I enjoyed a long conversation at Pitti 85 with Franco Minucci, founder of Tie Your Tie, the legendary Florentine menswear store. Tie Your Tie is currently available through SF affiliates Exquisite Trimmings, The Armoury and starting this fall at No Man Walks Alone. Here is the first part of our conversation. More will follow. Tie Your Tie started here in Florence, correct? Yes, it started here first as a store, in the center of town on via Tornabuoni. The store started out very small – the store was only 23 m^2. But customers came immediately, and spent a lot. Those were different times. People spent freely. But we had an excellent clientele. Also I kept very few things in stock. I carried Kiton, Attolini, and Mariano Rubinacci suits and jackets. I bought from them the things I liked. The big menswear stores in Florence all copied each other. But I was doing something else entirely. The first suits with the famous three-button jackets, nobody had those. I'm talking about thirty years ago now. Nobody was making three-button jackets, it was considered something from the 30s. I carried trousers a bit more tapered. These were just my ideas. Did you travel to Naples a lot? Not really – it was just a style that I had in my head. I would just wake up in the middle of the night with ideas. For instance I carried Drumohr sweaters – the company doesn't exist anymore, but they made wonderful, classic sweaters of great quality. My style was more relaxed – always classic, but more relaxed, more wearable. I didn't carry brands like Brioni, which makes some very beautiful things, but very stylized. I wanted softer things. Business was very good. Every Pitti people from huge stores – from New York, from Beverly Hills – they would sit down in the only chair I had in my store, and watch people come in and buy things. They were shocked that such a small store could have such beautiful things, I mean really, really beautiful, and in good taste. I was selling something like three thousand ties a year, all from Holliday and Brown. I made my own careful choices and had my own models. And then I thought, why not make ties myself? And from there, I opened this workshop near Prato with twenty or so workers, and began to sell my own ties. Then some Japanese came to the store and said, this name, Tie Your Tie, we could open stores in Tokyo, Germany, America with this name. Because the name meant something. But I thought inside the store, there needs to be the right person. I had a lot of passion for selling. I liked to explain what it meant to have a buttonhole made in a certain way, etc., and if you don't have that, even if the client doesn't realize it, it's difficult. If I didn't do the selling, my products didn't sell. Clients would always tell me, “Franco, I don't understand...I come in because I need to buy some socks. But then I always end up leaving with a shopping bag stuffed with a coat, a jacket...come mai?” But I had so much passion for it. I would open the store at seven every morning, and I couldn't wait to do it. What did you do before opening the store? My first job, at fourteen – I was going to school in the morning, and in the afternoon, I worked for the distributors of Universal, the American movie studio. Later I became the representative for Universal in Tuscany. So I traveled around to all the movie theaters in Tuscany to sell the films. I did that for twenty years. Was that a suit and tie job? No, I had a more casual style – Shetland sweaters from Drumohr, for instance. And then a kind of coat with an Ulster collar that was nice for driving around in, that I had made for me. Then they started to close a lot of movie theaters, and it was hard to sell movies. Then for a while I represented Benetton – in Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, and Liguria. I would go to the stores and sell Benetton sweaters. This was at the beginning of Benetton, no one know who they were. A sweater was selling for ninety thousand lire, which wasn't very much. People bought a lot of them. But I started to get tired of all the traveling. My wife had two menswear stores here in Florence, from her father. They didn't interest her much. Her father passed away, unfortunately. But being a women, she didn't have much a clue of what to do with these men's clothing stores. We sold one, and one we rented out. But I decided I'd like to have a little store myself, in the middle of town. And that's how this little store was born.