March 14, 2013 by Ville Raivio
“I am 68 years old, my occupation is stylist/designer. I was born and educated in Italy, graduated in 1963 from Istituto Tecnico per geometri in English as Land Surveyor. I also graduated from the Scuola S.ufficiali Carabinieri military school in Florence, Italy, in 1970. I have 2 daughters, Elisabeth and Cristina, my wife unfortunately died 10 years ago. I still miss her and I will miss her for the rest of my life. I met my wife in Florence, she was American and was there for studies. My love for this woman (Rina) brought me to the USA.
3 days after we met I told her I was going to marry her, leave everything and follow her to this country. I know this seems a little unusual, but this is my personality. By nature I am an incurable romantic, and always follow my instincts and dreams without worrying about the future or consequences. This type of personality is reflected in the style and design of my product.
My products, bespoke and ready to wear, were sold successfully at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks 5th Avenue for many years. In 2001 I opened my own atelier at 12W 57th street off 5th Avenue in New York City. When I was a teenager in Italy, I was fascinated by the 1930s American movies, I was dreaming of dressing like those characters and actors, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, George raft, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, just to mention a few. When I came to the USA, I did not speak a single word of English. My father-in-law was a great tailor, he was very well known. By default, and not knowing what else to do, I was working in his shop as a bookkeeper. My father-in-law, Joseph Gangemi, with my uncle Nino were my mentors and inspiration; the one for uncompromising quality and sense of proportions, the other for style and panache.
While I was there I learned a lot, and when my father-in-law died, the shop closed, and I had to look for a job. I started working as a salesman and in managerial positions in different luxury clothing stores. The customers liked me, my stile, my presentations and my sense of colors and how to coordinate them. The rest, as a way to speak, is history. I am not a tailor. As a matter of fact I don’t know how to sew a button, I have several talented tailors that work under my directions. My way of dress, I believe, is classic but has its own personality. The style is as much as possible 1930s Hollywood, with emphasis on the cloth itself and its texture and colors. Most of the fashion people talk about style, cut, number of stitches per square inch, etc., but very few speak about the cloth, and what it adds to the style.
Of course what I say is not Gospel and I may be mistaken, but this my humble opinion. My product has been well-received and I enjoy what I am doing, it gives me the possibility to dream!! What is life without dreams? Young men are very much interested in my style, and they really understand it. I learn a lot from them. This, for me, is very important because it gives me hope for the future of men’s fashion. Besides fashion, my interests are; reading (not fashion books), but classics from Victor Hugo, Dumas, Dickens, Melville, Zola, etc., cooking , gardening , listening to classical music all day, long walks and long bicycle rides without a helmet. Pretty boring! Isn’t it?
It is very kind of you to ask me to pass a style comment to the readers, I will try with humility. Educate yourself about fashion, reading books related to it, watch old movies, follow blogs, etc. But always be an individual, follow your own instinct and your individual style. If you really are interested in fashion, you can develop your own style and don’t have to necessarily take for Gospel what you read. Fashion is not an exact science, but rather a vehicle to develop your own stile. In other words, be an individual, don’t follow anybody. If you have style, it will show.”
Pictures: © Domenico “Mimmo” Spano