by Karen Alberg Grossman

There’s something special about Italian menswear that’s hard to put into words. In English, the closest description might be “studied nonchalance”—making one’s fashion choices seem effortless when in fact much thought goes into creating the desired look. In a broader sense, consider the definition of the Italian word sprezzatura:“the art of making difficult tasks look easy.” It’s something Italian men do instinctively when choosing an outfit, and an art form more American men are learning to master.

But beyond dictionary definitions, watching the reaction of American men trying on Italian sportcoats provides the best rationale for investing in Italian fashion. Guys somehow stand taller, smile bigger, and even remark they feel suddenly sexier. Need we say more?

Read on to learn what the retail experts are saying…

“We’re always looking for new vendors with new ideas. And let’s face it: the Italians do it best! We can actually work with them to make specific changes in patterns and details as needed. For example, we recently worked with one of our small Italian makers to create swimwear in an outrageous patterned fabric that they’d never used. It came out so great that we convinced them to use the same fabric in shirts that we’re now displaying in-store with khakis. We need fresh ideas all the time and it’s a pleasure to work on new concepts with creative Italian artisans.” Eliot Rabin, Peter Elliot, NYC

“My customers associate Italian-made fashion with superior quality. When a customer asks me why an unstructured sportcoat costs thousands of dollars, I explain that the fabric is exclusive and it’s made entirely by hand. The perception used to be that Italian fashion was too tight for American men, but that’s no longer the case: my customers understand and appreciate the unique expression of Italian tailoring, now designed to fit men of all body types. Clearly, the demand for Italian menswear is stronger than it’s ever been.” Craig DeLongy, John Craig stores, Naples and Winter Park, Fla

Opening image: Impulso; Above, L to R: Barmas, Calo and Italo Ferretti

“Throughout our 66 years in business, Italian-made menswear has been a cornerstone of our offerings. Our customers have always appreciated both the craftsmanship and sense of style that Made-in-Italy conveys. From suits to footwear to casual attire, Italian-made menswear connotes excellence and class.” Larry Rosen, Harry Rosen stores, Canada

“Most of our key brands are Italian. Our customers still perceive and appreciate the value of made-in-Italy. But with several of the major Italian brands now focusing on direct-to-consumer, we’re looking closely at the smaller Italian artisans with more limited distribution. In this way, we get Italian creativity, quality craftsmanship, and wonderful opportunities to cultivate new relationships. There’s tremendous potential for us in working with these more exclusive artisanal brands, thereby offering our customers something truly special.” Dan Farrington, Mitchell Stores

 “Made-in-Italy is still a very important selling point for our customers; high pricetags ($1000+ for a cashmere sweater) rarely deter them these days. More than ever, our customers want the luxury, comfort and credibility of Italian goods.” Rich O’Boyle, Woodbury Men’s Shop, Long Island NY

“If you buy from the big collections, everyone ends up with the same stuff. We do really well with the more creative fashion out of Italy, artisanal product from the less widely distributed makers. We’ve always wanted this kind of product but it’s difficult to buy without agents! Thank you ITA for making it easy for us to shop made-in-Italy in Chicago.” Ed Boas, Lanes, Miami

“The three comments I hear most from my customers about Italian fashion are 1. the workmanship: they can see it’s made well and the sewing is second to none. 2. The fit it is extremely comfortable, tailored but not restrictive. 3. The softness of the fabrics: they feel luxurious and hang beautifully. Well-made product from Italy always sells.” Franklin Tatta, Jack&Jill Inc., Morgantown WV

“Retailers need to experiment with lesser-known luxury brands. They learned from the pandemic when they can’t get Brand A, try Brand B. And as it turned out, Brand B often proved even more successful.” Marc Weiss, Management One

“One of our success secrets is carrying smaller, artisanal Italian brands, brands that don’t have their own stores and are not available on the internet. Very few of these companies have in-stock programs so when the item is gone, it’s gone. But that’s what excites customers: that they’ve discovered something original, distinctive and unique. They know they have to buy it when they see it as it might not appear again.” Joseph Orlando, Orlando Clothiers, Pittsburgh

“We love working with Italian artisans because their passion for product comes through in their creations. Watching Italian artisans craft luxury menswear is like watching the birth of a child—it’s the beauty and excitement of creating something totally new, unique, and filled with possibility. What’s more, it’s generally true that while Americans live to work, Italians work to live. And most choose lives that are joyful, joy that shows in the clothing.” Fred Derring, DLS Apparel Group

I have only positive words for Italian menswear; I’ve been buying more of it each season. My customers appreciate the quality and the styling, and they love discovering new and exclusive brands. Yes, the prices are a bit higher but it’s not a deterrent: customers perceive the value in the exclusive fabrics, exceptional workmanship and sophisticated design. I’ve recently added several new Italian brands in tailored clothing, pants, knits and sneakers—it makes shopping more fun than it’s ever been, for our customers and for us!” John Pickens Clothiers, Shreveport La.


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