Men’s Fashion, Italian Style: Moda In Style
When it comes to men’s fashion, why do Italian men always look so good? Why do certain American men, such as the celebrities that walk down the red carpets, always look so much better when they’re wearing Dolce e Gabbana, or Prada, or Armani? What is it about Italian men’s fashion that can transform the average man into a heartbreaker?
It’s definitely a tribute to the label designation, “Made In Italy,” which signals an attention to detail and a commitment to excellence that is unrivaled throughout the world. Italians fiercely protect and uphold this designation. And while people associate the phrase with luxury, they also perceive it as very expensive, and this is often true.
However, Moda In Style, a men’s fashion company that is based in both the United States and Italy, is challenging the notion that fine Italian clothing for men—“Made In Italy,” of course—is out-of-reach for the average working class man. The company, which was founded in 2005, provides affordable Italian men’s fashion, shipped direct from their warehouse in Italy, via their website, www.modainstyle.com.
We wanted to understand the differences between men’s fashion in the U.S. and in Italy and to try to pinpoint the details that make it so apparent when a man is wearing an Italian suit. We were also curious about Made In Italy design and production methods. So we spoke to one of the Moda In Style founders, Massimiliano Mattetti, who heads their U.S. division, which is based in Boca Raton, FL, and also serves as their Director of Sales.
Editor: What inspired you to start Moda In Style?
Massimiliano Mattetti: The idea of starting an Italian menswear business began back in New York when I was working for the Italian Mission to the United Nations and wearing a suit every day and often people would stop me and ask me where I bought the suit. I always told them, ‘I buy my suits in Rome whenever I go back,’ and people would ask me where they could buy them, but I couldn’t tell them anyplace here.
Editor: Did you feel you had to look a certain way because you were working for Italians?
MM: Well, the attire required is definitely business formal but, on the other hand, the Italian mission was recognized as the most elegant of all the missions to the U.N. I found it strange that in a city like NY where millions of people every day were wearing suits, people would stop me. So I started to develop this idea that maybe there weren’t as many suits designed with the Italian look and cut as I thought there were here.
That idea became a reality when I resigned from my job at the U.N. because I was getting married to an American woman and I moved permanently to the U.S. Then, I started to think about what to do here. I liked the idea of selling on the internet because of the ease and the amazing choices out there and that’s where the whole thing started with a longtime friend of mine in Italy. We bought the stock of suits and we started to sell them online and it went well.
The first year it was just a part time thing, but a couple of years ago, we just decided to go full time and to put all of our resources into this. And, at the same time, some manufacturers in Italy asked us to do a partnership that gave us more potential so we decided to join them. Now there are four partners.
Editor: So your customers purchase online and you ship the clothing from Italy, correct?
MM: I would say 90% of our inventory is in Italy. We have a few samples here, but everything is 100% Made in Italy and that’s important to note. This is something we take pride in, especially today with all the manufacturing being moved to Asia where the attention to detail is not as high and they just concentrate on mass production and the quality suffers because of this. Yes, our manufacturing costs more, but we try to keep the cost down. We cut the costs left and right just to keep ourselves competitive, but without sacrificing the quality.
Editor: Your pricing is really very reasonable, very low for such quality?
MM: Yes, the pricing is good because the overhead costs are low. It’s like shipping from the factory to each individual customer. They are buying directly from the producers, essentially. So that is why we can sell such high quality suits at those prices. Now we have different tiers of pricing because when we go to production we use different kinds of cloth/wool and we buy this wool directly from the manufacturers – very high quality – like Zegna, Loro Piana and Cerruti 1881. That’s something we are proud of because we’ve been working with them for years, especially our two new partners that have been manufacturers for a long time. They’ve been working with Zegna for over 20 years.
Editor: Please tell me about your labels?
MM: We own two labels. One is Paolo Lastrucci, who is basically the founder and the uncle of one of our two partners for production. The other is Metamoda Firenze 1970, which is the label we started a few years ago and it’s a satellite company to Paolo Lastrucci that uses pretty much the same resources—it’s just the label goes on the less expensive line.
So, we have the Lastrucci label for the most prestigious wool and the Metamoda Firenze 1970 for the less-known. Not that they’re not as good, just that they’re less known and that’s why they cost less.
