Style Icon: Matteo Marzotto

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There aren’t many Chairmen or Chief Executives who are worthy of the title ‘style icon.’ Despite being in the pink financially, Captains of Industry don’t dress as their myth would suggest. A great number probably use tailors but evidence of their use is never apparent; a lot of the sheeny-shiny stiff-as-a-board suits worn by business leaders are possibly very expensive, despite being laughably ghastly. A lack of interest is probably the reason; vanity does not always go hand in hand with egotism and leadership is not always matched by inspiration. Money and power shout a heck of a lot louder than the brashest pinstripe suit; who needs an elegant drape when you hold all the power in the boardroom? Who wants a flattering silhouette when you’re buying and selling companies like used cars?

Well, Matteo Marzotto seems to. Undeniably one of the most elegantly attired tycoons in the world, Marzotto – always grinning – is an Italian textiles scion who turned the loss-making Valentino brand into a profitable fat cherry that was plucked in the private equity harvest of 2007 for a little over $1bn. Like Lapo Elkann, the Fiat heir, Marzotto was born into a privileged world. However, unlike the surfer-haired jet-setting überdandy, Marzotto’s association and exposure to the fashion world goes further than whimsical fancy. His is a more serious aesthetic, something self-consciously, though elegantly, ordinary. This is no attention-seeking Milanese orchid, fluttering from café to café; he is a businessman, something horrific to unshackled creatives, and his clothes, though exhibiting a sense of the refined and unusual, are appropriate for a man in his position.

As with many style icons, it is not so much what Marzotto wears but the way in which he chooses to wear it. There may be a few brightly striped shirts, a couple of wacky ties but most of his wardrobe seems to conform to that of any elegant Milanese or Roman about town; a wool suit, white or blue shirt, a dark, patterned tie and a white linen square. An easy, don’t-even-have-to-think-about-it combination, but one delivered with effortless panache. Take for example, Marzotto’s utility of his clothing. Whereas many don tailored suits and treat them with the most extraordinary delicacy, he shoves his hands in his double-breasted pockets, cracks a grin and delivers a wink. He lives in his suits and understands them; many others, by comparison, are like waxworks.

His dark ties are a lesson in elegance for the cringeworthy pastel-crew who, despite an inadequately flattering complexion, insist on the sickly sweet-shop salesman aesthetic of pale ties with pale shirts. Marzotto’s tailor, whoever he is, cuts his suits very well; there is the classic Italian shoulder, a relatively high gorge and an unfashionably large lapel. Despite wrestling for control of iconic brands, as he was with Valentino and he is with Vionnet, and using the names to build the business, Marzotto is a walking advert for everything that is nothing to do with brands; wearing clothing that was stitched by unglamorous artisans. Nothing about his style is unnoticeable and yet, it is not designed to be noticed. He is the sort of man, like Elkann, who learned about wearing clothes from a beloved relative; lectured on the value of a cut, coached in the tying of a tie. A man who really understands clothes is never born; he is made.

Albert Ahoy: The Monegasque Royal Wedding

Another wedding, another balding royal; but this time there was something slightly peculiar about the ensemble, something Mediterranean. In the tiny, Hyde Park-sized principality of Monaco, Prince Albert II married his South African bride Charlene Wittstock in the Saturday sunshine. There was no carriage ride, no cavalry guard, no scarlet tunics or polished riding boots. Instead, the Grimaldi scion wed in an ivory-white military uniform that clashed rather awkwardly with his wife’s sleek-but-dull Armani gown. Fellow royals from Sweden, Great Britain and Holland were also clad in white – famously the least favoured of all dress-uniforms – and the addition of white shoes made their ensembles ever so slightly absurd.

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Unlike his father, who famously wed Grace Kelly in a pompous but more fittingly regal navy tunic, embellished with gold thread and spurious military awards, paired with sky blue and gold-braided trousers and accessorised with a jewelled sword, Albert – a ruler in charge of the smallest military force in the world – looked more like a ship’s captain from a 1940s Pacific & Orient pleasure vessel in the summer uniform of the palace guards. Whereas Grace was allowed to gleam, Charlene had to clash; in the sheen of her gown, there was no sign of the legendary elegance of the groom’s mother who had so influenced the bride of the year’s other royal wedding. As one has come to expect from Armani – a gifted but scarcely imaginative designer – the dress itself was flatteringly simple and, alongside the pleasure-cruise uniform of her new husband and the crowd of bluebloods, entirely disappeared.

