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Interview with Luca Rubinacci at Pitti Uomo, Part 1

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
While at Pitti, I was able to catch up with Luca Rubinacci, scion of the famed Neapolitan tailoring house and colorful iDandy. My thanks to him for fitting in our meeting between snowboarding photo ops. I have edited all hashtags out of our conversation. Here's what we talked about.

David Isle: How has bespoke tailoring changed in the past few years?

Luca Rubinacci: We are a third generation business. If I look in my archive, I can make a collection out of three generations. Being bespoke is not the same [as making RTW], because bespoke is dressing only one man; the man is asking for something. So you change style every day. It's not like seeing where the fashion is right now, because there you have to focus on the masses.

This is the new conception of Italian clothes. Today everybody is into seeing more details, more themselves, rather than being part of the masses. That's why are coming back to bespoke, seeing how the product is made. Because everybody is doing that, fortunately a lot of tailors are coming back into the market. Where we can make a difference is in the service. A jacket is always a jacket. And if you know how to wear it, you can wear well something that is not as good as the best.

Made in China and made in Italy today are too close. One of the great gifts given to me by my father is that I'm always curious, and I want to know how things are made. When I go to Hong Kong, and I see beautiful tailors doing a great job in two days, how can you compare? It takes us 60 hours to make a suit. So what is the difference? It's to tell the customer what is behind the cloth. And you can do that only like a barber, with a private relationship. That's why I travel around the world to visit with clients, to four cities in the United States, to Kazakstan, to Korea, wherever my customer is calling me, because this is a service.

I appreciate a relationship that doesn't involve just making a suit, but also having a dinner and explaining the world of beauty. Because everybody is different; Pitti needs to sell to the mass, to the younger gentleman, who are looking to be someone. We are dressing someone who already knows, and they want to feel different. This is the difference between a real tailor and all the Neapolitan tailor. Because today, every brand has written down, "true Neapolitan tailor house" - it's like the "true Neapolitan pizza." But a pizza is a pizza. So you have to make the difference in this. Because everybody knows about the quality, but today what is the quality? This (indicating the suit he is wearing) is a shantung silk with linen. This only a collector can appreciate, like a hobby. If not, go to Boggi. I am a 48; wherever I go, the jacket fits me.

DI: I've noticed some of your jackets that I've seen in pictures are made a little bit differently from the standard Rubinacci house style.

LR: Everyone asks me this - they say, "Luca we never understand your style, because it's always changing." But I always reply that I'm like an ice cream maker. I cannot make the best ice cream if I'm not testing it. In the past, maybe there was the Neapolitan tailoring house, and the English culture, and the Milanese culture. Today, it's the world. We travel all over the world. Why does a customer in Kazakstan have to go in the winter to Huntsman and in the summer to Rubinacci?

What I want to build is a modern tailoring house. What many people and aficionados of the business don't know, is that Neapolitan culture is in the structure, not in the style. The style is for the customer. When you see more wrinkle here or spalla camicia there, this is style. The Neapolitan structure is inside the jacket - it's less canvas, shaping the waist with a high armhole. This I will never go away from. This is my father's style. But what I want to build is mixing this with the customer's needs. If the customer wants a short jacket because he's short and wants to feel taller, let's give him a short jacket. Why does he have to go to Tom Ford to have it?

Luca is the window of Rubinacci. I have fun. Whenever a customer comes to me, I know how to reply. But if you don't test on yourself, how are you going to be a bespoke stylist? I'm not talking about [clothes meant] "to be seen." This is not gentleman. I always push hard, but I always think that I'm on the edge. I try to be on the edge. I will never wear, as is the fashion now with trousers here (indicates the current fad for slim tapered legs and cropped hems) to show my legs. My father always told me, be a gentleman, but do what you want to do. Feel comfortable, and you will show your comfortability.



Photo credit: Neil Watson at A&H Magazine.



post #2 of 16
Nice article, thank you!
I have seen many photo's of Luca over the years and have thought his "style" is very individual. I have even compared the shape of his jackets to other Neapolitan makes and have come away thinking it is somewhat English looking, with the extended shoulders and shape. His description of "style" as expressed in the article makes perfect sense.
post #3 of 16

'Neapolitan culture is in the structure, not in the style. The style is for the customer.'

 

interesting article!

post #4 of 16
I am always having new clothes made up myself which is surprisingly unusual really, often you see a cutter on Savile Row who has worn the same two suits every day for 10 years. Having something made up yourself and experiencing it for yourself, in that way rather than just producing it, allows you to inform your clients much better.
post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Reeves View Post

I am always having new clothes made up myself which is surprisingly unusual really, often you see a cutter on Savile Row who has worn the same two suits every day for 10 years. Having something made up yourself and experiencing it for yourself, in that way rather than just producing it, allows you to inform your clients much better.

