Luca Rubinacci, Neapolitan tailor and professional dandy, on his colourful life

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 5:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 1:29pm

Tailor and professional dandy Luca Rubinacci leads a colourful life. The third generation boss of Rubinacci, Europe's biggest bespoke tailoring company, talks about the essence of Neapolitan suiting, his problems with the Pitti Uomo trade show and why it's important to see beauty in all things

"I'm not interested in fashion, in design, I'm interested in beauty. All things that people make that are beautiful and well made. When it comes to clothes, how it looks is most important and second is how to wear it. These are two different things. People see things differently, but just because a pair of shoes are not for you, you cannot say 'I don't like them'. You can say it's not for me. Today people are too narrow minded, they don't have the personality, the bravery to mess with fashion. On the other side, you have guys wearing a red jacket and white trousers without knowing why they are wearing it, they just follow.

The Neapolitan style is a lifestyle concept, it's a way of dressing simply. We dress with comfort in mind, we don't dress too baggy or too tight, we dress more comfortably than the British. My grandfather was the inventor of the Neapolitan way of cutting the suit, so suits without padding, without the canvas. We took the British style and took away the padding on the shoulders. It was the 1930s and guys wanted something to wear on holidays, with a more relaxed fit, and that's how the Neapolitan cut was created.

Many other tailors from Naples followed the style and it became famous. Today, at Rubinacci we count 40 tailors in our house and we are the biggest tailoring company in Europe. We sell 1,000 suits per year, all bespoke. That is insane for people in the business.

I trained in Savile Row. When I was 20, I didn't want to study and I told my father: 'After studying for five years, I don't know anything, I don't know the business'. I wanted to learn our business but my father didn't want me to bother him, so he said 'OK, I'll send you to London to learn with the best tailor in Savile Row'. I trained at Kilgour, French & Stanbury, on the first day I started working at Kilgour, all the English tailors started making fun of my father's suits, telling me how they were wrong, so I called him and said I wanted to come home, he asked why, and I said he made suits the wrong way. He replied that he was happy as they had made me learn something after only two hours of working there and that I was likely to learn more. The next day I knocked on the door of head tailor of Kilgour and demanded that they teach me the English way.

When I went back to Naples, I said to my father 'You make beautiful work, the English make beautiful work, but the problem is they are modern and you are not'. So I brought the modern way of thinking to Rubinacci. I kept the Neapolitan structure but I mixed it with the British style so we could lure the customer from outside. Some tailors only think about giving a service. I am not like that, a tailor like that is lazy, they don't want to change a style. That's why we look outside, that's why we have 40 tailors to make a modern house. That's my concept.

Pitti [Uomo] is all about public relations now. There I can meet the press, meet people, friends in two days instead of two weeks. This is Pitti today. But I don't like the way they are doing it because it's more about public relations than selling in the real way. I remember the first time I went to Pitti about 20 years ago when I was 12, when my father used to have a stand and I used to pack hundreds of ties for him to sell to people around the world. Today the stands are empty because everyone is outside trying to be seen. For well-known brands there is no reason for them to be here. This is a place where an unknown brand can make a name; this is the only way.

People always ask me about the style blogs and the photographers who take pictures because they never understand my style because I am always changing. I always say that I'm growing but it's not true. I'm like an ice cream maker, I cannot make ice cream if I don't taste it beforehand, you know what I mean? I don't want you to wear something and discover that it is not good because by then I won't be able to adjust it. It's like a mechanic who knows the engine of a Ferrari. You can't really test a Ferrari unless you know the heart of it."

As told to Abid Rahman