A Chat About Menswear

Luca Locatelli

Two of the best-dressed men in the industry, Isaia CEO Gianluca Isaia and designer Nick Wooster, discuss.

Nick Wooster: A fashion photographer said to me yesterday that “it doesn’t matter what you wear. It’s the way you carry yourself.”

Gianluca Isaia: That’s elegance. I don’t think elegance is something that must be perfect. Elegance is when you develop into your own style. Imagine you are onstage in front of a lot of people, and you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing. Then that’s when you will be elegant.

NW: So I heard a story about you. Your first suit was made for a school play?

GI: Agatha Christie. The one with a dinner party and everybody dies. I was one who was dying. The teacher said, “Be elegant, okay?” so I told my dad, who sold suits around Italy, “I need to be elegant, okay?” So my father made a tuxedo for me.

NW: That story tells me a couple of things. For me, and I know you believe this too, clothes matter. There was a book in the ’70s in the United States called Dress for Success. Today, we would laugh at this idea, but the idea was that the way you present yourself will determine exactly what you are going to get in life.

GI: Of course.

NW: I’m sure we have both seen a lot of changes, good and bad, but let’s talk about style in the United States versus Europe versus Japan. Because I think those are the places people associate with well-dressed men, but for different reasons.

GI: Well, the Japanese, I think they are very precise when they dress. They try to make and follow the rules. Because they look at us in Italy, mostly, and they want to be perfect—because Italian fashion is the best. Actually, Japan was my first trip when I started to work, in 1990. They learned very well how to dress Italian. Their approach is always very precise. But I am against rules, completely.

NW: I know!

GI: So when we start to introduce something new, a new shirt, a new model, they need some time to adjust. Europeans are more, “I know how to dress, I know,” so it’s difficult to change their minds. Every man in Italy is a designer.

NW: And an expert.

GI: And an expert. You have to respect that. Americans, those that want to know, they want to know. If they like you, they like the brand. They trust, then they follow. They want you to tell them.

NW: So tell me, your kids, are they receptive? Will they follow in your and your father’s footsteps?

GI: My own son, two years ago, he didn’t want an Isaia shirt; he just was following his own style. Now he is in love, 100 percent. And now I am always missing T-shirts, polos, and shirts from my wardrobe.