At one point, Joseph Serino was catching flights every week. The creative veteran, who spent the past two decades leading product at Nike and Calvin Klein, noticed that his suitcase was always stocked with the same clothes—versatile essentials suitable for an airplane, a business meeting, or a night on the town. At the same time, he was observing the gargantuan amount of waste produced by fashion labels and began thinking about more sustainable ways to produce simple, high-quality basics whose appeal would endure over time.
He, along with his creative partner Lexi Sacchi, took these intuitive insights and recently launched Serino, a label that offers a tightly curated collection of sustainably produced knitwear basics marked by timeless silhouettes and a distinct method of make. The brand’s philosophy puts purity on a pedestal, eschewing seasonal launches for an intentionally lean lineup of versatile pieces designed for the long haul. Each piece in the collection, which consists of five essential colors across seven styles for each gender, are meticulously made with one knit yarn by a family-owned Italian factory with nearly seven decades of experience. Whether a wool knit bomber jacket or fine knit slip dress, each Serino style offers the versatility demanded by modern consumers—sharp silhouettes designed to age gracefully with each wear yet don’t compromise on style or comfort.
At the core of Serino’s ethos is purpose and intention. “We believe in a world where fewer, better-made products hold great value and have a more meaningful place in our customer’s lives,” says Serino, who devised a zero-waste manufacturing process in collaboration with his network of Italian artisans. We sat down with Serino and Sacchi at the brand’s newly opened studio on Bleecker Street to learn more.
Tell me about how you got Serino Studio off the ground. How does your background at Nike, Calvin Klein, and the tech world inform the brand?
We conceived Serino in 2018 after I spent many years on the West Coast. When I returned to New York, I started contemplating the idea of building my own brand. We started by looking at the market—what was trending and how people were living—and knew that the world was getting more casual. People are more relaxed now, regardless of industry.
On top of that, we noticed people wanted to feel more comfortable and casual. Brands were offering basics at the lower price points driven more by commodity. We wanted to elevate that. The Uniqlos, Gaps, and J.Crews of the world all do more commodified basics—not in a bad way, but we thought there were enough players in that arena. When we looked at the market’s higher end, no brands were really focusing on indispensable premium essentials, meaning garments suitable for the day, evening, at work, out to dinner, in the city, and in the country. The versatility of this “sophisticated casual” market piqued our interest.
Serino is rooted in simplicity, particularly distilling elements down to the absolute essential. Can you tell me more about the brand’s 1-7-5 philosophy?
We launched with one yarn in 14 styles—seven for her, seven for him—and five classic colors (black, navy, heather gray, camel, and cream). Material-wise, we decided to make everything in knitwear, based on its comfort level and ease of wear. We’re working with one supplier and one factory just outside Milan that has been producing this type of product for 65 years.
How did you decide on the lineup of silhouettes? What did this process look like?
There are high-end brands with basics in their collection, but they also have spring, summer, fall, and winter collections. We thought “what if we don’t follow the fashion system by season, but deliver by material platform?” Our first collection, for example, explores these beautiful cottons, but we also plan to roll out merino wool and other materials down the line. Then we determined how big the collection should be and agreed on iconic styles—high-quality garments most people would wear almost any day. People tend to have many items in their wardrobe but wear few things frequently, but those are their go-to essential items. It’s hard for a label to be consistent with 200 styles per season. We went the opposite direction.
We were also conscious of the fact that everyone’s time is valuable. People are busy! If they don’t have to change from day to evening, that definitely holds some value.
Each garment is produced by artisans in Italy in a process with zero waste. Tell me more about this.
We try to mind the planet by not using too many natural resources. When we manufacture the garments, every yarn gets fed into a machine and programmed into the computer. A technician then turns the yarn into a product with no waste. We package everything in paper, not plastic. We’re building these philosophies and practices from the ground up at a time when most brands are now thinking about that retroactively.
When you do the math, brands use an enormous amount of product. Our manufacturing system is completely vertical. The factory makes all of our styles using only one yarn, and we deliver the products directly to the consumer. We even asked our manufacturers if there’s any waste product, but there wasn’t anything to recycle! Each garment comes out pre-formed and they simply sew it together. We were considering asking an artist to repurpose fabric scraps, but there’s no waste to work with!
Is this a process you ideated? I haven’t heard of many other labels with literally zero waste material!
It’s embedded in certain companies, but they manufacture so much product that it doesn’t really come to the surface. Because I built products for fashion and sports brands for the past 30 years, I’ve learned how to work efficiently. This idea of fewer, better products is important—you can’t make better products if you’re making 120 pieces four times a year. From my own experience, you can make a product good but not perfect before going into a season. The fashion cycle doesn’t give most brands space to act or build a company this way.
Because we’re entirely self-funded and launched with this zero-waste idea, there’s no pressure. From a manufacturing standpoint, we’re trying to carve out a unique position in the marketplace with regard to how much we produce, and the fact that these are products that can live with you every day and travel everywhere with you. I travel often and noticed that wherever I went, I was packing the same things. We built Serino around these intuitive insights, and our tagline “exceptional without excess” speaks to this.
It’ll take some time for people to truly understand it, but there’s some uniqueness in the philosophy. When the pandemic happened, it almost played into our hands because people started assessing how much product they owned. They were working from home and wanted to be comfortable. In a strange way, it almost helped reinforce what our philosophy was.
Do you have a personal favorite piece in the collection?
A hybrid pullover that’s an organic cotton piece in the front, but with knit sleeves in the back. It’s a fine knit sweater with a fully fashioned neckline. It’s available in short sleeves for men and women, and in long sleeves for men. The two different materials give it a unique property.
How do you foresee the brand evolving from here?
We’re now developing our second collection in merino wool. The idea is to move from yarn to yarn. We’ll probably end up adding some new silhouettes as we go, but not many!
We respect people who do what they do really well. It doesn’t matter if you make clothes, furniture, art, or food. On our website, we’re starting to include artists in a new series called “Origins of Inspiration” in which we draw parallels between what we do in our respective worlds. It speaks to something bigger than us simply making clothes—it’s more about a philosophy of where, how, and why you make something. We’re trying to create a larger world than only ourselves and start building a community.
Of course, people will look at clothes and say “oh, you’re a fashion brand.” I can’t say that we’re not—it comes with the territory—but we’re trying to take our unique philosophy and approach that goes beyond what we do, and speaks to someone’s lifestyle in its totality. That’s why we have a “studio” as opposed to a traditional showroom or retail store. People can come and sit and have a conversation like we’re doing now about art, fashion, design, architecture… Relationships are going to be a big part of what we do.