Wardrobe: The Real Thing

<< Back to Robb Report, December 2002
  • Laurie Kahle

In the 1995 film Big Night, two Italian brothers open a restaurant named Paradise in 1950s Keyport, N.J. Their authentic Italian cuisine, however, does not meet with the locals’ expectations. Meanwhile, across the street, their competitor thrives by serving mountains of overcooked, sauce-drenched pasta. Ultimately, the brothers have to close their restaurant because Americans are simply not ready for Paradise.

Domenico Vacca would appreciate the story. Though his eponymous new boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York City takes the same purist Italian approach, it is receiving quite a different reception, thanks to an increasingly sophisticated American fashion customer. "Americans are ready for something that is truly Italian," says Vacca. "They don’t want to eat pasta floating in red sauce; they want Cipriani—they want authentic." Vacca aims to deliver with meticulously selected handmade clothing that refuses to make concessions to the traditional American preference for a looser fit. "Everything we offer has a truly authentic Italian fit—nothing is modified for the American market," says Vacca, who asserts that even Sartoria Attolini and Kiton alter their suit models for American retailers.

Vacca, who launched Borrelli stores in the United States and still owns a third of that operation, is known for his sharp mind and keen eye for detail. The attorney-turned-publisher-turned-retailer works very closely with his limited group of Italian resources. "For some retailers, the high-end business is simply about charging more and changing the buttonhole," says Fabrizio Capigatti, director of communications for Sartoria Attolini in the United States. "But it is really about researching quality, fabrics, and the artisans who produce these products. And it’s about personalized service. Domenico truly understands the luxury business."

Vacca sees no reason to look beyond Sartoria Attolini for custom-made and ready-to-wear suits and sport coats, Finamore for custom and ready-to-wear shirts, Stefano Bi for benchmade shoes, and Andrea D’Amico for accessories. In the fall, he launched his own signature collection, made by Attolini, that is targeted to a younger man who wants something more fashionable. His collection features an even trimmer fit, a higher lapel and first-button placement, and a narrower pant constructed in lightweight cashmeres and vintage fabrics that Vacca personally handpicked.

While Vacca’s selection may appear quite narrow at first glance, it increases exponentially when you factor in 1,000 fabric choices for suits and sport coats, and 1,000 fabrics for shirts, which present further options in collar and cuff styles and buttons.

Also presented within the confines of this compact, yet airy, pear wood–paneled space is a sartorial women’s collection made by Attolini and Finamore. "No one is selling this kind of women’s clothing in the city," says Vacca, noting that the tailor-made women’s collection uses the same fabrics as the menswear.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about his store is the inviting staff, who encourage customers to come in—"play around," as Vacca puts it—and learn about the nuances that distinguish his wares. "We believe that we are not selling, but educating," says Vacca. "And if we are good at educating customers, they will buy. It’s a different strategy from most retailers." Judging from a recent trunk show, when Vacca sold 100 suits in one week, it is a strategy that is working.

Domenico Vacca, 212.759.6333

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