Molto Elegante! by Uta Abendroth | 28th August, 2015 | Personalities
Guglielmo Miani is not only admired for his good looks and elegant appearance in his home-town Milan. The CEO and president of the exclusive Larusmiani tailoring company, who is also the grandson of its famous founder, is determined to turn the exquisite family business into an international success. His first step – adding a new women’s collection.
I was still a child when I got my first suit from our store. It was made by hand, with all the passion and expertise of our master tailors,” reminisces Guglielmo Miani, the 39-year-old CEO and president of Larusmiani, a brand founded in 1922 by his grandfather and namesake. Guglielmo Miani Jr. continues this legacy, which requires wanting to preserve tradition just as much as a will to innovate. Mastering this combination seems to come easy to him. A graduate of Babson College near Boston, Massachusetts, Miani started out his career in the U.S. financial sector. But in 2000, he returned to Italy and immersed himself in the textile industry, in order to ultimately take over the family business.
The flagship stores of Italy’s top labels are all located in the “golden triangle” formed by the Via Montenapoleone, Via Sant’Andrea and Via della Spiga, the famous shopping streets north of Milan cathedral. And right in the center of that area, you will find the showroom and studio of the Larusmiani label – guardians of all the values which have become synonymous with the expression “made in Italy.” Clients enter a lounge-like space, dominated by the color blue and filled with soft, enchanting music. On the walls are cleverly showcased fabric samples, and it is here that suits and shirts are created – just like they were in the 1920s, when Guglielmo Miani Sr. opened his own tailoring business. He quickly became the darling of Milanese society. “My grandfather mixed with many well-known personalities, musicians, writers and politicians at the legendary Camparino aperitivo bar on the cathedral square,” says Guglielmo Miani. “He acquired the license for the premises back then, and the bar is still operated by our family to this day. In one of the corners, there is even a small sculpture of my grandfather’s face.”
“Three items of clothing should be in every man’s wardrobe – a tuxedo, a blue blazer and a white linen shirt.” Guglielmo Miani
Curiously, the garments that would provide Guglielmo Sr. with his breakthrough were raincoats – in sunny Italy, of all places. In 1936 English trench coats became fashionable, and the native of Apulia designed his own weatherproof garments in that style. In the end, these coats even proved to be the source of inspiration for the company logo. The Latin word for seagull is larus, a bird that is somewhat emblematic of the company’s raincoats, because of its water-repellent feathers. The bird also symbolizes independence and freedom, which ties in with the brand’s motto. By combining the Latin word and the Miani family name, Larusmiani was created. The label was so successful that it soon operated five tailor’s workshops in the center of Milan. Among its clients were celebrities like the Duke of Edinburgh (royal consort of Queen Elizabeth II), Italy’s probably most famous comedian Totò, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and many others.
Riccardo Miani, the company founder’s son, did not have quite as much aptitude for the art of tailoring, and focused instead, in the 1960s, on developing and manufacturing fabrics. “He thought that the fabrics my grandfather had been importing from England in large quantities were too ‘old-fashioned,’” remembers Guglielmo Miani. “There was a trend towards using new, more innovative textiles, which were generally softer and less heavy.” This is because flowing fabrics are part of what makes an archetypal Italian suit – as elegant as it is casual. It is also cut to produce a rather softer silhouette. Typically, Italian suits are more form-fitting and particularly accentuate the waist and the shoulders. Obviously, the fabrics used, and their suppleness, softness and elasticity, are important factors in determining how comfortable a suit will be to wear. But the way it is made also affects how comfortable a garment is. “The quality of a ‘fatto a mano’ suit is partly due to the fact that it is stitched by hand. This makes it much more flexible compared to a suit made with a sewing machine,” explains Guglielmo Miani. “The stitches are not as rigid and consequently a garment sewn by hand adjusts to the wearer’s movements totally differently.”
„We want to strike the right balance between tradition and innovation.“ Guglielmo Miani
Today Larusmiani employs around 40 tailors for its made-to-measure clients. Twenty-one work stages are required to make a jacket – from the creation of the paper pattern and cutting the fabric with a pair of scissors, to sewing and ironing the pieces, and applying the embroidered company logo. Then the garment has to “rest” for a minimum of two hours. The whole process takes roughly 24 hours. Sewing a single buttonhole requires at least half a meter of thread and about 14 minutes of sewing. Making a shirt takes 17 work stages; a pair of pants 18. Those engaged in this trade have a real passion for it, and real skill. A Larusmiani garment is the epitome of Italian craftsmanship and of timeless, classic style. Not all customers request bespoke suits and shirts, but women’s wear was a topic not addressed for many decades. Since 2010, however, there has been a women’s collection, which complements the long-established men’s range. The latter is the responsibility of Creative Director Gianluigi Di Nino, who formerly worked at Brioni and at Tom Ford. In her designs for the women’s range, Alice Etro, Guglielmo’s niece, often uses fabrics that also feature in the men’s collection. Nevertheless, she imbues the outfits with her own, very feminine touch. “We only really came up with the idea of also offering fashion for women, to complement our prêt-à-porter collection for men, because women kept coming to our stores to buy garments,” says Guglielmo Miani. It is an important gap in the market for this label, steeped in tradition – and a chance for the heir to the company to contribute his own ideas.
The boutique in the heart of Milan is the brand’s flagship store, but Larusmiani has also been established in other countries, where its extraordinary quality and unique character are appreciated. In New York, for example, the label has a boutique at Bergdorf Goodman. Further locations will be opening in Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami. In Russia, Saudi Arabia and at the Takashimaya department store in Tokyo, Larusmiani already has a presence. The first store in China is also due to open at the end of the year. In addition to this, the company is a global player in a different field, thanks to its division that manufactures fabrics. Roughly two million meters of cloth leave its workshops every year. Among Larusmiani’s customers are Gucci and Prada, who have long ensured that around the world, “made in Italy” is synonymous with style. ua