Seeing photos of the Barena collection doesn’t really do it any justice. It’s best enjoyed in person. At Pitti I consistently walk away from the Barena booth saying to myself: “Barena is my favorite thing at the show”. That is not hyperbole, I really mean it. Barena encapsulates the Italian art of looking smartly dressed and remaining utterly casual. It’s something that is often overlooked or under appreciated on these American shores. It really is a good concept though; look as dressed up as possible and feel as dressed down as possible. Who could not like that?
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.
The post about my time in Ischia wouldn’t be complete without talking a bit about my hotel on the island, the Mezzatorre Resort & Spa. I spent a good amount of time looking for a place to vacation for a few days before some business meetings I had in Europe this past week. I really wanted to further explore the coast of Italy, because in past years I have spent these early June trips in the south of France, a destination I hold as one of my most loved places for R&R. This year though I was hoping for something that could live up to the great times I have had before. Needless to say, Mezzatorre and Ischia far exceeded any expectations and has raised the bar for next summer.
Finding a place for me to vacation is not the easiest task. On business I don’t really have a lot of concern for where I will stay — often a Hilton of any color will suffice. So long as it is clean and well kept, I’m golden. But, when it comes to a vacation now that’s a whole other story. I agonize over where to stay when it comes to some of my few true holidays. Trip Advisor can be helpful, but I find most of the people on there are insane or just very easily won over and have tendencies to over rate things. So I’ve learned to look to people — people whom I consider to have all-around good taste — for advice based on their past experiences.
This time around I was looking to stay somewhere on the Amalfi Coast and I couldn’t seem to come up with anything I liked under $1200 a night (which is insanity as far as I am concerned unless it is a honeymoon situation). Eventually though I found the perfect person to ask for advice and he in turn offered up the Mezzatorre, which ended up being the perfect solution. That man? None other than Mr. Tom Kalenderian, the smartest man in menswear, Barneys New York GMM and all around good guy.
The islands of the Tyrrhenian Sea recently served me as the ultimate respite from my hectic life in the city. This past week I enjoyed three very short days off the coast of Napoli tending to the sun and sea in the paradise that is Ischia. And don’t feel like you need to wait until Agosto to enjoy the islands of Italy, June is the perfect time to visit as prices are better and crowds thinner, but the weather couldn’t be better.
The islands of southern Italy are famous for their idyllic surroundings and relaxed atmosphere. Capri is by far the best known of the bunch, but my vote goes for its larger sibling Ischia. The more time I spend on the Mediterranean, the more I want to be there. Frankly, it’s a very well-fed and well-tanned vicious cycle that is not to be missed.
There’s no denying the styling ability of the people at Lubiam. There’s also no denying their ability to crush you with texture. I mean crush you in a good way. By now you probably recognize that I am taking a measured approach in doling out my coverage from Pitti, because it’s not like these clothes are going to be in stores for another few months, so what’s the rush.
It’s that time again, time for the Italian-craziness that is the ultimate menswear tradeshow Pitti Uomo. I’ve got a lot planned and a healthy amount of sartorial coverage upcoming, but until then I give you these first few teaser shots (below) and the tip to the ACL twitter for the action as it happens.
Additionally, I am sharing a lot of great stuff (at least what I believe to be great stuff) through instagram, so follow @acontinuouslean for that channel of ACL Pitti adventures. More soon enough.