Suits are dressed down by casual details like patch pockets, fabrics with more texture than luster, and of course the classic Neapolitan soft tailoring. You also won't find many solids in the Isaia lineup. But while the large scale patterns give the garments visual interest and an insistence on informality, the muted colors make them easy to wear.
Isaia still maintains traditional tailoring techniques as well as styling. These are clothes for a man who is stylish and elegant, but who doesn't take himself too seriously. A man such as Gianluca Isaia himself, who was kind enough to join us for this interview.
StyleForum: What's your first memory that gave you a sense that clothing and style are important?
Gianluca Isaia: How my father would put away his clothes when he got home from work. How he carefully removed and store his jacket, his tie. He treated his clothes with respect.
SF: How did you get into the clothing business?
GI: I followed my father. I was coming to Pitti Uomo as a young boy even. I would go to my grandfather's house, who was in the clothing business also, and play with the fabrics there.
SF: Being in Naples, these were lightweight fabrics?
GI: No, heavy fabrics! Heavy, English fabrics.
SF: So you don't find it difficult designing for A/W then?
GI: No, not at all. The Neapolitan tailor invented the unlined jacket, with a very light canvas and a soft shoulder construction. This was to be more comfortable in the summer. But the style is still very elegant in the winter.
SF: You have used some beautiful colors for this collection that aren't often seen in menswear. Orange, for instance. Are these colors more difficult to wear? Should some people avoid them entirely?
GI: It's not that there more difficult for some than others. Everyone needs to find their own style. What they feel comfortable and most themselves in. What they can get on stage in front of everyone and feel confident in. You can't buy style. You can't just walk into a store, open up your wallet and tell the sales person to make you stylish. You have to find that on your own. That's really what we try to do in our company, is help clients find their own style.
SF: When designing an article of clothing, do you think much about where its buyer might wear it?
GI: Never. I make clothes that I like and wear clothes that I like. I own neither a solid navy nor a solid charcoal suit. I dress like this pretty much all the time [Ed. note: As seen below, Gianluca was wearing a SC with a muted pattern, the ubiquituous Italian light blue shirt, a tie that complements, without matching, the colors in his jacket, and glasses that playfully recall the color of his tie]. Even for weddings and funerals. Even for a funeral, I don't dress in a sad way. The occasion itself is sad enough already. I don't believe in rules that everyone should follow. I know some books say, "exactly 1.75 cm of shirt cuff must show beyond the jacket sleeve," but I don't believe in fixed rules like that. I have rules, but they're my own rules. And each person needs to find their own rules they are comfortable with in their own style too.
SF: Do you think that wearing patterns frequently requires owning more clothes, since patterns are more difficult to put together into an outfit than solids?
GI: No - men need to have fewer clothes. A few clothes that can be combined into outfits that the man feels himself and comfortable in. People today buy too many clothes without thinking. It's better to buy fewer things, but better things, and put some thought into which quality pieces to buy.
SF: Do you find yourself facing a more educated consumer now compared to five or ten years ago?
GI: Definitely. Young men today have much more information available to them than any previous generation, and they are eager to learn more. They appreciate quality construction and the value of a well-made garment.
SF: What about future generations of tailors? Are tailors retiring faster than they are being replaced?
GI: There are two kinds of tailors today. There are those with the old mentality, who guard their secrets jealously and don't want to teach others. And then there are those like in our company. We take on and teach our art, because it is art, not work, to young people even if I know that in five years, they may leave us to start their own firm. I am happy for young people who strike out on their own, and wish them success. Because our lives are short, and the goal is to leave something behind when it's all over.
Me and Gianluca, posing with a motorcycle helmet with a depiction of San Gennaro, patron saint of Naples and inspiration for Isaia's Fall/Winter '13 collection
Isaia prides itself on coming up with beautiful fabrics every season, such as this silk and cashmere scarf.
Isaia buttons are engraved with a depiction of the coral often seen in Isaia jacket lapels, a mythical good luck charm in Naples.
The casual suit: soft tailoring, pick stitching, and the Neapolitan long front dart.