The DNA making of a luxury brand is not something we can learn from scratch. Craftsmanship requires unparalleled expertise and high standards. This is the signature of Mackintosh, one of the world’s most influential British outwear makers since 1824.
Now imagine a second-year Fashion Design student at Istituto Marangoni London winning a school design competition and moving from the city to Mackintosh’s manufacturing site in Nelson, Lancashire, to undertake a placement over the summer and learn the traditional craft of making Mackintoshes. Her name is Lucrezia Grazioli. She was one of the five finalists in UKFT’s Made-IT Internship Scheme for 2021-2022, a programme that runs in collaboration with five UK-based universities, including Istituto Marangoni London.
You may wonder how she stood out from other IM students. Well, it was all because of a project during her second year studying Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni London. The challenge was to imagine a collaboration with Mackintosh. Starting with a basic coat silhouette, these talented designers were asked to rethink the traditional trench coat with an innovative design. The winner was Lucrezia Grazioli, whose idea brilliantly blended the concept of traditional craftsmanship with a modern appeal.
So, in September 2022, Grazioli jumped from the school pattern-cutting comfort room to the established Mackintosh production house. There, she brought her – and our – dream raincoat to life. After seeing the images of her creation, we are sure you will all want to wear this trench coat soon. Breaking news: you cannot – not for now. This item is not on the market yet, but “I am ready to use my experience in making coats in the industry,” Lucrezia Grazioli assured.
Photographer Nick Clements, tutor in Fashion Writing and Photographic Theory and Practice at Istituto Marangoni London, captured a model wearing the trench coat Lucrezia Grazioli created at Mackintosh
Did you know the Mackintosh brand before the project, and what did you learn about the brand?
I confess I didn’t. But after six weeks, I learned a lot from the high manufacturing level and what luxury craft really means – literally ‘made by hand’ using traditional techniques since the 19th century. I was also surprised to discover that Mackintosh collaborated with high fashion brands such as Céline, Balenciaga, Maison Margiela, Vetements and Louis Vuitton, sharing their expertise in making its iconic British Army trench coat. So it is clear that luxury brands are still valuing manual skills. It was a mind-opening experience.
The raincoat created by IM London student Lucrezia Grazioli, winner of an internship experience at Mackintosh. Photo by Nick Clements
How did you react to the news Mackintosh chose your design and you were offered a paid internship?
I was surprised as I couldn’t think of myself as a winner of this competition, and after being informed that I would get paid, I was already planning to invest it for my final collection in the third year. That was amazing!
How was your working day at Mackintosh?
I worked full-time from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm, living in a B&B around the area and my supervisor drove me to the Mackintosh manufacturing plant every day. At work, I was assigned a different task every day, which may include CADs (technical drawings) of the coats or research for the new design. I got many different experiences, visiting the departments and living the production process of how their signature rubberised coat was made. Above all, I had the opportunity to work on a personal project of making my own coat design – that was a dream come true.
At Mackintosh, Lucrezia Grazioli brought her – and our – dream trench coat to life. Photo by Nick Clements
The project and internship focused on Manufacturing and Production. Was this an area you were interested in beforehand?
My focus as a fashion design student was more on design creation, but this internship clarified what is behind fashion products and manufacturing. I learnt that a brand like Mackintosh has a structural, traditional, and technical point of view when it comes to fashion.
Was making a coat a new experience for you?
Yes, it was the first time making an entire coat. I had some basic skills from my school project of making outerwear over the first term of the second year, and those were useful to understand quickly the process of making. However, Mackintosh’s fabrics are very different. The use of high-quality garments that are quite hard to work without experience. In six weeks, I learnt how to manipulate those fabrics, and I will definitely use the skill in my future design.
Details from Grazioli's Mackintosh trench coat. Photo by Nick Clements
How did you process your personal design coat?
I have followed the step-by-step guide the Mackintosh team gave me. So, I started with the research. I went to the archive to look at the previous collaboration selecting pictures- that part was exciting. The next step was to prepare the technical drawings with all the necessary information and then send them to the production team. I filled the forms with trims, stitching, fabrics, colours, sizes and finishing I selected for my design coat. For the finish, I incorporated the traditional technique using tape and glue as the makers still work by hand and brushes, and I wanted to keep it.
The making of a traditional Mackintosh coat
What do you think your biggest takeaway has been from the experience?
I think over meeting professional people; I reconsidered my fashion knowledge. Assisting the teams helped me understand the various aspects of their work, which I found noteworthy. But I also developed the technical drawing, pattern cutting, and interaction skills necessary to produce garments in the fast-paced environment that is the fashion industry. I noticed multiple people working beyond each piece of clothing, even a simple one. They are deciding on each detail to make their idea happen.
The trench coat Lucrezia Grazioli created during her internship experience at Mackintosh. Photo by Nick Clements
So, what’s next?
I have just finished the collection that was selected for the graduate fashion show. I am ready to use my experience in coat making in the industry and maybe follow up on another internship for a renewed fashion brand, as there is so much to learn from professionals. This coat, though, I am very proud of, and who knows, it may be just the beginning of a collection.