When it comes to dressing, the Italian's always have the upper hand. Whether it's a formal outfit, or an off duty look, the country's men always seem to get it right, every time. So what does it take to dress like a stylish Italian? SHOP spoke to some of the biggest fashion designers in Italy to find out.
‘Italians do not like being restricted to a rigid set of rules,’ says Elisabetta Canali. ‘They like to express their creativity freely in all aspects of life. Having said that, if a man isn’t comfortable with what he is wearing he can never be elegant,’ she adds.
‘The Italian aesthetic is all about expressing refinement without ever seeming forced or unnatural,’ - Elisbetta Canali
If anyone can comment on the design process and wardrobe choices of Italians, it is Elisabetta Canali. She is group communications director of the menswear label Canali, and is part of the third generation of family members to run the brand. She knows more than a thing or two about the style preferences of Italian men and and why they won’t be saying goodbye to the suit in the foreseeable future.
‘The Italian aesthetic is all about expressing refinement without ever seeming forced or unnatural,’ she says. ‘The suit is the anchor of a look – if the anchor is firmly in place, you can get creative with your accessories with little risk of losing the elegance factor.’
It would seem that at Canali the balance between creative flair and comfortable, refined familiarity is key to the success of the Italian suit. That, and the country’s talent and supreme levels of craftsmanship.
‘Italian craftsmanship in any field is known the world over due to a profound level of skill and artistry that goes into any Made in Italy garment,’ Elisabetta Canali says.
‘This is a great source of pride in Italy,’ she adds. ‘And this leads to an effort on the part of companies and artisans alike to offer the top-quality creations that the world has come to expect.’ If the legacy of Italian suiting is anything to go by, those expectations are constantly met.
For decades the most well-heeled men in the world have flocked to tailors in Italy to purchase the finest suits made from the most luxurious fabrics. While traditional craftsmanship and skill still remain at the forefront of Italian design, innovative and new technologies in fabric design and creation are also key elements. This marriage of old and new is further underlining the appeal of the Italian suit for new generations.
Canali’s autumn/winter 2018/19 collection makes use of new technologies to create a host of suits and blazers that are designed to perfectly complement the lives of modern men. An important consideration for Elisabetta Canali is allowing the fabric to ‘offer characteristics like flexibility, breathability and resistance to stains, water and the creases of synthetics, while remaining completely natural.’
Innovative use of fabrics is something that Italian brands are embracing across the board, including Neapolitan heritage label Isaia. Founded in the 1920s, the family-run brand has been creating luxury suits for almost a century. Today it is still leading the way in elegant Italian tailoring.
This season sees the label embrace a combination of sprezzatura (a distinctly Italian version of nonchalance) and elegant tailoring. Soft silhouettes prevail, achieved through the use of luxurious fabrics including fleece-effect cashmere, black sheep merino and new blends of jersey. These have also been used to create deconstructed, but still fitted, jackets. A reissue of the brand’s archival 14-ounce denim is used in jeans and trousers (in the denim industry ounces denote the thickness of the fabric, with 14 ounces a medium to heavy weight), alongside a canvas created through a cashmere and cotton blend which is double twisted for increased suppleness and strength.
Another of Italy’s leading tailors is Corneliani. Founded in 1930 and initially creating outerwear and specialising in raincoats, the brand expanded to encompass a full menswear wardrobe. Today it is one of the leading names in exquisite Italian suits.
For autumn/winter 2018/19 Corneliani’s collection is firmly rooted in the craft of tailoring, with items that the label believes will ‘open a repertoire of possibilities’ for its customers. Wearability is of the utmost importance, with muted palates of sophisticated, dense tones and soft and streamlined silhouettes making up a collection of luxurious pieces that are adaptable and feel familiar.
Familiarity strikes a chord with Brioni’s collection this season, too. The Roman brand has consistently been at the cutting edge of menswear design, and it was the first label in the world to hold a men’s catwalk show, which took place in Florence in 1952. However, for autumn/winter 2018/19, the Brioni collection is a lesson in refined subtlety and sartorial classicism.
According to the brand, the Brioni wardrobe’s guiding principle for this season has been to rethink traditional, everyday pieces in a luxurious and comfortable light.
There’s no doubt that traditional tailoring is at the collection’s core. However, thanks to innovations in manufacturing and in fabric production, the collection’s highlights include formal overcoats, blazers and jackets with a revised fit. There’s a more centred lapel in some pieces; sharper outlines for others; perhaps a shoulder ever so slightly readjusted to provide more give. These are subtle design nods that adapt traditional pieces for easy, modern wearability.
Perhaps it’s the idea of familiarity and functionality that holds the secret of the success of Italian tailoring. The shared focus between Canali, Isaia, Corneliani and Brioni is not on the clothes they create, but what those clothes can do for the wearer.