Claudio and John
J: How long ago did you and Adriano meet, and how did you connect?
C: Well, I suppose the background for that story is that I’ve probably been getting suits made since early-to-mid-90’s. There used to be a place called Hemden, who Adriano knows and used to be in High Street, Armadale, and anybody who was anybody used to go to Hemden’s – or so I thought. Then I had a couple of suits made and I thought, “Ah yeah, this is alright”, but after a while and as the years progressed I was able to travel and I happened to be in Beverly Hills one year, around the early 2000’s. I was walking down Rodeo Drive and I came across this shop called Stefano Ricci, whom I hadn’t seen before, so I walked into this shop and I thought, “Wow, these are really amazing clothes!”. I then purchased a bunch of ties, probably because I’m probably more comfortable wearing a tie than not, and I think that the art of wearing a tie has gone out of men’s fashion these days, and not many people know how to do a tie anyway and they don’t really understand that a tie can accentuate an outfit in a whole lot of different ways.
And because I was fascinated with the store I went back a couple of times and I bought a double breasted charcoal suit from Stefano Ricci. So I started travelling to the US quite a bit, to Beverly Hills and at first I started buying two or three more Stefano Ricci suits, but the quality of the Stefano Ricci suits and the quality of the Hemden suits became quite questionable. The problem that I had with Hemden was that over the years I could not understand why the suits would fit differently. The pattern would change and I figured I haven’t changed that much so they must be changing something. Perhaps the pattern was never consistent. This is in contrast with Stefano Ricci, whose quality was sensational but depending on the exchange rate it could be exorbitantly expensive and you think, “there has to be a happy medium here”. So effectively I stopped buying suits for a period, because I was disappointed with what was being produced by Hemden in both suits and shirts, and I didn’t have an alternative to Stefano Ricci which was overly expensive. So I decided with Stefano Ricci I would stick with their ties and cravats because they are sensational, and also some of their leisure wear is excellent. And the other thing is because this is about being obsessive and compulsive, Stefano Ricci is my go-to place for ties, pocket handkerchiefs (usually matching) and cravats. The other thing that I always get from them are socks, because no matter how much you paid for socks here in Australia they would always fall down. So they sold over the calf socks and I’ve stuck with them ever since and they stock a huge variety. Now, my wife is an avid watcher of Postcards, the TV show. This is now going back at least 5 or 6 years, but my wife said, “there is a tailor which you walk past almost every day. Why don’t you call him and perhaps you will find he can do the things that you want?”. Funnily enough I used to see Maria and Adriano out on the footpath, you know when he used to smoke, and when I walked past they used to always say hello to me and compliment me on whatever suit I was wearing and I thought to myself that I must go in there one day. So one day I decided that if I need a new suit because some of these suits are getting a bit shabby, I’ll go in and see what he can do. So I actually walked in and I haven’t gone anywhere else for a suit. I walked in that one time and I’ve been there ever since. So if I wanted a suit, he is my go-to person.
What I saw was that he is very passionate about what he does, so that appealed to me. He was meticulous about making sure things would fit, rather than “well, here is your suit and see you later!”. I like this passion, because if you’re going to pay that kind of money you want people to make an effort. So that’s what I did and I’ve been coming back ever since. I’ve experimented over the years, as clothes are important to me. They express personality, and I think he’s been able to capture all of that. People comment when I’m walking down the street so I figure that something has to be working and it clearly has to be his suits.
J: You have a very unique style of your own that people comment on favorably, often with admiration. What sort of conversations have you had?
C: I suppose I have a bit of an advantage, and the advantage is this – I make an effort to dress the way that I do, whereas not many other people make that effort anymore. So if we were to walk up and down the street we probably wouldn’t find that many people where we would say, “oh wow, that individual is dressed really nicely today”. To put it bluntly, if you are a flower in a bowl of sh**, you’ll standout .As a friend of mine used to say that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. So I suppose I’m in a time where not too many people are making an effort to dress, mostly women make an effort to dress these days, not so much the men. I was walking back and a young man in his mid 30s stopped me and said, “it’s really great to see somebody who knows how to wear a suit properly”. About 6 or 7 months ago I was doing some work in Queen Street and when I walked back, the guys construction workers came over and stopped me and said, “g’day mate, do you have a minute? We noticed you earlier when you walked past and we were talking about how great you’re looking and what you are wearing”. I was wearing one of Adriano’s suits and his pale blue overcoat. 9 out of 10 days I probably wearing one of Adriano’s suits. I like to think that it’s me but I suspect it’s the quality of what he does that just seems to work for me and people notice it. I might say that it’s probably an equal cross section whether male or female make a comment about liking what I’m wearing, or saying I look very dapper, but I was heading out of Cecconi’s restaurant in January and I happened to be exiting with three blokes at the same time. As we all stepped into the lift, one of them said to me, “hey mate I have got to tell you, that you look great the way you dress and I have got to know where you get your suits from”. I inform him that it’s from Adriano, and he says that’s the tailor in Elizabeth Street and I reply to him that that is the one! This indicates that people take notice of quality suits, however not everybody is going to say anything.
J: You are definitely as Adriano has mentioned before, one of Melbourne’s best dressed gentlemen.
C: See that’s become an aspiration now, and it’s a pressure point too, because you don’t want to drop your standards.
J: But the beauty of it is that you don’t try to do anything different and this is who you are, and this is the way that you like the dress. Because you do not follow fashion trends, this is something that is highly individual.
C: I have a view that fashion changes continuously and fashion is really dictated by the wim of so called “designers”. So whatever they decide is fashion this season, becomes fashion. I think the sad thing about that of course, is that existing on current fashions does not necessarily suit everyone who thinks that is the fashion and therefore they should wear it. I think that a problem arises when people confuse fashion with style. Fashion will continuously change and cycle over, but your personal style is your personal style and that should never change. I tend to gravitate towards double breasted suits, as they kind of work for me, I like them. If I have 25 suits in my wardrobe at the moments, 22 of them will be double breasted suits because they work for me. That’s my style, and that will not be dictated by fashion. Even with shoes or with accessories I tend to buy things that work for me as opposed to buying because it looks good on someone else. I kind of think part of the problem is if you are a middle aged guy, you probably should not try and replicate what a 25 year old is wearing, it just does not work. It’s important to realise as opposed to seeing some model on the runway who looks good and then believing that if you put on that same thing that you too are going to look good. If I told Adriano to make something that he doesn’t agree with, he would tell me that it would not suit me and he wouldn’t think it’s a good idea. I believe there has to be that honesty, it’s very important. He’s always said to me, “please don’t tell me to make you a white suit”. So we started experimenting, and we experimented with linen and it works for me very well, but wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone.
J: It looks fantastic on you, this linen suit. You’re right, it’s not something that I would personally choose or be able to pull off, but it looks beautiful on you!
C: So after experimenting with linen suits, I then thought I might try to get him to make me some linen shirts. The problem is you can’t necessarily go out and buy the things that you want off the shelf, because they just don’t exist. So I am fortunate that I am relatively successful so I can afford to get custom clothing. Having said that, you do not have to spend thousands to express your style. It’s like braces or suspenders, I have a large collection of braces for different feelings and for my expression of style. However this my obsessive-compulsive behavior of having things matching in my wardrobe.
Stay tuned in the near future for the second half of our interview with Claudio!