“The only thing I don’t have time for is bad taste”
Immaculate suits, softest leather, luxurious fabrics, a rich palette of colours and textures: this is the Vincenzo Brandonisio brand with its charismatic founder’s personality behind it. Signor Brandonisio is one of Italy’s first designers to consciously study the global experience. It’s no surprise his clothing lines are crazily famous among the Moscow’s fashion connoisseurs!
Signor Brandonisio, you are part of the modern Pantheon of fashion creators. How did you climb all the way to the top?
It’s not about fashion. It’s about elegance because the latter is eternal.This is the most important thing in my life. Let’s start with the very beginning of my understanding of fashion. I was born in Parma, the most French city of Italy. My father and I had a workshop. When I was six my father took me to Florence where he planned on purchasing a collection. I remember a very elegant lady in a black dress with a white collar. He asked my father, “Signor Brandonisio, can the kid stay with us?” He said, “yes”. This was one of the most memorable moments of my life. This was the moment I saw Emilio Pucci himself step out of the Pitti palace. He even shook my hand. Every time I take a walk in Moscow I laugh. I don’t want to sound pretentious, I love everybody, but I laugh at the fake Italian names. There is a word “pontovatsya”. Are you familiar with it?
It’s a Russian word, isn’t it?
It’s a conglomerate of bad taste. I still can’t wrap my head around how they manage to do it. Maybe the reason is the fact that fashion didn’t even appear here until twenty years ago. I have been doing it my whole life. This doesn’t make me a genius. I just learn every day. That is the secret. The only thing I don’t have time for is bad taste. Also for pretentious people. The rest is philosophy.
At the start of my way I had the purpose of finding the true meaning of elegance. I wanted something more than just dressing people in high-quality clothes. I had the purpose of turning them into true icons of elegance and beauty. I can say I’ve been pretty successful at it.
Let’s continue the story about the designer’s way. So my father sent me to Oxford to get a degree in commerce that is of no use today. However, I made some use of this knowledge as I came from far away and from the most French city in Italy. I started understanding the rest of the world. I was surrounded by Argentinians, Israelis, Arabs, the French, and many other nationalities. I was amazed by the elegance of the Argentines. They donned blazers and dined with candle light. The food was horrid but that didn’t matter. The French talked about brandy while I was getting familiar with the world outside. I learned to spot the beauty around me. At the age of 18 I decided to leave Oxford. This is how I started working for a British-American company Chester Barrie founded by Simon Ackerman. The company made Brioni-style suits but with a British touch. Do you know Tom Ford?
Of course! It’s one of my favourite brands.
Tom Ford is a genius. He copied Burberry’s and Chester Barrie’s styles but I still love what Tom Ford does as he brought elegance back. I started working for them in Italy from scratch. Before that I worked at my father’s shop but at Chester Barrie’s I started as a delivery boy. Slowly but steadily I got promoted to the design department and finally became a couturier. I learned a lot about fabrics, about why a certain type of fabric might not suit certain occasions, and about clothing in general. This approach is not used nowadays. Lately I’ve walked down Rodeo Drive and noticed that Bijan, Brioni, and Battaglia put their jackets at the windows. The rest put out lady’s shoes, Ralph Lauren polo shirts, winter jackets, and sports clothes. Nobody wears suits in Los Angeles. Going back to my story, Chester Barrie taught me to make suits. I am not a tailor, but I understand how to make them. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. Simon Ackerman, a well-known British entrepreneur of Jewish origins decided I needed to go sell clothes in Souther Italy. We chose the toughest region. You have no idea what it means to sell in Sicily, Calabria, or Apulia. I valued every single minute because I had fun. I met very demanding people. Sicilians may be elegant and bright but have a good taste at the same time. This is where I learned to put two and two together. I saw amazingly dressed people.
I love my craft. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and every minute brings me joy.
Don Vincenzo, where did you learn about elegance that you have mentioned earlier?
My father first took me to England when I was 9 years old. I remember seeing a tall gentleman with a mustache and puffy white hair in Oxford Street. He was wearing an overcoat thal looked tailor-made, a brown bowler hat, and a bowtie. Ragazzi, I had never seen a person as stylish as him. AS I said earlier, you are either born elegant or you sell hot dogs. One might live a life without learning about elegance. I ended up crossing the entire Italy from north to south. Everywhere I looked like a peacock, and everybody noticed that. In Naples I met the best shop owner ever. I remember the joy I felt while working with the people of fashion and models. The work at Harrod’s was my absolute favourite. We created a valuable product, and I was already advertising my own name. Looking at how serious I was at work Mr. Ackerman told me: “It’s time for you to go to the States”. At that time Sachs and Barney’s were already buying European products for low prices. We figured even if we get three billion no’s we will still get one yes. We undertook an experiment. In the USA I walked from door to door with a suitcase and practically started what the company had already been doing in London from scratch. Three thousand no’s and maybe one yes. I had to deal with the most different customers including Americans of Jewish-Italian origins, the worst customers in the world. Then I travelled to Florida. Miami is the city of Scarface, and it looked just as it was shown in the movie. There I had 30 customers who bought crocodile leather shoes and cashmere, and paid cash for the most expensive items.
Are you still friends with the Bush family?
Yes, I am. And not just with them. My most impressive customer was the Sultan of Brunei. When we started our business in Russia I asked my partner: “Which direction would you like to go in, classic suits?” In the end we decided to go for fashion. I still love this enterprise as it is my baby. You should have seen this place 12 years ago. These were the first days of new Russia. You could see one or two dandies dressed like French ladies of the XVIII century. This style must have been revered back then. But we brought some Bijan philosophy over here.
Don Vincenzo, what would you say about Russian women fashion-wise?
Oh you Russian ladies, I admire you! You are a rare breed of women who are used to working hard. You understand everything from the get-go. My work is not even necessary here. However, I can surely say that every designer needs a muse. In Russia I am inspired by you, ladies. Your firm faith in yourselves, your view of fashion is mesmerising!
I create my clothes with my heart, but a truly good character is born when I know it is necessary. One might think, what is unique about this brand?
The people who love wearing it. The real Italian design and the spirit of my collections is nothing without the love of my clients for fashion and luxury. This combination creates the golden middle between haute couture and daily clothes.
You know, some say the love that grows stronger with time is nothing but affection. The real love is fire, a storm, and everyday madness. This is the way I want my brand to be. Every day I want to create more and see more elegant people around me. This is the secret of true success: just love what you do.
Written by Mila Goncharova-Legrand
Translated by Tony Savosin
Photo by press service Vincenco Brandonisio