There was something rather flabby and carefree about the Prince’s ensemble, and indeed that of other royals. For a place that is considered to be the world’s most glamorous superyacht marina, the uniform was certainly appropriate but it lacked the sober majesty of other royal wedding tunics. It was an aesthetic redolent of sweet vermouth cocktails and sticky nightclubs – apposite for a ‘party Prince’ but jarring with the reverence of a Catholic ceremony: it is a rare wedding that allows the groom to be ‘the meringue.’ The majority of the attendees, including Karl Lagerfeld, Sir Roger Moore (orthopaedically shoed) and Bernard Arnault, were in formal morning dress but there were a number of uncovered female shoulders, despite requests to abide by cathedral dress codes, and more than a few pairs of loafers. This was very much a Med wedding.

And yet, as shocking as Albert’s seasonal uniform was, in the beating sunshine and azure background of the glittering Mediterranean, it looked far more apropos than the double-breasted waistcoat and tails sported by others who looked like dazed colonials, shipwrecked on their return from India, squinting into the sun. The military whites looked like dashing sailors taking shore leave in a sunny paradise.

As ridiculous as it was to smash the bride’s white prerogative, Albert’s pristine uniform matched the gleaming and manicured buildings in the quiet and ancient Monaco-Ville; had he climbed into a carriage it would have been preposterous, instead he climbed into a new Lexus landaulette. It was a little gauche, and would certainly have made other royals wince, but it did fit the occasion.  Albert does not pretend to be a knight in shining armour – indeed, with his reputation and flutter of rumours regarding a paternity suit, he most certainly could not. Unlike Kate Middleton, who beamed with unnerving consistency at her marriage to a prince, Charlene Wittstock rarely deployed her smile. Perhaps it was the paternity rumours, or possibly the service? Or maybe it was the sight of her husband, gleaming and winking in white; for clashing with his bride on her big day, even a prince might have some grovelling to do.

The Style of The Talented Mr Ripley

One of the greatest sources of sartorial inspiration is, and probably always will be, the silver screen. Who can forget the impeccable suits of Sean Connery’s Bond, or the preppy-meets-cop style of Steve McQueen in Bullitt? Modern technology has made the ferreting out and dissemination of stylish films much easier than it was when I was a nipper. Which is just as well for you, dear reader, as I can share with you a supremely stylish film, Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley.

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The setting is largely 1950s Italy, where Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), the son of an east-coat WASP millionaire, has taken to frittering away his allowance. Needless to say, Dickie’s father isn’t too happy about this and recruits the outwardly charming but inwardly sinister Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) to bring him back. As time goes by Ripley develops a very unhealthy obsession with Dickie and, inevitably, the excrement hits the fan in chilling fashion.

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Aside from being a fine thriller in the mould of the best post-war mystery novels, The Talented Mr Ripley is an absolute gem in terms of men’s style. The locations – Sanremo, Rome, the Bay of Naples – lend themselves to a fine Mediterranean summer wardrobe that has, sadly, all but vanished from 21st century beach resorts. Jude Law steals the show in this regard, with a selection of summer-weight odd jackets, cotton chinos, loafers, ties and hats that will make most Men’s Flairers green with envy.

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Of course, I’m not suggesting that you copy the looks wholesale unless you happen to have a time-travelling DeLorean at hand, but it certainly offers some inspiration. The combination of navy linen shirt and off-white chinos/shorts is always a winner in my book, and it doesn’t take much to reimage some of the more formal outfits seen on screen with some modern tailoring.

Style Icon: The Duke of Edinburgh

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As one of the oldest members of the British Royal family, you would not expect Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh (DoE) to be the most controversial and yet this gruff, plain-speaking, perpetually joking consort to the Queen is rarely anything but. A recent television interview in honour of his 90th birthday highlighted some of his increasingly impatient, fogeyish tendencies and provided some glorious PR-free gems; “I’ve done my bit, it’s someone else’s turn” and “Problem with the world is overpopulation. My solution would be family limitation” and “I’m not a green; I’m not a bunny hugger.”

