Icons & Innovators: Kiton: The English Beat

  • William Kissel

Ciro Paone’s face beamed as he posed between a double-breasted marine blue navy suit and a morning suit that once belonged to Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor. Almost a year from the day that he acquired the duke’s suits (and other wardrobe items) in a 1998 Sotheby’s auction, Paone displayed them at the Excelsior hotel in Florence, Italy, during the biannual Pitti Uomo menswear show. Paone was calling attention to the historical sartorial details that he had borrowed for his contemporary Kiton suits.

“This is something only a king would have,” he said while removing a pair of cotton boxer shorts from one of the duke’s suits. Edward was not partial to undergarments, so he had them built into his suits—attached with buttons so they could be removed for laundering. Later, that same detail appeared in a pair of Kiton dress slacks. Paone adapted other fashion elements from the former monarch’s wardrobe, including the exaggerated cinched waists and pinched shoulders of the duke’s jackets, the buttons inside his pant cuffs that could be unfastened to facilitate cleaning, and the mixing of stripes and checks that defined his sense of style. Over the years, Paone even took to wearing glen plaid double-breasted suits, one of the duke’s trademarks. Paone had admired the duke’s keen fashion sense since first meeting him at a Paris dog show during the 1960s. (Paone, a dog lover, owns 56 Caucasian sheperds.)

Savile Row style has influenced Neapolitan tailors since the 1930s, when vacationing British aristocrats strolled Naples thoroughfares wearing broad-shouldered, slim-waisted suits. The top Italian tailors—Gennaro Rubinacci, Cesare Attolini, Enrico and Corrado Isaia—adopted the shapely English silhouette as their prototype before scaling back the broad shoulders, raising and tightening the armholes, and adding a boat-shaped curve to the chest pocket to distinguish their Neapolitan look.

However, Paone, a businessman, not a tailor, is often credited with breaking Savile Row’s stranglehold on handmade suitmaking by producing every Kiton suit in the Savile Row mold and then promoting the concept as an Italian invention. From the onset, Paone instructed Kiton’s in-house tailors “to give a nice Neapolitan look to what is essentially an English Savile Row suit,” explains Massimo Bizzocchi, Kiton’s U.S. chairman. According to Bizzocchi, establishing a link to Savile Row “gives the customer who may not be familiar with clothing from Naples an immediate connection to fine tailoring.”

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