Which makes me wonder, why do you guys buy so many outfits? Are you able to give your customers a better assessment of how certain cloths hold up over time? .
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Reeves View Post

I am always having new clothes made up myself which is surprisingly unusual really, often you see a cutter on Savile Row who has worn the same two suits every day for 10 years. Having something made up yourself and experiencing it for yourself, in that way rather than just producing it, allows you to inform your clients much better.

I'm struck too by how often I see tailors wearing the same thing, or wearing something a few pounds away from fitting.

I guess it's the rendering in cloth of the old saw that the shoemaker's children go barefoot.
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsuperb View Post

Which makes me wonder, why do you guys buy so many outfits? Are you able to give your customers a better assessment of how certain cloths hold up over time? .

I buy so many outfits because I just like them mainly! There is a happy upshot though in that you can understand wear characteristics better, especially if you are using new or exotic/luxury cloths which I suspect myself and Rubinacci do more than many.

This summer I have been really impressed with a silk linen blend that Dormeuil does, so much so that I ordered a second suit in it, it is very light but holds its shape very well. I am sure my genuine enthusiasm for this cloth helped me to sell the 10 or more that I made for clients this year.
post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

I'm struck too by how often I see tailors wearing the same thing, or wearing something a few pounds away from fitting.

I guess it's the rendering in cloth of the old saw that the shoemaker's children go barefoot.

I can assure you my kids don't go barefoot!

I think though many makers, well to them its often just a job, its something that they have known all their lives. They often do it because thats what they always did or they do it because it was handed down to them. I don't mean that in a bad way and I am not saying this is always the case but even with very high end makers often its just seen as a job that they do. I am reminded about being gobsmacked when an old (very elite) Savile Row tailor was on about packing it in to stack shelves at a local supermarket......he wasn't joking either!

I think what sets myself apart is that I am a professional but I am also an enthusiast...... I love it!
post #9 of 16

I like Luca's term "bespoke stylist". When I spoke with his father a few years ago, and asked him how he'd describe himself, he said "definitely not a tailor, but... I don't know."  "Bespoke stylist" is a good term.  What a lot of people don't understand, even though it's spelled out by Alan Flusser, which seems to be a menswear bible, is that the tailor is traditionally a craftsman, the hands.  Not that mind or the heart.  The taste is supposed to come from the gentleman, not from the craftsman.  I'm certainly don't agree with that entirely, but there is some truth in it.  It is madness to think that the best cutter has the best taste.  That's apparently how the London House got started.  It was never a 'tailoring house", but more of a bespoke stylist.  

 

These days, it's changed a bit, of course, and tailors, at least bigger tailoring houses, have "stylists".  It would probably be useful if someone like @David Reeves spelled out, maybe in a different thread, the traditional usage of different terms.  For example, the "designer" is very different from the common usage - it's much more like the sample maker.  What we call the designer, today, is much more of a stylist.  

post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Reeves View Post

I buy so many outfits because I just like them mainly! There is a happy upshot though in that you can understand wear characteristics better, especially if you are using new or exotic/luxury cloths which I suspect myself and Rubinacci do more than many.

This summer I have been really impressed with a silk linen blend that Dormeuil does, so much so that I ordered a second suit in it, it is very light but holds its shape very well. I am sure my genuine enthusiasm for this cloth helped me to sell the 10 or more that I made for clients this year.

You sir are quite stylish. However, I've lurked these forums for years slowly gathering information and can honestly say that the majority of the members buy too much clothing. I've been studying certain styles and "bespoke stylist" for the past 4 years trying to figure out why some tailors don't do their clients any justice. After jumping into the fray and using a "bespoke stylist" I can finally say I get it. Most customers don't know what they want so in most cases they get the "house style." Some of these house styles aren't aesthetically pleasing for everyone's physical features.

I think some tailors should only be used by experienced customers who know what they want and know what looks good on their body. I cringe every time I see a new commission by certain customers who haven't corrected issues that were off in their last order. I think it would be in somes best interest to slow down and make an honest assessment on their clothes and commission. I'm not sure the forum is condusive for this type of environment anymore. Every where you turn there are affiliate vendors with something to sell. I don't have anything wrong with these affiliate vendors but I'm finally understanding the affects of certain marketing ploys (vintage ties and vintage LL cloths).
post #11 of 16
Great insight from Luca and @David Reeves. I am not in a financial position to make purchases in the bespoke arena, and I think because of that I find this subject matter so interesting. Like @lordsuperb, I too have really been observing and putting together what I feel is my true aesthetic, and where that falls in the current styles. I've found the really slim cut pants don't work for me, even though I feel they look good, they just aren't that comfortable. So finding that sweet spot has been a lot of fun (and frustrating at times). Great stuff, and I'm really glad to see that the business of artisan clothing is going strong and expanding.
post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by LA Guy View Post