If there is a Windsor family ‘line’, the DoE doesn’t tow it. Neither does he tiptoe around difficult subjects like his son Charles with hand-wringing or ‘Umms’ and ‘Aaahs.’ Instead, he launches into responses like a hungry beater at a hunt banquet, tearing into topics that politicians won’t even touch with the abandon and self-belief of a patriarch from another age. He doesn’t think much of himself either and his apparent bemusement at social functions, questioning eyes and baffled expression is down to, what he termed, “going downhill.” The DoE is looking for an exit from the circus.

However, as nonplussed as he was to receive birthday attention (“I’m 90, so what”), the DoE deserves further mention and recognition of an asset of his that has never failed him, something he carries so naturally and so free of artifice and something which has, unlike the rest of him, failed to decay; his style. While most people at 90 are stumbling around – if they’re still able to stumble – in Ecco shoes and comfy sweaters, the DoE mucks around in morning dress and white tie – at the appropriate occasions of course – as if he were still 23 years of age.

Recent events confirmed his ability to look comfortable in even the most outrageously flamboyant, brutally regal ensemble such as that he wore to his grandson’s wedding as well as his ability to outshine an assembly of power and celebrity at the Palace for a white tie state dinner. The DoE is a skilled natural in manners of his dress and one of his particular strengths is his maintenance of proper proportions; waistcoats worn at the proper height, trousers cut to the perfect length. His persistent adherence to this is often attributed to his having been brought up in another age, which is partly true, but it seems to be something he has passed down to his eldest son; a rare harmony in a notoriously discordant relationship.

Unlike his son however, the DoE is less ornate when it comes to sartorial decoration. He does not share his admiration for double-breasted suits and prefers a folded white square to the patterned silks, although his tie knot is noticeably thicker; perhaps a nod to the DoE’s acceptance of current fashion. The Prince of Wales is certainly more of a dandy than his father – not an uncommon remark in the history of the British Royal family – but the DoE always seems to be having more fun in his clothes rather than fun with his clothes. Not that there is a problem with the latter, quite the opposite. It is simply that the DoE’s approach, though less accomplished, possesses more idiosyncratic charm.

In his interview, the DoE scoffed when the interviewer asked how he would describe himself at birth “Well, I was a Greek national but I was Danish by race.” And now, how would he describe himself? “Well, I wouldn’t. I’m just ‘here.’”

A Stylish Movie: Diner

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Diner (1982) is a dark and melancholy look into the lives of a group of buddies struggling with the transition to adulthood in 1959 Baltimore. Eddie (Steve Guttenberg) threatens to call off the wedding if his fiancee can’t pass his elaborate football quiz. Shrevie (Daniel Stern) fights with his young wife about the organization of his record collection. Billy (Tim Daly) has a pregnant girlfriend who refuses to marry him. Boogie (Mickey Rourke) is a womanizer with a gambling problem. Fenwick (Kevin Bacon) is an unemployed drunk. Modell (Paul Reiser) is a passive-aggressive mooch. These friends eat French fries with gravy, discuss their respective problems, and engage in much meaningless conversation in their favorite local diner. The movie is sort of like Seinfeld without the humor. For instance, in one scene Paul Reiser ponders: “You know what word I’m not comfortable with? Nuance. It’s not a real word. Like gesture. Gesture is a good word. At least you know where you stand with gesture. But nuance? I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.” I can totally see that same monologue coming from the mouth of George Costanza.

Although I found the “plot” to be rather tedious and depressing, Diner is at least a stylish movie. By utilizing thrift-store treasures, costume designer Gloria Gresham did an excellent job of recreating the late 1950s Ivy League look. Imagine lots of tweed and loosened repp ties with tie bars. In one scene Tim Daly wears a great navy-blue Duffle coat over his tweed jacket, tan sweater vest and brown pants. Bass Weejuns complete the outfit. Other small touches include the heavy ring that Mickey Rourke wears on a chain around his neck. Steve Guttenberg wears a wonderful thin, square gold watch with a brown leather strap. Kevin Bacon lights his cigarettes with a silver Zippo lighter and blows perfect smoke rings in the diner. He tools around town in very cool red Triumph TR3.

I find it hard to recommend Diner based upon entertainment value alone, but the movie does provide an excellent window into the roots of the American Trad style of dress. It is also fun to watch this group of famous actors in some of their earliest roles.