Gianluca Isaia

Photography provided by Isaia

Clad in a maroon plaid suit, Gianluca Isaia watches life at Minneapolis menswear shop Martin Patrick 3 pass by through artful glasses. Brought here by ace stylist Todd Fliginger, the Italian luxury suit designer is on a mission to bring expertly crafted heritage Napoli tailoring to Twin Cities gents. We tapped him to discuss how men can create their own style.

Who is Isaia?

We are a company that can be described with two words: contemporary tradition. We have kept a long tradition of tailoring but with contemporary fabrics, cuts, communication and presentation — all aspects of dress.

What makes Napoli style unique?

When my grandfather moved to Napoli in the 1950s, it was very well-known as a town of tailors. Nearly 50 percent of the 14,000 people living there were tailors; it was a huge district. The soul of our garments comes from a long tradition. When we train younger people in Napoli, they handle it like very old tailors. It’s in their DNA. It’s really pure artisanship.

How do you translate Napoli style around the globe?

We don’t tell people what to wear. We don’t pretend our rules have to be their rules. We just put them in a position where they can express themselves. I think Minneapolitans are very stylish.

Gianluca Isaia italian menswear designer

From where do you draw inspiration?

Our inspiration is always related to Napoli. My best inspirations come to mind in Capri, where I spend most of my free time. My mind becomes immediately free.

The other good place is on an airplane. I travel a lot and sometimes cannot sleep. When that happens, I put on some music or read a book, and magically the ideas come to my mind.

A lot of ideas come to me when I’m spending time with the consumer. I think everybody can give you something. For example, young people don’t care about rules and sometimes create great novel style. They don’t even know how they got there. The younger generations are more free, independent and creative than we were.

How do you help define someone’s style?

It’s our philosophy to have everybody express themselves. But it takes time; it’s not something you can do in one shot. You need confidence. People won’t change just because you’re telling them something is better for them. They have to feel it.

At work, we used to take photos of our employees on their first day to show how they were dressing then. After a couple years with us, we’d take more photos to show the difference. They completely changed the way they were dressing. Working with us, employees started expressing themselves, step by step.

Are you a rule follower? 

When I started working, you had a suit — you never wore the jacket without the pant. Always together, no? That was the rule. Then, several years ago, men started wearing a blue striped suit jacket with a pair of jeans in a great way. That is a rule that has been broken for me.

Once someone asked if there was an item of clothing I’d never wear. At the time, I said white socks. But maybe someday I will see someone wearing white socks in a fantastic way and will fall in love and wear them in that way.

Rules do not exist. I am completely against rules. Dressing is an art, and all the best artists have broken all the rules. Otherwise art would be finished.

Read the article as it appears in the magazine.