The Allure of Italian Menswear
Umberto Angeloni explains the mystique behind Italian style.
The words “Made in Italy” conjure up two narratives: one romantic, the other technical. The romantic aspect is an homage to Italians’ immense pride in the art, history and culture of their country. So much so that they have developed a unique ability to discover, discern and exalt the beautiful everywhere—this is the famous Italian lifestyle. It reflects an innate, concrete and positive philosophy of life. “If you want to travel gaily,” wrote Hemingway in The Dangerous Summer, “travel with good Italians.” This disposition and inspiration, in turn, generates the capacity to create exquisite designs and handicrafts.
The phrase also evokes the various clusters of small manufacturers and artisans, each specializing in a niche product or phase of production, which together form a living organism capable of constantly evolving traditions. Although this fertile network has practically disappeared in other European nations, it has proved to be quite resilient in Italy so far, probably because its most devoted and fastidious clients are the Italians themselves. So these romantic and technical interpretations reinforce each other.
Despite the country’s sometimes poor political and economic performance, the magic of all things Italian resonates stronger than ever in the heart and mind of the international traveler and connoisseur. The American consumer has always been drawn to our country and our products: Three quarters of affluent Americans see Italy as their dream destination and Italian products as “excellent.” Chinese consumers mirror such enthusiastic approval.
The contemporary grand tour of European culture and quality always begins or ends in Italy. By visiting our country and buying our products, these modern discoverers can admire our capolavori (great artistry) and savor our manifattura (artisanship). Visitors enrich their knowledge and refine their sense of style, but they also encourage the preservation and perpetuation of our heritage as well. For hundreds of years there’s been a tradition of upscale English, French and Germans traveling south, and their demands and tastes often stimulated the further advancement of our skills. Nowadays, sophisticated consumers come from all over the world, as “Made in Italy” is generally perceived as a superior label: a guarantee of the authenticity, finesse and quality of the product, as well as a reliable indication of a brand’s eminence. Even the first state-owned national luxury menswear brand from China, Sheji—launched this year and targeted at educated and wealthy Chinese—has come to the conclusion that it, too, needs to be tailored in Italy.
“Made in Italy” is a significant part of the world’s heritage today, and it will continue to thrive with the world’s endorsement.