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Luciano Barbera at Pitti Uomo 83, Part I

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
If there is a living legend in menswear today, it is Luciano Barbera. He is admired and revered by internet celebrities from pocketsquareguy to dieworkwear! to Will. Pictures of him are able to resolve debates at a single posting. And yet he never looks like he's dressing to resolve debates on the internet.

He is to the modern interest in men's clothing what Doyle Brunson is to the poker, what Muddy Waters was to blues-rock music of the 60s. Signor Barbera has been living and creating men's clothing since 1971. He was Tumblr-famous 40 years before Tumblr even existed. It is as if hordes of tight-trousered, short-jacketed, multi-patterned Pitti casualties, stricken with #menswear fever, have arrived in his living room, find him relaxing after a hard day's work, rakishly but never egregiously dressed. He looks up from his snifter, bewildered and a little alarmed. “Buona sera...please, have a seat, all of you. Can I get you a drink? You look like tired. Are you traveling street performers?”

The Luciano Barbera style is notably more English than the other Italian brands at Pitti, who are mostly in a contest to see who can produce the lightest jacket and stake the most righteous claim to representing true Neapolitan style. The contrast to the dramatically lit Kiton stand across the walkway was notable.

As an attendant showed me through the collection, out of the corner of my eye I see...yes, it is the man himself. He talks to a buyer for a while until my handler sees an opening to make the introduction. He greets me warmly before another buyer demands his attention. Later the attendant says he'll see what he can do to set up an interview, and tells me to come back the next day.

Invigorated by the possibility, I skip over to the Belvest stand, wondering what tomorrow may bring. In the middle of admiring a Belvest coat, Signor Barbera walks up to me. “Did you want to do an interview? We can talk now if you like.”

Nobody I met at Pitti was more composed and more comfortable in his own style than Signor Barbera. His clothes present the same easy, but not brash, self-confidence. A presence that, in his own words, suggests a respect for oneself as well as a respect for others.

This interview will be published in bite-sized chunks. Here is the first.

StyleForum: How do you think menswear has changed in the last fifty years?

Luciano Barbera: It's our lifestyle that has changed. People's lives having changed, and there being less rigor in dress, people feel more free not to follow the customs that existed once upon a time. Everything is – don't misunderstand me, but – a little more vulgar. Because unfortunately, often when one goes beyond some form of rigor, one ends up in the ridiculous, the obvious, and the banal.

SF: Is your intent to introduce more elegance into the world?

LB: Certainly. And at the same time to follow modern culture. But to educate people that, even in a new world, there's always a way to be respectful of yourself and respectful of others. So with our collection we try to offer a wardrobe that's accessible, use extremely beautiful materials, treating our jackets with great care, without falling into the trap of “glamour”. Because this lasts only for a moment, while with our jackets, understanding that men today wear jackets only in rather formal circumstances, we remain faithful to the traditional roots of men's clothes.

SF: What are these roots for you?

My family. My grandmother, a wonderful woman with a unique allure, from whom I have always drawn inspiration. From her way of doing things and carrying herself. Also many other gentlemen of her generation whom I met as a boy. But of my grandmother I remember her voice, her decency. Her elegance and style was in her actions.

It may seem strange to say these things here at Pitti. But here there's not just beautiful fabrics, but also a desire to express oneself. Whether it's successful or not, is not easy to say. But there's an attempt to say something. Whether it's a suit, or a jacket, or a pair of shoes, there's always something to notice. I've always understood the details of an item of clothing to be very important.

SF: In men's clothing in particular, it seems to me.

LB: For a woman, one day she wears something, the next day she throws it out. For men instead, some things remain. Things that are chosen with care.

SF: How should a man choose these things?

LB: The style of a man's clothes grows out of the style of the man himself, as an individual, rather than the other way around. A man has to understand himself before he can understand his style.

I work for these men, not for myself. A man has to understand if a jacket that we make is going to work for him. The more you choose things that represent you, the more they adapt to you, rather than just being objects that adorn you. Instead some people dress only to please others.


Texture.


Incredible fabric.


Patch ticket pocket.


Gun club check and paisley fabric. Flower optional.


Ties.


Ties!


If you find a more beautiful scarf, let me know.


Jackets.


LB fabrics.


Me and Signor Barbera.
post #2 of 28
Very interesting to hear from a living legend, as they say. Thank you. I will be anxiously awaiting installment two!
post #3 of 28
The quotes regarding the need for rigor and understanding oneself are fantastic because they touch upon some issues being debated on the good taste thread.
post #4 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlaneurNYC View Post

I will be anxiously awaiting installment two!

+1
post #5 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post


Me and Signor Barbera.

ISTHATFOLDEDSILKISEEINHISPOCKET?
post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 
No. I have another pic that shows better, will post later. It's just kind of a pointy puff.
post #7 of 28
I want that gun club sportcoat so bad it hurts.
post #8 of 28

Nice to hear two elegant men having a conversation.

post #9 of 28
finally got a chance to really read the article. great job, unbel. he seems like a warm, friendly, knowledgable and fascinating man. i look forward to seeing the rest.
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by TRINI View Post

ISTHATFOLDEDSILKISEEINHISPOCKET?

Not to mention charcoal odd trousers...that's two StyleForumFAILs in one outfit.

That said, he's one of the best dressed men who ever walked this earth, so I think he gets a pass.
post #11 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by CaymanS View Post

Not to mention charcoal odd trousers...that's two StyleForumFAILs in one outfit.

That said, he's one of the best dressed men who ever walked this earth, so I think he gets a pass.

They look like mid grey on my monitor, not charcoal.
post #12 of 28
Thread Starter 
Yea they're mid grey. You can see they basically match my suit, which is mid-grey.

Take note that you don't see any shirt below the buttoning point of his jacket.
post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by in stitches View Post

finally got a chance to really read the article. great job, unbel. he seems like a warm, friendly, knowledgable and fascinating man. i look forward to seeing the rest.

He's definitely all those things, but also has a level of gravitas that nobody else at Pitti really approaches. He is having a great time, but considers this serious business.

I remember the last thing he told me as we said goodbye was [paraphrasing], "please, educate people about this, even if they don't buy my stuff, because it's important."
post #14 of 28
"Vulgar"...yes! What an apropos word.

I gather you did this in Italian and then translated?

Very good interview; please post more installments.

I read on the LB blog that his father Carlo died last month at the age of 101. May LB live at least as long.
post #15 of 28
Thread Starter 
Mack,
Yes, I did the interview in Italian and then translated. LB speaks perfectly good English, but I wanted him to be able to speak as comfortably as possible, and also I prefer speaking Italian anyway. Thanks so much for the link to LB's blog, which I didn't know about. And hear, hear, to your closing thoughts.
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