If 21st century Italian bespoke tailoring had a public face it would definitely be Luca Rubinacci’s. The third generation tailor from the family-owned House of Rubinacci of Napoli is perhaps the most photographed, the most Instagrammed, and the most blogged about tailor in Italy, if not the world. His effortless interpretation of sprezzatura – the Italian penchant for mixing colors, patterns and textures - has landed him on the cover of several international men’s magazines, a marketing bonanza for the Italian tailoring tradition, which ironically, hasn’t always sat well within the insular circle of his peers in the industry.
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Bespoke tailors, after all, are better known for dressing celebrities; not for being style icons themselves. Luca, however, has no problem being both – and apparently sees the need for the twin roles to succeed. Indeed, at a time when international fashion brands are threatening the survival of bespoke tailors across Europe, Luca’s popularity with a new generation of style conscious men has helped revive the dying bespoke tailoring tradition of his native Italy.
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The main entrance to the palazzo housing the Milan flagship store of the House of Rubinacci along Via Montenapoleone in the city’s luxury fashion district.
The Rubinacci house style is typically Neapolitan with lightweight construction and soft shoulders. The various jackets on display give clients a better idea of the combination of cuts and styles to choose when ordering a bespoke suit.
The Milan boutique stores just a fraction of the immense collection of vintage fabrics amassed by the House of Rubinacci over the decades.
A lining of printed silk being sewn onto the jacket. Unlike ready to wear or made to measure, a bespoke suit allows endless possibilities for personalization.
The House of Rubinacci’s ready to wear collection includes a wide selection of Belgian slippers – Luca’s favorite choice of casual footwear.
The recent extension of the Milan boutique created a side entrance along quiet Via Gésu where many of the most prestigious shops for men are located.
I first came across Luca Rubinacci two years ago at the launch of a watch collaboration between the House of Rubinacci and Hublot in Basel, Switzerland. True to form, Luca was dressed from head to toe in a rich mix of colors and patterns, a fedora, and Belgian slippers – a look that has become some kind of trademark for the scion of one of Italy’s most revered tailoring brands. But even when Luca is dressed down, such as when I met him for the second time at his family’s flagship store in Via Montenapoleone in Milan recently, the third generation tailor form Naples still managed to cut a stylish figure even in a simple navy blue suit and patterned tie ensemble.
Nonchalant style is probably ingrained in the Rubinacci DNA. Luca’s grandfather, Gennaro, the founder of the House of Rubinacci, was known as a man of style himself in his native Napoli. Before starting his career in bespoke tailoring, the Rubinacci patriarch was sought after for his grooming and style advice by his wealthy friends and business acquaintances.
Dressing well comes naturally for the Rubinacci men for technical reasons as well. Their sartorial choices and marketing savvy aside, the success of the House of Rubinacci is credited mainly to the unique house style inspired by the Neapolitan tradition that emphasizes lightness and comfort. The soft Neapolitan drape, plus Rubinacci’s wide palette of colors and range of patterns, have likewise found a loyal following among men who, like the Rubinaccis, wish to express their individuality in public.
Like his grandfather, Luca Rubinacci understands that the business of tailoring goes far beyond crafting a well-tailored suit, but ought to include creating a lifestyle around which clients can gravitate and identify with. Under Luca’s management, the Milan flagship store was expanded to include the Rubinacci Club – a lounge where clients could hang around to converse about anything from bespoke tailoring to global events over cocktails. Interested clients can also tour the basement of the shop where Luca keeps a large selection of rare vintage fabrics collected over the decades, or check on the progress of their bespoke orders with a visit to the atelier in a backroom of the shop where Luca’s team of six tailors sew all suits by hand.
For Luca Rubinacci, the Milan boutique is a peek at the future of the bespoke business—where the secrecy of the past is slowly being replaced by a customer experience where clients are allowed entry into the rarefied and often secretive world of traditional Italian tailoring.
Q&A with Luca Rubinacci
DC: There’s no shortage of good Milanese tailoring houses, what makes Rubinacci stand out in a city with so many venerable tailoring houses?
LR: What makes the difference between other tailors and Rubinacci is that we identify the style that is inside the customer and draw it out. We are like a bespoke consultant, but with our own tailors. So, we are not only dressing you but we are building a lifestyle for you.
DC: What would be the tell tale signs of a Rubinacci suit? The signature style?
LR: Immediately? The lapel, the shoulder, and definitely the elegance.
DC: And how do you define this elegance?
LR: It’s all about understatement. The Rubinacci client is someone whom you can spot from a long distance as a gentleman. Today the world of fashion is all about the logos, logos, logos. We don't have any logos in our jacket.
DC: Why is that?
LR: It’s because when it's bespoke it’s made exclusively for the client and not for promoting the tailor. No one else needs to know. The client is elegant not because he has a suit people know is expensive. There’s no need for a logo to prove that. Some tailors like to put more labels in the jacket to convince the client the suit is good. But if the jacket is perfect, that’s all that’s needed to promote the tailor – whether you tell others or not.
DC: So what for you is a perfect suit?
LR: A perfect suit is something you can sleep in.
DC: Like pajamas…
LR: Like pajamas. It should feel big inside but look tight outside. These are secrets that come from our tailoring house.
DC: As the third generation of Rubinacci tailors, do you see the style evolving? Will you offer something different from what's practiced today?
LR: A jacket is a jacket, trousers are trousers, you know. Our job is to dress our clients as less ridiculous as possible. We are perfectionist in what we do and we do what we love.
DC: What advice can you give a first time Rubinacci client?
LR: When you visit a tailor, and not just a Rubinacci tailor, you have to start thinking about building your wardrobe over time because anything bespoke will last forever. Start with a suit you will really need, maybe a blue suit? Maybe a navy blue suit? And a gray suit that perhaps you can split the blue jacket with the gray trousers. So start with the basics and then little by little grow the bespoke wardrobe which will last a lifetime. Over time you can make the suit bigger, you can make it longer, or you can make it smaller. So when you buy something bespoke remember that is something that will last forever.