MR is saddened to report the passing of master tailor Piero Dimitri on January 14.
The Italian-born designer was a three-time Coty Award winner, the first menswear designer elected to the Fashion Hall of Fame, and, in 1971, the first to show a complete couture collection in the U.S. on the Plaza Hotel runway.
The late Clara Hancox, menswear journalist from DNR, associated him with the highest level of European tailoring. Says Jeffrey Banks, “Piero Dimitri was at the forefront of the American Menswear Designer movement in the early 1970s. Fiercely loyal to his staff, he gave many a burgeoning intern their first start in menswear. Dimitri’s clients were all classy men from the worlds of Wall Street, Hollywood, and New York society. To have a bespoke Dimitri suit meant you had truly arrived.”
Dimitri began his career in Italy as a tailor’s apprentice at age 13; he then trained with master tailors in Milan, launched his own shop there at age 19 before moving to the States and opening a salon on East 57th Street. In addition to his couture line that sold to the finest stores in America, Dimitri worked at Corneliani and Ratner Clothes (which became American Fashion). Menswear veteran Roger Keller worked with him later at Euro Fashions where Dimitri designed and supervised the production of a collection bearing his label. “He was a brilliant craftsman but stereotypical Italian: extremely stubborn and not all that receptive to criticism. We had many arguments about the artistic vs commercial value of his work. That said, he was the most talented patternmaker in the world: the elegance of his garments, the perfect shoulder, was unsurpassed. His craftsmanship was beyond anything achieved by the big-name designers: he had magic in his fingers.”
His old friends remember him fondly and are devasted by both their personal loss and the loss to our industry. Says Larry Chrysler, “I loved Dimitri. He was a real character.” Says Jason Thomas, “He was a great tailor and designer and an even better friend. I had a row in my closet with nothing but Dimitri of Italy designs. His fabrics and colors were unique. Whenever I went for a fitting, there were always celebrities in the studio…”
Recalls Joey Hunter, “When I was running the men’s division at Ford’s, Dimitri worked with my models all the time and made the finest suit in the industry. He was the master of men’s tailoring.” From Urs Althaus, “Thank you, Piero, for your friendship: it was always a pleasure and an honor to work as a model for you. You were a pioneer in bringing Haute Couture to men in America.” Says Kevin Thorbourne, “I started in the rag trade in ready-to-wear and Dimitri was my first introduction to Bespoke. I was blessed as a young man coming into the business to observe this level of craftsmanship and to be able to learn about quality fabrics and perfect fit. This served me well to this very day; they don’t make them like Dimitri any more…” And from Brett Charles Neubig, “I shall never forget the opportunity he afforded me: it led to a lifelong friendship from New York to Hollywood. Piero was always a cut above: there are no words other than RIP Maestro.”
Married to Dimitri for 35 years, Dimitri’s wife Karan Rushmore is known for her influence on his women’s collections. “We would fight vehemently about the styling: I wanted a fuller chest, broader shoulder, narrower waist; he was the genius but I could add a women’s perspective for a sexier look. We’d fight in the design room and I’d storm out but his assistant would tell me that after I left, he’d say ‘Let’s try what she suggested’.”
Rushmore thanks Dimitri’s many friends for reaching out, and directs readers to the Dimitri Studio website for more information on this brilliant and dynamic man who so clearly left his mark on men’s fashion.