The Eccentric Emperor of Tailor-made Clothes

 

 

 

If there’s one thing I simply relish in during my visits to family-owned businesses around Italy, it’s their rich history and age old journey that spans generations. I was about to discover one such prestigious company which began as a wise man’s vision and that has grown to become an iconic brand while still maintaining its traditional skills in Neapolitan tailoring.

Tucked away within a small courtyard on the corner of Via Montenapoleone and Via Gesu is the Rubinacci workshop and showroom, my port of call for my meeting with Luca Gennaro Rubinacci, the 30 year old, third generation heir to the family’s prestigious tailoring business. With a great big smile spread across his face and a mischievous sparkle in his eyes, Luca greeted me at the door wearing an unusual ensemble, which I honestly did not understand and truly appreciate at that particular moment. I introduced myself and with typical Italian charm, Luca mentioned that my name – stated in the email request I had sent prior – had him more than a little confused, but he quickly had me giggling when he confessed to now being a lot more excited knowing that he was going to be questioned by a girl. This was an immediate indication that my time spent in his company learning about the specialized world of traditional men’s tailoring was going to be anything but boring.

We moved slowly through the showroom from the entrance where mannequins dressed in pieces from Rubinacci’s ready-to-wear collection of fine jackets, suits and leisure wear, stood to one side. Luca pointed out the gold ‘LH’ logo above the door and retold the story of his grandfather, Gennaro, an officer in a fashionable cavalry, who had never been to London, but who started his tailor shop, named London House, in 1932 simply because he loved the classic style and sophistication of the British.  With a passion for beautiful things and a natural talent for matching men’s clothes, Gennaro was the link between high-society gentlemen and the best tailors of Naples’ working class. As advisor to the last king of Italy, Umberto di Savoia, he was given a crest in 1943 which gave Gennaro the exclusive right to make use of the royal crown as part of his ‘LH’ logo, which to this day, bears testament to the high regard in which his opinion on personal style was held.

Caught somewhere between an inherent loyalty to traditional classic wear and his strong belief in self-expression, Luca joined the family business when he was just 20 years old and as a youngster, who was not initially keen on wearing ties and mature suit jackets, he decided to build his own identity as someone who reinvents classic styles for a younger generation. He started to learn from his father, Mariano, who he says was never wrong when it came to advising clients and has since then made it his mission to educate young people on how to wear classic men’s clothing in a trendier, cooler way.

Luca believes that clothing should incorporate the wearer’s personality together with top quality fabric and workmanship. Without a doubt, he successfully captures his own essence in his personal wardrobe and proudly shows off his trendsetting ensembles on his blog, The Rubinacci Club. With over 1500 online followers who beg him to regularly post photographs of his daily outfits, Luca is responsibly running with the baton handed down from his father and he’s having fun at the same time. He is constantly trying to figure out how to break the rules imposed on men’s wear and how to best combine funky colours with vintage fabrics in styles that are reinvented and reinterpreted. To do this, Luca uses himself as an experiment – a risk that he must take, even if he does develop a reputation as a ‘crazy’ dresser.

We moved seamlessly to the next space in which a multi-color display of handmade ties brightened the room. Luca turned one of the pieces around to prove that Rubinacci has stayed true to tradition by keeping all their silk ties unlined. To help me understand the significance, he explained that the fabrics are selected in the north of Italy and are then stamped – not printed – so that the reversible pattern shows on the underside, a feature that would have been disguised if the ties were lined. An entire wall packed with over 60 000 meters of vintage fabric, which originated before the 1980’s, was another talking point. With his entertaining use of the English language, Luca explained how customers get to choose their fabric and have it sewn into their heart’s desire by his team of 42 internationally sourced tailors, some of who were sitting in the adjoining workshop.

Concise profiles of each of their Bespoke customers are recorded in a big green book which includes latest measurements, garments made and samples of fabric used. Repair work on every piece is made easy with a simple label stitched on the inside of the jacket which records the wearer’s name, the date and a unique identification number. The lifetime guarantee on each item ensures that a tailor will expand or trim it down to suit a client’s changing body shape even if they are in complete denial. This means that all Rubinacci’s made-to-measure pieces are meant to fit perfectly all year, every year. With a healthy dose of good humour, Luca managed to get his point across, saying that his team can instantly tell if a client has been enjoying too much of the ‘good’ life when a made-to-measure item has to be readjusted and remodeled to fit better, a year or two down the line.

Seeing the tailors hard at work measuring, snipping and stitching was a real treat. Luca strolled over to a railing in the middle of the workshop and pulled out the most spectacular suit jacket that I had ever seen. In a comical voice, he imitated his young friend who complained about having to wear a tuxedo to a formal function. Luca heard his friend’s plea for help and conferred with one of his artisans to devise this trendier version edged in silk, but the real conversation-starter was hidden on the inside of the jacket where a beautiful scarf with striking illustrations of the Real Sito di Capodimonte – a theatre in Naples – was used to make the inner lining. Suddenly, the maroon mesh tie around Luca’s white collar together with the striped camel suit jacket he wore, made perfect dress sense. I had finally gained the knowledge to interpret his eccentric exterior in the way that he intended and it really did speak volumes about his quirky character.

With a select client list that’s made up of rich and famous VIP’s and Forbes-listers, Luca relies on word-of-mouth introductions to prospective clients and refuses point blank to open retail stores to the mass market. His showrooms in Milan, Naples, Rome, London, Tokyo and New York give him easy access to his clients who are presented with their specially made Bespoke items six weeks and two fittings later. It was my first visit to the Rubinacci showroom in Milan and with my eyes wide open to the exclusive world of Bespoke, I am aching to place an order for my very own personalized piece of slightly more feminine clothing from this legendary tailor house. With a starting price of 4500 Euros, at least I know that my dependable, one-of-a-kind Rubinacci coat will always be warming my back as I travel life’s journey no matter what my age, shape or size.

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