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Wardrobe: Uncompromising Color

William Kissel

Domenico Vacca is a colorful individual: When he opened his signature store next door to Cipriani in Manhattan in May 2002, he aimed to offer American men the opportunity to own the same handmade, form-fitting suits and fluorescent-colored sportswear that have defined Italian style for decades. Unlike other U.S. retailers, who dilute the Italian idiom to suit the American taste for classic shapes and more somber shades, Vacca insists that men cannot be expected to appreciate bold fashions if they are not given the chance to see them. This crusade to brighten the wardrobe of the American male continues with the debut of Vacca’s new signature collection.

From the beginning, color defined the spirit of Vacca’s well-ordered, 2,000-square-foot store, which he stocked with bright-hued handmade suits cut Neapolitan-style, with trim waists and high armholes; richly detailed footwear with heavy Goodyear-welted soles; and extra-high-collared linen shirts in vibrant candy-store tints. He also peppered the selection with designs of his own, including brilliant silk neckwear with nine hand-folds instead of the usual seven. "If other stores bought safe, Domenico would buy shirts and ties with lots of color and put them together with suits that were kind of on the slick side," recalls Ralph Auriemma, a clothing sales agent who briefly worked for Vacca.

"People said I would never sell a close-fitting sport coat with a high armhole or a flat-front pant with a narrow leg," says Vacca, who is outfitted in just this look—his trademark. "But for the past six years, I’ve been selling it quite well." So well, in fact, that over the past 36 months Vacca has launched his own signature collection and opened five additional stores—two more in New York, one in Beverly Hills, Calif., and one each in Palm Beach and Bal Harbour, Fla. This year he plans to make his first international foray by establishing shops in London, Moscow, and Qatar. He has even delved into high-fashion horology, recently unveiling a complete collection of men’s and women’s watches, in collaboration with Jacob & Co., that includes a $6,900 chronograph with an alligator-skin dial.

While his premier signature collection is comprehensive (the line offers everything from handmade suits and striped dress shirts to denim sport coats with extra-wide lapels, washed pastel-tone chino pants, silk shirts, and suede boat shoes), its audacious colors and in-your-face recognition of the retailer’s well-traveled, international clientele are its defining motifs. Vivid cotton polo shirts, for instance, sport chest-size embroideries announcing "Porto Cervo," "St. Barth," and "Portofino," among other fashionable ports of call. "There are a lot of fun products, but it isn’t a necessity to sell them outside our own stores," remarks Vacca, noting the challenge of finding U.S. retail partners who not only understand the nuances of Neapolitan clothing, but also possess a client base for ready-made suits starting at $4,900 (made-to-measure designs start at $5,900) and handmade dress shirts that sell for $490.

Nevertheless, Vacca has met with executives from Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue about creating signature shops within those stores, but before doing so he wants to make sure the collection retains its Italian flair for fit, fine fabrics, and strong color. "From the beginning, I developed my own point of view about fashion, and I’ve never been willing to compromise," he says. "If I have to make it with less handwork or use a super 120s wool instead of a super 180s to make it more affordable, it’s not going to be a true Italian sartorial product anymore."

Domenico Vacca, 212.759.6333, www.domenicovacca.com

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