Manolo Costa
by Karen Alberg Grossman
Manolo Costa
Manolo Costa

In a magnificent Upper East Side landmark building dating back to 1870, a young ambitious clothing merchant has launched an impressive bespoke business. Hitting all the goals that retailers are aiming for these days (extraordinary service, exclusive luxury product, shopping as “experiential”), 36-year-old Manolo Costa has parlayed his 14 years of retail/customer service background into a very special business.

Although two of his aunts were seamstresses, the Peruvian native never dreamed he’d end up in the clothing business. “My father was in banking so I planned to work in finance,” says Costa. “I moved to the States when I was 18 and soon realized I wanted to do something creative.”

That impulse led to a job at famed retailer Paul Stuart. “My six years at Paul Stuart taught me so much,” he says. “When I first started there I was intimidated because everyone was so much older than I was. But they invited me into executive meetings because Mr. Grodd [who was president and CEO of Paul Stuart] wanted a younger perspective. I was part of the launch of Phineas Cole; it was a very exciting era.”

Still, Costa ultimately left Paul Stuart to work for Ralph Lauren at The Mansion. “I was brought on board to manage the Purple Label and Black Label floors. These customers expected to be catered to and I quickly learned how to do that,” he notes.

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Ready to do his own thing, Costa moved on again, hoping to fill a void in the luxury menswear market. “I believe that customers looking to spend money want a complete and intimate experience, a private exchange so to speak,” he says, “So we treat them like royalty and they tell their friends and our business [which is 99 percent by appointment] is growing, mostly by word of mouth, as well as through social media, especially Instagram.” Indeed, the average age of his customer in his early 30s.

His tailored clothing is notable for its unique sensibility: available in several models, all jackets feature a soft natural shoulder, a suppressed silhouette, and medium to wide lapels, while pants often have a pleat or two. “We don’t make anything too trendy,” Costa explains. “Ours is traditional clothing with a modern edge. It’s fully hand-crafted by artisans in Brooklyn; we make individual patterns and the whole process takes four to six weeks. Fabrics are from the finest mills (including Loro Piana, Holland & Sherry and several English mills), and retail prices start at $2,600.”

Also on the menu are bespoke shirtings (made in New Jersey), handmade ties, amazing outerwear and accessories, and interesting home décor. Costa points out that everything in this shop is for sale, including a gorgeous bar cart, coffee table, and great artwork. (The one exception is an extraordinary carved fireplace, discovered by accident under some sheetrock during renovations.)

To say Manolo Costa is off to a good start is an understatement; in fact, we’d bet he has a lot of good years in front of him.