As one of the driving forces behind the celebrated and ever-popular Neapolitan style, we’ve been keeping an eye on Sartoria Rubinacci with keen interest for some time now.
Three successive generations of Rubinacci men have made this Neapolitan Sartoria a beloved institution of men’s style : the first being Gennaro Rubinacci, now widely acclaimed as one of the most elegant men in Napoli during the 1950’s (quite the feat considering the time and place). Then came Gennaro’s son, Mariano – the current Rubinacci patriarch and an authentic gentleman we’ve had the pleasure of knowing for a few years. Last but not least, came Luca Rubinacci, Mariano’s son – whom you probably know as one of the most photographed men in the current sartorial world.
As of this writing, Maison Rubinacci owns five boutiques—including three flagships : one in Naples (led by Mariano himself), one in London (helmed by daughter Chiara), and one in Milan (run by Luca). All three have their own in-house bespoke tailoring workshop.
In early 2015, Rubinacci extended its Milanese bespoke salon located on the famed Via Montenapoleone in the center of Milan, to include another connecting entrance and boutique on number 1 Via Gesù—the exclusive street in town for high-end men’s style – only a skip and a hop away from the Four Seasons Hotel.
Until recently, we haven’t had the chance to visit the renovated venue, nor did we exchange more than a couple of friendly words with Luca Rubinacci, in the midst of Pitti Uomo’s crowd of busy photographers. Even if we had the occasion to meet outside of Pitti, no environment felt conducive enough for a proper conversation – until last week.
So we were looking forward to finally meeting Luca and were even perhaps a little impatient to discover the man behind the jet-setter, perennial over-photographed, tanned and rich heir to the Rubinacci dynasty… granted a preconceived image that we admit wasn’t our cup of expresso – although our esteem for Rubinacci has always been solid.
Finally there was an occasion to dispel our notions surrounding Luca. And we admit, behind all the social media glitter, that Luca Rubinacci proved to be a charming young man, caring, attentive, sharp, unexpectedly discreet and amiable.
As an elegant man in more than appearance, his demeanor was disarmingly candid, as he explained to us with a smile that his attempt to create a RTW collection at Harrod’s London under his own name didn’t turn out to be exactly what he expected.
Harrod’s London (always looking for ways to appeal to a younger and more elegant clientele) offered Luca a chance to launch a RTW collection entitled “Luca’s Wardrobe” back in 2010. The collection was made up of casual-chic pieces in bright colors, daring patterns and quality fabrics, and was slated to be sold in Harrod’s proper, next to countless racks of more classic pieces.
Without pause, Lucas confessed to us that the first few weeks of sales were disastrous… not even a single sale ! In response, the young entrepreneur decided to fly to London to try and understand why his unlined cashmere jackets and linen trousers failed to attract any interest across the Channel.
We, at PG, are well aware of this type of situation. High-level clothes, especially when sold at a premium price in department stores have to be promoted by educated sales people who are able to explain to customers exactly what it is that makes “quality jackets and trousers” worth the price tag.
Even the best suit in the world isn’t able to sell itself — regardless of the prestige of the retailer, the quality of the fabric and the magnificence of the make.
I’ve often had the opportunity of discussing the above issue at length with renowned retail professionals like Pierre Degand in Brussels, Luis Sans (Santa Eulalia) in Barcelona, and Marco Fari (Fray) in Bologna — who all agree on the necessity of highly trained and educated salespeople to explain to the customer what makes an exceptional piece of clothing (e.g., a Neapolitan shoulder, a Barchetta breast pocket, a Milanese buttonhole or an exceptional cashmere).
The “problem” is that some poorly educated salesmen in big department stores prefer to focus mainly on “easy-to-sell” products bearing famous labels (Hugo B., Giorgio A.) and don’t make the effort to attract the attention of their customers on (much) better products (e.g. , products in which marketing costs do not represent 85% of the final price).
In 2010, Luca flew to London and began promoting his collection all by himself, educating customers on the Neapolitan shoulder, on the fantastic look-and-feel of quality cashmere, and on the visual impact of a handmade seven-fold tie. As a result, the collection “sold out” within a few weeks.
Of course, Harrod’s was more than satisfied with the whole experience and asked Luca to continue. And of course, Luca refused, because he decided at this moment, that Rubinacci will now only be sold at Rubinacci by Rubinacci’s with the exception of accessories available at a few carefully selected retailers who have a knowledgeable staff.
