Pret-a-Reporter

Calvin Klein's Italo Zucchelli Casts His Grammys Red-Carpet Predictions

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Italo Zucchelli

The brand's menswear designer, who's created looks for Sam Smith and Drake, tells us what we can expect from the dudes on Sunday's red carpet.

Remember when Sam Smith dazzled on Saturday Night Live last March? For many, it was the moment the British crooner with six Grammy nominations became a household name. Italo Zucchelli, however, recalls the Louis C.K.-hosted episode a little differently: "Blue suede shoes and a black suit — it was the first time we dressed him!"

The ensemble was to become the first of a myriad of classic, Rat Pack-chic suits designed by the Calvin Klein Collection men’s creative director that Smith would wear this year. The "Stay With Me" singer hit the stage exclusively in the label for his 2014 North American tour. "It’s been effortless working together," says Zucchelli, whose fans include Kanye West, Drake and Usher. "He likes to look smart but, at the same time, adds an interesting shoe, wears a necklace. He knows what suits him."

Though Zucchelli, who was recently named menswear designer of the year by the Daily Front Row Awards, was remiss to reveal exactly what he has planned for Smith this Sunday. Still, the New York-based designer took a break from preparations for his upcoming menswear show to lend his red-carpet expertise.

Billboard: Whom are you most excited to see on the carpet this year?

Italo Zucchelli: Of course, Sam — and Big Sean. But I love ASAP Rocky. I love FKA Twigs' look.

What can we expect from the men? 

I think we're going to see a lot of modern tuxedos with artists adding their own touches — whether that be with jewelry or scarves. The real fun kicks in onstage, but for the carpet, monochromatic looks will be a go-to.

How does dressing musicians for the carpet differ from the experience of dressing them for the stage?

Before dressing Sam, I worked with Drake on his 2013 North American tour, and that experience was a completely different one. Sam doesn’t dance, but Drake needed to move — he wanted to look futuristic and wear things that would allow him to breathe. We did baggy pants, sweatshirts, T-shirts — sportswear inspired by my collection that season. It’s a whole different approach; you have to change gears and think differently as a designer.

Are there any fashion faux pas that make you cringe?

I get this question a lot, but I think it really comes down to the idea of never saying never. Every fashion choice depends on who the man is and how they execute whatever it is they’re going for. It's all about what they exude.

What tip would you give men that are prepping for the big night?

Find a good tailor. The fit is everything. Sometimes I’ll see someone in a suit and just think, "Whoa, my gosh! What happened there?" Confidence and good tailoring make it all work.

What music do you listen to when you’re in the studio working on designs?

I’m very open and very eclectic. I listen to a lot of instrumental music, because it's a good thing to work with. But, you know, I love David Bowie, I love Michael Jackson, I love Beyonce. I think "Chandelier" by Sia was really, really, really a very good song. I have to say, vocally, she’s amazing. She's a fantastic songwriter, and I think that song really was an amazing song.

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of Billboard magazine.

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