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Fashion: Vive Europa

Kimberly Cihlar
From the Print Edition:
Rudy Giuliani, Nov/Dec 01

(continued from page 4)

Italy discovered tailoring by way of the English suit model in the late nineteenth century. Its skilled craftsmen emulated the form and added their own elegantly insouciant details as they caught on to the style in the early twentieth century.

The Italians made great inroads on the '50s fashion catwalks with their own versions of the tightly fitted suits the French were creating.


Italy's claim to recent fame coincided with Giorgio Armani's seduction of the world in 1980 with actor Richard Gere erotically dressing for the evening in the movie American Gigolo. Italian (and American) style would never be the same again. Armani's genius was not that the suit made Gere look great (that's easy enough). It could make anyone, particularly the man of a heftier American build, look good. Armani's flowing new business silhouette was born of physical reality. You could hide an entire corporation under the generous drape of yards of luxurious fabric. It was just what Americans wanted after years of trying to pinion their milk-fed physiques into European hourglass suits.

Clearing Customs

Today, Italy represents the assimilation of fabric mill technology and designer creation of shape and silhouette. Design houses such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Canali and Giorgio Armani operate mills where fabrics are woven, new technologies tested and bested, and styles manufactured.

Joseph Barrato, Brioni's chief executive officer, speaks of his company's exclusive high-performance wool that emphasizes natural stretch along with the hand of cashmere. Called Escorial, the material -- although quite expensive -- is used for suits that can be worn 12 months out of the year.

Ermenegildo Zegna pushes the envelope, too, when it comes to high-performance textile development, which it then incorporates into its various clothing collections. According to Djordje Stefanovic, Zegna's fashion director, the family reworks techniques for fabrics with the softest hand and highest resilience. One such process applies chemicals to linen, providing a finish similar in appearance to Irish linen but with a softer hand and greater endurance.

Boarding Pass

The Italian suit customer is a man of many talents driven by aesthetic desires, a world traveler. He may be young or older, in the best physical state or just aspiring to it. Wear suits that are relaxed confidence boosters from designers such as Brioni, Zegna, Canali, Corneliani, Armani, Gianfranco Ferre, Nino Cerruti, Luciano Barbera and Etro.

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