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Interview: Mariano Rubinacci

6 August 2010
For some, largely those of Neapolitan extraction or who had heard of the brand five years ago, Rubinacci is a bespoke tailor. For others, mostly followers of The Sartorialist and the Cult of Luca, it is a readymade boutique stocking the knitted ties, handkerchiefs and heady colours the younger Rubinacci has made famous.

Mariano Rubinacci, Luca’s father and current owner of the house, is keen to emphasise that Rubinacci does both. Bespoke is still the majority of the business, even in London. But readymade and accessories are expanding quickly: Rubinacci launches its first wholesale line in Harrod’s in September. Fittingly, the collection is entitled ‘Luca’s Wardrobe’.

“Bespoke is still the mainstay of the business,” said Mariano when he met Permanent Style during a visit to London this week. “Our version of a hopsack is been incredibly popular this year, for example.”

That cloth (shown above) is woven exclusively for Rubinacci in England and is a lightweight but rough worsted with an open weave. Only available in navy, grey and pinstripe, it was introduced six years ago and has been a mainstay of the house’s summer collection ever since. The silk lining makes it even lighter, as does the lack of any lining in the arms – something English men will find particularly unusual. (Bespoke jacket, £3,300.)

But without any personal experience of bespoke at Rubinacci, it is inevitably the ready-to-wear that catches my eye. The reversible cashmere jackets – modelled by Luca in his advertising for the new Harrod’s franchise (£1,900) – unlined tweed overcoats and knitwear all have wonderful individual touches. The pink tweeds, in particular, could only be dreamed up by Luca. The graphic, almost Inca-like print scarves are slightly less to my taste. The suit underneath has to be pretty plain to pull those off.


The silk scarves handkerchiefs famously feature scenes from Neapolitan history or landscapes surrounded by figures of the day, usually designed by Mariano. Not that you can see any of that when a handkerchief is poking from your breast pocket, but the variety of colours does make them very versatile accessories.

“We always try to include a little of Naples in the designs,” says Mariano, “whether that’s Vesuvius, the palace or the opera house.” The latter is the oldest continuously active venue for opera in Europe.

Ties are soft, floaty but strictly speaking untipped rather than unlined. They come in three-fold and seven-fold, both hand-rolled at the tip and the latter containing significantly less lining than the former. Indeed, the seven fold’s lining begins so far up the tie that it is pretty irrelevant to the hang of the front blade. The bar tack is unusually high also, adding to the flighty flow of the silk.

“In Italy, tipping was introduced in the last century just because there was a scarcity of women that could hand-roll the edges,” says Mariano. “It began to be machined down, or sewn roughly, and then covered up with the extra layer of silk. We like to do it the traditional way.”

Then there’s the lime umbrellas, some with big knobs of wood for the handles. And the china, the fragrance… Men of the world should feel pretty lucky that the taste of Harrod’s – and the development of Rubinacci’s new website – means they will soon have broad access to a true innovator of cloth and colour.



Photography: Andy Barnham