The first time I met Gianluca Isaia was years ago on a gray, damp day in Milano. He was wearing a heavy wool double-breasted brown and beige herringbone topcoat. His hair was long and he was throwing back caffe’ like a man doing shots of tequila. He had just arrived that morning from New York and the gloomy Milan climate wasn’t sitting well with him (in fact, it doesn’t sit well with any Italian who hails from Rome and below, but that’s for another entry). Yet, despite the jetlag and the rain, Gianluca had a take-it-or-leave-it lightness to him, a wholly Neapolitan attitude equal parts optimism and fatalism. I would later come to understand it informs everything he does, not least of all his distinct approach to dressing.
“Non pazziar’,” he tells me as he shows me through the spring collection during the latest Pitti Uomo. That’s Napolitano for “no joking” (I can’t help it if I found his blue, red and white Prince of Wales suit and signature leather Capri sandals amusing). But I should know better, when it comes to this venerable brand, style is no laughing matter. That’s not to say, though, there isn’t room for a bit of irony.
Take for instance, the welted barchetta pocket, a staple of Isaia jackets, this season used as an unexpected accent on cotton chinos. Placed on the side of the right leg, it reminded me of a grown-up, more refined cargo pocket. I liked the way it sat there, discreetly in sight. The liberal use of polka dots, on the other hand, was the opposite of discreet. It takes a certain kind of man to feel confident in dots, but when the pattern was applied to the lining of a collar or on a scarf, it hit what I consider the sweet spot of men’s wear: right of brazen and left of boring.
Isaia’s bread & butter, those handcrafted jackets, cut for spring in naturally dyed linens and cashmere and silk blends, were looking fine as ever. Checks dominated as did colors that channel the turquoise waters around the Li Galli islands off the Amalfi coast. (Legend has it, sirens once inhabited them and lured seamen to their death. Today Gianluca likes to take his boat there and go for a swim). A bit shorter and almost completely unlined, the SS13 jackets featured a more pronounced 8 mm stitch around the lapels and cuffs, a hallmark of Italian tailoring. The mustache, a historical felt detail on the underbelly of the collar popped, and those barchetta pockets (Italian for small boat) undulated just so. Only this time around they had a new companion: sprightly pocket squares. The trick with these new handsome pieces of cloth is placement. If you fold them correctly, Isaia’s tiny coral logo will sit proudly at twelve o’clock— a small but unmistakable badge of Neapolitan honor. [ISAIA] -CC REAGAN