidas Spezial—we aim to have some adidas brand DNA linked somewhere within the ideas. We have never used camo for Spezial, but on this occasion, it felt right to use it. Collaborating with C.P. Company authenticated that decision.
How did Luke Shaw become part of the conversation?
He is an incredible sportsman, and I knew he would look good in the product. I suppose he is an unexpected choice for something like this, which was part of his appeal. When you see him in the product, the decision to use him makes perfect sense. He is a key player in the current England team—the best England team we have had in my lifetime—who I see as great role models for young men. I support Blackburn Rovers, but I am a Luke Shaw fan.
How much did it mean to you personally to celebrate the collaboration in your hometown?
It means the world to me. My hometown is now a post-industrial, economically deprived area—sadly there are places in a similar situation all over the UK. Culture is essential to regeneration and the repurposing of these places, and projects like the British Textile Biennial and the Darwen Live music festival are crucial in that. It was visionary, bold and courageous of both C.P. Company and adidas to invest in doing something in Darwen with the exhibition and the mural.
What makes CP Company and adidas SPEZIAL a good fit for collaboration?
They are both essential brands within British streetwear. Both brands saw their products adopted and repurposed by their audience. Both companies’ founders were obsessed with form and function, and there are many parallels in their respective philosophies.
Tell us a little bit more about the product in the capsule collection.
The Haslingden jacket uses one of Spezial's most iconic jackets—the Haslingden—as its foundation with various C.P. features on/in it. It was manufactured by C.P. Company in their 50 Fili fabric. It has a detachable liner and removable hood (in a classic C.P. design), as well as details like the zip pocket in the sleeve and the dual-branded watch viewer.
The Italia SPZL came with an extra toe guard and outsoles. It was Paul Harvey's idea to add components so that the shoes can be resoled in the future. It's a way of communicating the idea that their design will endure—their style is timeless.
How relevant do you think CP Company is now, to a younger consumer, in its 50th year?
Here in the UK, it is more relevant than it ever was. It has maintained many of its long-term audience while extending its appeal beyond the football fans that are synonymous with it. Where I grew up, there are now loads of teenage youths wearing the brand—some are into football, some are into heavy techno, and some are into both. Its appeal continues to broaden it seems.
The C.P. Company Cinquanta exhibition is at Darwen Market Basement from October 1–10, and the SPEZIAL capsule collection is released on the 14th of October. You can see more adidas SPEZIAL, goggle jackets, northern towns, and sweeping Italian vistas in our collection of back issues.