Neapolitan outfitters Isaia’s modern history begins with current CEO Gianluca’s grandfather moving the family business to Casalnuovo with a single-minded mission: to cherry-pick the best tailors from this small town on the edge of Naples and, with his sons Enrico (Gianluca’s father) and Corrado and Rosario (his uncles), create a workshop that would seize on the region’s ancient tailoring tenets and take them to even loftier heights.
At the time, says Gianluca, almost have of the 14,000 working adults living there were tailors. Today, Gianluca’s mission is to carve a niche in the crowded menswear market by crossing high fashion with Neapolitan classicism – with more than a soupçon of flamboyance added to the mix. He’s doing something right: Isaia now has boutiques all over Europe, Japan, China and the US, and recently opened a store in London.
Do you recall the first time you became aware of Neapolitan tailoring?
As a third generation CEO, Neapolitan tailoring is in my blood. I have lived this business since I was a small child following my father on his travels. Everything I know I learned from my father, who learned from his father.
How are men’s tastes changing when it comes to sophisticated menswear?
I think there is a strong desire to find your own style in a way that is elegant. There are less rules to follow and it’s more about wearing clothing you love in a way that suits you. We see a lot of men experimenting with a combination of sportswear and tailored clothing, even for formal occasions.
Can you explain your personal attachment to the number 27 and the colour red?
The number 27 is historically significant for many reasons and is said to bring prosperity. It’s my lucky number. The colour red is also good luck in Naples, and ties back to the Mediterranean coral of the ISAIA logo. You will see the Mediterranean red coral on everything we do at ISAIA. We want to bring our customers good luck and prosperity as well!
Was there a catalyst moment in your life to led to what you do now?
Being born – I’m kidding of course! When I was young, my father taught me the business and pushed me to learn English. But it was in London, working in a shop, that I started to get a passion for this work. I wasn’t selling – I was only folding shirts for the sales people after they showed them to customers. It was there that I really knew my future and I began working in the business as soon as I graduated.
When it comes to business, do you prefer planning or spontaneity?
I think it’s important to respect tradition and craftsmanship, which requires a lot of planning. However it’s important to enjoy your life and what you do, which involves spontaneity!
Fashion or style?
Style – true style is timeless and effortless.
Who in your life has been the biggest influence on you and why?
My Father – who was instrumental in every aspect of my life. His favourite song was Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, and he taught me to live in that way as well.
What advice would you give to a young man wishing to become a menswear entrepreneur?
Be passionate. Love what you do. Have fun. If you are not having fun, don’t bother.
You’re a massive Napoli fan – and as you know we in Britain call it The Beautiful Game. What is so beautiful about it?
Not only is football the world’s sport, it’s a sport where ability and attitude is everything – much like Neapolitan tailoring. In Napoli, football comes first. Everything else second. I had the unique privilege of growing up knowing Diego Maradona, whom my Father knew as well. It was an incredible time in my life.