Ciro Paone with Larry Rosen

A TRIBUTE TO KITON FOUNDER AND INDUSTRY ICON CIRO PAONE

by Karen Alberg Grossman
Ciro Paone with Larry Rosen
Ciro Paone with Larry Rosen

The menswear industry is saddened to report the passing of tailored clothing icon Ciro Paone, who died at his home in Naples last month at age 88. Although he’d suffered a stroke several years ago, he remained highly visible, always an inspiration to his team of craftsmen, sellers, and valued retail clients.

Ciro was descended from many generations of fabric makers; he started his own company producing tailored clothing in 1956, which evolved into Kiton in 1968. Gradually, Kiton expanded beyond tailored clothing into men’s shirts, ties, knitwear, footwear, and accessories; in 2005, it launched a luxury women’s collection. The company has 750 employees, five production sites including a knitwear factory, a controlling stake in Biella-based textile mill Carlo Barbera and more than 50 freestanding stores across the globe.

Known for his passion, charisma, and love of life, Ciro is credited with having elevated the stature of Italian tailoring around the globe. On a visit to Kiton’s facility in Naples several years back, Ciro personally escorted this writer around the workshop, explaining every hand-crafted step in the production process with considerable pride, even sharing secrets of Kiton’s trademark “Neapolitan shoulder.” (I still marvel that a sleevehead with a wider circumference than the armhole can be handstitched into the armhole to produce exactly the correct amount of fullness…). I will never forget Ciro (whose passion was as much about people as it was about business) hosting a casual press dinner in Naples and joyfully serenading his guests as he sang alongside Dora, the restaurant owner.

Bob Mitchell of Mitchells Stores describes Ciro as “a visionary leader and pillar of the luxury business. His passion, determination, and friendship will be forever missed.” 

Says Tom Ott, former SVP at Saks, “Ciro represented quality in product and integrity as a man. He was relentless on quality, always searching for the best, crafting the best, and putting more into the product. I’ll always remember the fabulous lunches in the factory with all the Kiton associates and family, feeling the magical bond that Ciro had with the entire organization. In some mysterious way, his spirit was even stronger after his stroke: his unwavering presence at market events, his elegant way of dressing, his genuine caring about colleagues, clients and friends. He was an icon. I will miss him.”

Larry Rosen, CEO of Harry Rosen, greatly admired Ciro’s focus on quality. “Ciro epitomized Neapolitan quality and taste. He was a wonderful friend to my father and me; his passion for the business was unparalleled.” Jeff Farbstein, former SVP at Harry Rosen, agrees. “In my many years in better menswear, I attribute my inspiration and education in luxury menswear to Ciro. He was a great friend to us at Harry Rosen. May he rest in peace.”

Recalls Justin MacInerney, former Kiton Brand Manager at Saks Fifth Avenue, “I first met Ciro in the year 2000 in Naples at Kiton’s headquarters, their famous ‘Pink Palazzo’ in Arzano. I had published an article about Neapolitan tailoring entitled ‘La Bella Figura’ in The Financial Times that largely focused on Kiton’s preeminent role in bringing Neapolitan craftsmanship to the world. I had been summoned to meet him, and assumed he was going to thank me for my article. He proceeded to admonish me, through a translator as his English was very limited, for mentioning other Neapolitan tailoring houses in the piece. His singular focus was Kiton, and he wanted everyone to know that Kiton was, and is, sui generis, in a class of its own, or in his halting English, “The Best, Plus One!” Ciro was unique – a true visionary. He was honored with the prestigious “Cavaliere del Lavoro” award for industry. Before arriving at work every day, he visited Naples’ famous seafood market to select the freshest local catch for his tailors and employees to enjoy lunch in Kiton’s dining room with commanding views overlooking Mount Vesuvius. After suffering a debilitating stroke a number of years ago, he did not slow down but still came to work on a daily basis. He continued to represent Kiton at Pitti Uomo. He will always be remembered in my mind as ‘The Best, Plus One!’”

Says Daniel Wolman, retail director of Kiton USA. “I first met Ciro through Massimo Bizzocchi in 1995; I’ve had the privilege to work with Kiton ever since. Ciro’s passion and determination influenced everyone he touched. With Ciro leading and supporting us, I always felt like a stronger version of myself. His legacy truly lives on in all of us at Kiton.”  

And from Kiton’s chairman Massimo Bizzocchi, “Ciro often stated that the suitcase cannot go around alone; I’ve been extremely honored and delighted to be the wheels of Ciro’s suitcase.”

Ciro’s legacy will surely continue strong in the capable hands of Bizzocchi, Ciro’s nephews Antonio De Matteis and Antonio Paone (CEO and president of Kiton’s U.S. subsidiary), and his daughters Maria Giovanna and Raffaella. What’s more, he will be forever remembered with love and respect by his countless admirers and friends.