Success for any aspiring haberdasher can be measured by whether he leaves a mark on pop culture. Daisy Buchanan wept over Jay Gatsby’s Turnbull & Asser shirts. Gordon Gekko put Wall Street’s power tailor on the map when he told Bud Fox, “Go to Morty Sills. Tell ’em I sent you.” The latest aspirant to this pantheon is Michael Reslan, Brioni’s former ace salesman who just opened his own shop this September in a penthouse 15 stories above New York’s Fifth Avenue.
The space is the perfect honey trap for real-life power brokers. Normally harried moguls can shop in a very private environment, help themselves to a drink from a bar hidden behind a wooden panel or simply step out on the terrace and admire the views. “In the business world, people seek out my clients for months just to meet with them at their offices for fifteen minutes,” Reslan says as he shows off the coiffured plaster ceiling, the leather armchairs and the cashmere throw pillows that complete the old-world feel. “Yet when they come here, they sit with me for two hours. Ten hours.” A large part of the shopping experience is spending time with Reslan, a born salesman who relishes performing for, listening to and befriending his clients. He’s happy to show you pictures from his Brioni years doing fittings for and schmoozing and working with heads of state, business magnates and celebrities.
The goods on display, from bespoke suits to ties and cuff links, carry his own label, MR, but they’re sourced from leading Italian manufacturers that Reslan has known for years. Silvano Lattanzi has created a private line of footwear exclusively for him. (“The man is a sculptor. He crafts his shoes the way Michelangelo created the statue of David,” Reslan says as he shows me their nimble tread.) For suiting, the client is the boss, but Reslan can recommend certain styles, like his two-button, double-vent suits in Super 150 fabrics, which are similar to what one would see at Kiton or Brioni and retail upwards of $3,500. (There’s a tailor on-site.) His raincoats embody the Reslan approach: He found a vintage belted trench in his closet that looked like it fell off the Marlboro Man’s back. Reslan brought it with him to Italy, where he met with executives of the original manufacturer. “They told me, ‘We don’t do that coat anymore.’ I said, ‘Do it,’ ” says Reslan as he peels one of the finished goods off a mannequin and takes it for a walk around the shop while Bryan Ferry croons over the sound system. The trench looks and feels like cotton, but it’s actually made of a water-resistant synthetic fabric called Peachskin. “The raincoat has become such a dumpy thing, but this,” says Reslan, running his hands down his sides to mimic the silhouette, “this is a statement.” Yours for only $3,100.
Reslan’s latest venture represents the sum of what he has learned about catering to a certain clientele—an education that began when he fled his native Lebanon for Oman during the 1976 civil war, then immigrated to the United States on a student visa a year later. When he first arrived in New York, he was selling t-shirts on the street by day, paying his way through college at NYU. By night he was vamping his way into discos like Studio 54 and New York, New York.
His big break came when he went to work for Beltrami, a super-luxe unisex boutique in the old Coca-Cola Building on Fifth Avenue. “What I learned there is the importance of outsourcing,” Reslan says. “I’ve never believed there’s just one firm, one factory that makes everything superbly across the board.” In 1989 Brioni hired him as a salesman for its only U.S. shop, and over the next 20 years he rose to become the executive vice president, director of retail U.S.A. He left in 2009, when the heirs of Brioni’s founders bought back the company. For Reslan salesmanship has never ended at the register. “I first noticed him about fifteen years ago,” says client Julian Niccolini, co-owner of the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. “He always brought clients in for lunch. I respected that because it was similar to the level of service we try to give our customers.” Niccolini, a Brioni regular, has already bought two MR suits.
Reslan remains a regular at the Four Seasons, where he often skips dessert in favor of working the room and passing along blandishments to former Brioni clients in the hope of enticing them over to MR. Asked about the cost-benefit of running a start-up business while knocking back risotto with truffles at lunch, Reslan says he believes in “lifestyling” with the clients. “Have you ever seen a lion,” he asks, “walking with a donkey?”
Michael Reslan is available by appointment only. At 689 Fifth Ave., 15th fl.; 212-207-9207; michaelreslan.com.
Like everything in Michael Reslan’s store, shirts, ties and cuff links are sourced from a list of artisans—many from Italy—he considers the world’s finest. Step through a doorway whose metallic gold façade is meant to evoke the Deco paintings of Tamara de Lempicka and you’re in the furnishings room, where one wall holds drawers of three- and sevenfold ties organized by color and style. Another wall features shirts manufactured with high-thread-count fabrics from a Swiss textile house ($400). “A shirt should look and feel as good as a suit jacket,” says Reslan. “These do.”
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