I like Luca's term "bespoke stylist". When I spoke with his father a few years ago, and asked him how he'd describe himself, he said "definitely not a tailor, but... I don't know."  "Bespoke stylist" is a good term.  What a lot of people don't understand, even though it's spelled out by Alan Flusser, which seems to be a menswear bible, is that the tailor is traditionally a craftsman, the hands.  Not that mind or the heart.  The taste is supposed to come from the gentleman, not from the craftsman.  I'm certainly don't agree with that entirely, but there is some truth in it.  It is madness to think that the best cutter has the best taste.  That's apparently how the London House got started.  It was never a 'tailoring house", but more of a bespoke stylist.  

These days, it's changed a bit, of course, and tailors, at least bigger tailoring houses, have "stylists".  It would probably be useful if someone like @David Reeves
 spelled out, maybe in a different thread, the traditional usage of different terms.  For example, the "designer" is very different from the common usage - it's much more like the sample maker.  What we call the designer, today, is much more of a stylist.  

Just to push the convo forward a bit, I'm going to say I disagree. Only because Luca presents Rubinacci as a place that will help you achieve your unique, personal style. I don't think this's really true.

A ton of luxury industries try to sell people on the idea of infinite customization and personalization, and that such customization will help people revel their "true" and better selves. You see this in fragrances, for example, where perfumers say that scents change according to the wearer's chemistry. Some of this is kind of true (to a degree), but in large part, it's just a way for companies to make the average person feel uniquely addressed and special, and bonded with whatever scent they've chosen. You also see this happen in raw denim, where $300 jeans supposedly fade in a way so special and unique, that they tell a story about the wearer's life.

I buy that Luca and Mariano are helpful as personal stylists, in the way that anyone at the front of a bespoke tailoring house can give style advice. Tailors can sometimes be a bit stuffy in the way that they think a suit should look, so it’s good to have someone who has an eye for “style.” From what I’ve heard from Rubinacci customers, Luca and Mariano are better than most at imparting their idea of style on their customers.

But I don’t buy that this stuff is really a collaboration. By the time you’ve chosen your bespoke tailor, 90% of the choices have already been chosen for you. Fiddle with too much, and you can really ruin an expensive purchase (I’ve unfortunately done this to a few commissions).

FME, a lot of tailors will tell you that they can do anything for you. For some, this is true. They’re mostly cheap tailors in China, who will try to make whatever you want, but more or less turn out bad products. For others, this is just a line — a way to draw people in. If someone is really taking a bespoke commission as a collaboration, where you can dictate how something will look, they’re probably not very good at what they do.
post #13 of 16
Great interview, really enjoyed it.

But pizza is pizza? Come on now, that is crazy talk.
post #14 of 16
Creative direction is important.
post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by dieworkwear View Post

Just to push the convo forward a bit, I'm going to say I disagree. Only because Luca presents Rubinacci as a place that will help you achieve your unique, personal style. I don't think this's really true.

A ton of luxury industries try to sell people on the idea of infinite customization and personalization, and that such customization will help people revel their "true" and better selves. You see this in fragrances, for example, where perfumers say that scents change according to the wearer's chemistry. Some of this is kind of true (to a degree), but in large part, it's just a way for companies to make the average person feel uniquely addressed and special, and bonded with whatever scent they've chosen. You also see this happen in raw denim, where $300 jeans supposedly fade in a way so special and unique, that they tell a story about the wearer's life.

I buy that Luca and Mariano are helpful as personal stylists, in the way that anyone at the front of a bespoke tailoring house can give style advice. Tailors can sometimes be a bit stuffy in the way that they think a suit should look, so it’s good to have someone who has an eye for “style.” From what I’ve heard from Rubinacci customers, Luca and Mariano are better than most at imparting their idea of style on their customers.

But I don’t buy that this stuff is really a collaboration. By the time you’ve chosen your bespoke tailor, 90% of the choices have already been chosen for you. Fiddle with too much, and you can really ruin an expensive purchase (I’ve unfortunately done this to a few commissions).

FME, a lot of tailors will tell you that they can do anything for you. For some, this is true. They’re mostly cheap tailors in China, who will try to make whatever you want, but more or less turn out bad products. For others, this is just a line — a way to draw people in. If someone is really taking a bespoke commission as a collaboration, where you can dictate how something will look, they’re probably not very good at what they do.

I agree.

This is a really cool topic, I would like to talk about it more but I am conscious about not wanting to "hijack" the thread, which is of course about Rubinacci. If someone wants to start a thread about this I will comment further.
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