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.