Milan’s idiosyncratic Al Bazar
Al Bazar is not Milan style; but it is a standout destination for classic menswear in Milan.
Milanese residents get frustrated at times that Al Bazar is the most famous menswear shop for foreign fans of classic tailoring. Its unique persona – literally, in founder Lino Ieluzzi – and stylish quirks has created an enthusiastic following. But the style is Lino’s. He wears it, designs it, buys it. It is not Milan; for that, go to Bardelli just a few streets away. It is just Al Bazar: a stylish collection of oddities, inspiration and chaotic colours.
Last week I popped in early to have a look around and spent an hour chatting to assistant Gianpaolo Alliata before “the boss” turned up. Gianpaolo had a good description for Al Bazar’s aim: “We started out trying to produce clothes that would excite the sons of the people that shopped at Bardelli. Not teenagers, but those in their 20s, 30s and older. We did new things, we experimented with colour and shape – though the aesthetic has always been very constant. Over time, the fathers started shopping here as well. So the customer base is pretty broad now.”
The clothes at Al Bazar are a mixture of other brands (Levi’s), designs for the store from other companies (Guy Rover for Al Bazar shirts) and clothes under the store’s label (most of the jackets and tailoring). There is a mixture of bright and classic colours, jackets and suits, classic and Neapolitan shoulders. But all are cut pretty slim – a double-breasted jacket is adjusted to be very narrow, on the understanding that it will be undone when the gentleman sits down. Contrary to tradition, perhaps, but it does allow for a much more aggressive shape.
Gianpaolo was also quick to point out that the trouser shape was definitely an Italian invention (his grey flannel trousers were narrow, short and cuffed – barely touching the shoe). “You young people may know all about Thom Browne, but trust me we’ve been wearing our trousers like this for decades,” he said. “This is our style and always has been.”
Tailored items that stood out for me included several double-breasted corduroy jackets in a variety of pale colours – cotton with a decent chunk of cashmere in them, producing a very silky handle (Zegna Cashco). And some pale-grey covert coats with black velvet collars (both picture below). Often the skill with Al Bazar is producing clothes that are just that little bit different – that coat is a lot softer than it looks, yet still has the substance of tweed.
The shirts from Guy Rover (a great Italian shirtmaker, despite the name) are well-known – traditional menswear importer Neglia also stocks them in Milan. With a slim cut and a spread collar, they are the kind of item that gets Lino noticed on the terraces of Inter Milan – and does the PR for Al Bazar all on its own. (At least among Italians; foreign fans are driven by The Sartorialist).
The shirts also come with a spare collar and cuffs, for when these get frayed with use. So in theory they should last years. (I’m much more likely to stain mine irrevocably before that point, but maybe that’s just me.) However, the spare collars and cuffs are unlikely to be around for too much longer – extra costs are driving them out of the store.
Less mentioned is the second line of shirts, not by Guy Rover but with a slimmer cut and a slightly higher collar. Personally this was the style I preferred – but then I saw a Guy Rover one in a very subtle, horizontal Bengal stripe, and was sold.
Prices also pretty reasonable for a high-end, highly fashionable store: shirts at €110, jackets around €700. If it wasn’t for the terrible sterling-euro exchange rate, I would have bought more. As Lino said (he had arrived by this point): “We’re outside the main shopping centre of the city so we have to offer something a little bit more to get people to come out here. They do though; they do come.”