Editor: How would you categorize your design style?
MM: We use mainly the Italian cut, which is typically little slimmer cut.
Editor: What would you say is the difference between an Italian and American design in men’s fashion?
MM: Well, they develop different kinds of designs and cuts because of the different demographics. So the demographics here (in the U.S.) are for a little bit of a bigger man who is a little broader in the shoulder, so the design is more of a full cut. The Italian cut is a little more slim. The armholes are a little higher and the waist is slimmer. Also the pants are often flat front.
The truth is that the difference is not just in the cut, but also in the attention to details. The Italians are a little bit more concerned about their appearance—and I’m speaking about the men. The women here are more concerned. But, on the other hand, I’ve noticed that Americans, at least recently, are now more aware of this. I can see them getting more interested in certain details that really didn’t make a difference a few years ago, but today I have a lot more customers that are concerned with that.
Editor: What do you think is at the essence of good men’s fashion? Apart from just buying Italian suits, how can men in other countries replicate Italian style?
MM: Fashion is not something that is written in stone where you have to respect all the rules otherwise you won’t look good. Fashion should be something personal and should be the expression of your soul – of the way you are. You should personalize your way. We shouldn’t all look the same. But, on the other hand, there are certain guidelines to follow that will help you look good.
Editor: Can you tell me a bit more about the fabrics Italians use in their suits?
MM: We get our fabrics from Biella, which is this little city in Piemonte famous for its wool. They’ve been trying to copy their wool everywhere, especially in China. But they haven’t been able to even come close to it for one main reason: the water. The water they use to wash the wool before they put them in the mills and start to weave them – the water is unique there. So they haven’t been able to—the outcome of the fabrics from elsewhere has never even been able to come close to what they’ve done there. That’s why even in China, where they do mass production, they go and buy the fabrics from Biella. In Italy they are very much aware of what kind of fabric goes into this season.
Editor: What fabrics, other than wool, are used in Italian men’s fashion?
MM: They use linen a lot. And silk renders the fabric much more luscious and it gives a little sheen and that high end touch.
Editor: But isn’t silk very delicate?
MM: Yes, but in menswear it’s always mixed with something like linen or wool. There’s also certain wool, like Merino wool, that has that little sheen. We have a few suits that are made with that mix of virgin wool and silk and they’re really beautiful, both to look at and to touch. One of our disadvantages is the fact that people can’t touch or try the suit until they receive it.
If we had a store we’d be able to double our prices because of the way they look, because of the quality, because of the way they feel. And especially with suits, the way they drape on you depends on how they’re constructed and the fabrics.
Editor: So maybe there will be a Moda In Style retail store in the future?
MM: Well, if we had that ability to put a suit on every potential client—but opening a store is risky. I’ve had a few local clients and they always go home super happy and they can’t believe what a great deal they’ve got. But because of the internet you can reach out to customers all over the world.
Editor: Where are most of your customers?
MM: We used to have 70-75% in the U.S., but that has shifted dramatically with the economy and the currency exchange isn’t helping. Right now we have about half from the U.S. and we have many Australians and a growing number of Russians, and the U.K. and Canada.
Editor: And you mentioned that your design and manufacturing is done in Florence, correct?
MM: Yes, right. But our operations are in Bologna. When the suits are made they are moved to Bologna and that’s where we have a warehouse and where we ship everything from.
Editor: Those are two very expensive cities in Italy, perhaps the most expensive cities?
MM: Yes, but we have the luck of having partners that come from there. We have the two partners in Florence and then the other partner is in Bologna. It’s where he is from. The idea to market everything from here was to give people the reassurance that there is an American company behind it. We’re incorporated here in the U.S. and we have offices in Boca Raton. The website is also registered in the U.S.
Editor: How many suits are there on your website?
MM: Right now we have about 300 suits. Plus we have another hundred in production, as well as 100 sports coats in production. We also have a stock of Pal Zileri ties, but in the future we’ll add something of our own as well.
Editor: What about the latest trends in men’s fashion? Do you follow the trends?
MM: Our styles are classics. We try not to go into the trends too much. The trends come and go, but the classics will remain in a man’s wardrobe for a lifetime.
For more information, please click here to visit the Moda In Style website.