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The Style and Quality of Brioni Menswear

A Half Century After Sparking a New International Look in Menswear, Brioni Is Still at the Forefront of Style and Quality
G. Bruce Boyer
From the Print Edition:
Gina Gershon, Sep/Oct 98

Today we tend to take it for granted that men can wear pink shirts, grass-green sports jackets or plaid suits with pastel overchecks. We wear suits blended of silk and wool, linen and cotton, silk and cotton; we don silk dinner jackets; perhaps a pastel-hued blouson or safari jacket. And we are very much interested in softer and lighter-weight clothing. But less than 50 years ago these were startingly new concepts--ideas that emerged first out of the Via Barberini shop of Brioni in the 1950s.

Like any idea whose time has come and is well executed--in Brioni's case through the marriage of fine tailoring, innovative styling and sophistication--the new look that Brioni wrought drew a formidable coterie of customers. The firm's clients include a virtual who's who of men of the post-Second World War era: Robert Kennedy, Anthony Quinn, Donald Trump, John Wayne, Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Tony Bennett, Jim Belushi, Robert Wagner, Peter Jennings, Johnny Carson, Gary Cooper, Pierce Brosnan (Brioni did his complete wardrobe as James Bond in Golden Eye and Tomorrow Never Dies) and Al Pacino. The relationship between Brioni and its clientele is a symbiotic one to be sure: these impeccable and elegant men gain luster

from the fine, polished hand of Brioni, and in turn greatly contribute to the firm's prestige.

Brioni continues to present its elegant menswear in fashion shows from Stockholm to San Francisco, Dallas to Dusseldorf, and has not forgotten its own heritage. The latest menswear collection from the estimable firm is dedicated to the great Italian man of letters and of taste, Gabriele D'Annunzio. By the time he died at age 74, in 1938, this dramatic and grandiose personality had lived the fullest life imaginable.

Writer of some 50 works of literature--plays, poems and novels--a hypnotic orator, fearless aviator and military adventurer, aesthete, and great prodigious lover (he seems to have favored great actresses, high-society hostesses and the occasional duchess), D'Annunzio has been described as a modern Cyrano de Bergerac. He was, to put it simply, a man known for appreciating the higher and finer things in life.

"D'Annunzio was the great inspiration for this collection," explains Joseph Barrato, chief executive officer of Brioni USA, "because, to me, he was a dandy who epitomized the best of both the Italian and English traditions of elegant dress."

Perhaps inspired by the variety, quality and refinement in D'Annunzio's life, Brioni, long a maker of top-quality tailored clothing, continues to broaden its own horizons, and now produces quality sportswear, formalwear, dress and evening shirts, and other haberdashery such as luxury pajamas, robes, and smoking jackets. The firm is living the life of total quality wardrobe production.

Opulence continues to reign at Brioni this fall, with precious fabrics and dramatic colors much in evidence. This season, the silhouette is slightly redefined, with a decided nod to the modern English dandy. Fabrics--with an emphasis on the cashmeres--are rich in color and subtle in texture. Shades of brown (bronze, raisin and dark black-browns) counterpointed by vivid emerald green, sapphire blue and burgundy. All done in covert cloths, herringbones, twill diagonals, cashmere twists, antique checks and banker's stripes. The more dandified silhouette, meanwhile, is the three-button model with a slightly higher button stance. It has a more bespoke feel because of a slightly narrower shoulder and chest.

We simply take it for granted now, living in the Age of Designer Menswear, that wardrobe styling for men has always been with us. We tend to believe that all clothes, if they are to have any credibility, will bear a logo, a recognizable label, a name imprimatur. A name that implies a certain standard of taste, style and quality.

As it happens, all the defining innovations in menswear in the past half century go back, in one way or another--and usually the route is direct--to Brioni. The bold use of color and texture in fabric, the international approach to silhouette, the emphasis on the telling and meticulous detail, the men's fashion showings, the celebrity customers, the very idea of "name" recognition itself. Brioni not only changed the face of Italian menswear, it helped redefine contemporary luxury.

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