Il Fratellino – Footwear News

Il Fratellino is officially here. Today, the fledgling label from designer Brian Atwood and his brother, Zak Rodriguez, launched with its first drop of styles.

The direct-to-consumer line, which comes more than 20 years after Atwood first debuted his eponymous brand, offers accessible luxury and is made for a younger, Gen-Z consumer. And this time around, Rodriguez, who has been working in fashion editorial and PR and marketing, is taking the reins with Atwood on standby for guidance. Il Fratellino translates to “little brother” in Italian, after all.

With made-in-Italy product priced from $250 through $500, Il Fratellino is looking to make a splash with mules, sandals, booties and sneakers in bright colors and top-quality materials. Plus, the label isn’t following the traditional fashion calendar and instead will launch drops throughout the year.

Here, the brother-duo discussed how the endeavors came to fruition, brand goals and what it has been like working together.


Footwear designer Brian Atwood with his brother Zak Rodriguez

CREDIT: Harol Baez

Footwear News: Why was this the right time to launch a shoe brand together?

Zak Rodriguez: “It just made so much logical sense. I’ve grown up watching Brian do this for so long and being in awe of him and then getting a chance to work together — it was just too much temptation to resist.”

Brian Atwood: “The stars were aligned. When I started my line in 2001, I remember Zak had to be 10 and he would always help me because it was a lot. It was just me. And Zak would always kind of color the shoes. He got his hands dirty quickly. I think he’s always had a love for fashion, and obviously shoes have been around in my family forever, being around my mother and sisters. So it just seemed like a perfect time.”

FN: Brian, how is this brand different than your namesake label?

BA: “We really focused on a younger, Gen-Z audience. And it’s definitely has some aspects of the Brian Atwood line, but in a more playful, less serious, and I want to say maybe less dressy, less red carpet way. But you still have a pop of color. You have amazing quality.”

FN: Trend-wise, what were you going for with this first drop?

BA: “Besides color and giving it that extra pop, I think mules for summer are great. They definitely have come back in a strong way. Metallics. We also focused on these open-toe booties that really don’t have a season.”

ZR: “What we want to communicate is that these shoes are with you on the adventure and you’re going to have them for a long time because this isn’t a fast fashion shoe. This is the incredible quality you get from Brian Atwood. And we’re just talking to a younger audience. We want to do something a little bit different than expected. So whether it’s like a slight curve of the heel — every time we looked at a shoe design we thought about what twist we can give it.”


Il Fratellino Italian satin with custom-dyed ostrich feather pouf mules.

CREDIT: ANTHONY TAHLIER

FN: In terms of the business breakdown, who is running the day-to-day responsibilities?

BA: “I’m definitely giving some creative input. We want to cultivate this, protect it and make sure it’s done the correct way. Zak is really doing everything that I’ve done — you have to get your hands dirty to understand what’s involved in this business and what you really need. I’m here to help whatever he needs. So it looks exactly like you would expect a little brother, big brother relationship to be.”

ZR:He has let me very much have the reins and do what I want to do, [but] nothing gets made that Brian does not approve of. It has to still live up to the incredibly high bar he has set.”

FN: What have you learned from each other since starting this venture?

ZR: “There’s a big difference between being 10 years old at the table next to Brian and coloring his shoes to actually drawing a shoe in front of Brian and giving it to him and asking what he thinks. Watching him work creatively has been awe-inspiring and I hope one day I can get there.”

BA: “For me, besides Zak’s business acumen — he’s very smart and can really think outside the box — it was seeing Zak so excited about this. When I started my company, there was no sleep. It was me learning every day what needed to be done. And if I can help Zak in this to not make a mistake that I’ve made, then we’re one step ahead of the game.”

ZR: “This is step one of a very, very long journey. And I’m really excited to go down it and see how it grows. It’s sort of like the name implies. It’s like a little brother or a little sibling. This brand is just starting out and it’s going to discover who it is along the way.”