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.