A BOUTIQUE WHERE IT FEELS GOOD TO STAY
Now that Rubinacci’s expanded store is accessible directly from Via Gesù, it’s a thing of beauty – a wonder in terms of sheer design, atmosphere, and quality of display and one of the most beautiful stores I’ve ever visited, and I’ve seen quite a few.
The customer experience (as we say today) is top-notch as well, whether you plan on buying anything or not – a quality which is rare enough to be praised.
Unlike many “minimalistic” concept-stores, which end up being soulless husks of bleached concrete with a few coat racks (like Kilgour or Hardy Amies in London), Luca Rubinacci’s place is warm, welcoming, luxurious, opulent even, but in good taste all the same with enough restraint to avoid being over-the-top.
Notably, finely dressed mannequins are mounted high above shelves where customers can find everything they see on the mannequin directly below the display. Simple but oh-so-convenient and striking in terms of visual impact.
ONLY GARMENTS WITH PERSONALITY AND SARTORIAL FLAIR
The main appeal to Rubinacci’s boutique is its careful selection of products.
Inded, you won’t find here the “normal fare”, with not a single plain blue suit or boring “business” jacket in sight.
Rubinacci’s boutique is about sports jackets, cashmere coats, country-style jackets and tweed trousers – classic in style, but with added soul and personality for those who love to make a sartorial statement. Good luck finding a plain business suit ! For that, you might want to shift over to the bespoke salon in the next room, or find another venue around the corner.
The most surprising thing about Luca’s shop is the great pricing, which is quite reasonable for such a level of quality and flair – a pair of cashmere trousers costs around 350€, while a jacket will set you back 800€.
We also love the “Belgian Loafers” range !
A TEMPLE OF BESPOKE TAILORING AND VINTAGE FABRICS
Of course, you can’t mention Rubinacci without talking bespoke.
Rubinacci Milan features a spectacular bespoke salon comprised of three connecting rooms that any connoisseur of bespoke tailoring and vintage fabric should definitely visit.
The first room is where the fabrics are displayed, with top shelves on the wall featuring the seven Rubinacci emblematic bespoke jacket models.
As I’ve explained many times on PG , inspiration is a crucial thing that bespoke tailors often forget to provide to their customers. Indeed, many tailors – including big names – think, erroneously, that every bespoke customer knows exactly what he wants when he enters a bespoke atelier, which is of course absolutely wrong… especially when it comes to the gentleman stepping inside a bespoke salon for the first time. Without any guidance, the world of bespoke can paradoxically be daunting, no matter your means.
So at Rubinacci (like at Cifonelli in Paris), a varied selection of models are on constant display throughout the salon to offer the customer a few ideas on where to begin. These “templates” serve as a starting point to help the client express his wishes. Of course, after this first step, as in most true bespoke salons, everything is possible in terms of cut, patterns and style.
The second room is outfitted as a spectacular “Gentlemen’s Club”, complete with Chesterfield couches, a vast fitting room, a collection of splendid books (including “The Parisian Gentleman” !), and a wide selection of good cigars and fine spirits. A cozy place, completely privatized. The idea is to allow for the most comfortable fitting session imaginable, while keeping the whole process as stress-free as possible.
The third room (in reality a cave located one floor below) is a treasure trove for the discerning connoisseur and true lover of vintage fabrics. The cave is indeed fully stocked with rolls upon rolls of vintage fabrics, all dating back to the pre-1960s era : thick tweeds, silky cashmere, silk and cashmere in rarely-seen patterns… gorgeous stuff.
Nice anecdote : Mariano Rubinacci has kept all these precious rolls for decades, against the ire of his wife ! Tired of the conglomeration of so many useless fabrics (at the time), she would often ask Mariano to get rid of the accumulated stock – since back then, “vintage fabric” had almost no value, and was sold by the kilo for a very small ransom.
But Mariano’s stubborness and foresight payed off – and today Rubinacci may sit on top of one of the most amazing stocks of vintage fabric on the planet… some of which are now pretty much impossible to find anywhere else.
To put is plainly, Rubinacci Milan is a wonderful place.
The product selection is top-notch, and Luca has proven to be a gracious host, fully devoted to customers and also to visitors who are just passing through—a devotion which is a rare quality to find in most salons these days.
The next time you visit Milan, you owe it to yourself to stop in – whether to buy something or simply to swing by to say hello and get a taste of the exquisite atmosphere.
Maison Rubinacci, Via del Gesù, 1. MILANO. Tel : 02 7600 1564
Website : Rubinacci