I’ve gotten to know Gianluca Migliarotti, co-founder and owner of Pommella and this week’s subject, through photographing him for my longtime client, The Armory. The retailer hosts his trunk shows here in New York. Although he makes some of the nicest trousers on the market, he is also a talented filmmaker, and has told the narratives of several stories of Neapolitan tailors through his films. I quickly noticed his high taste level and personal style—yes, the word sprezzatura comes to mind—but the man also dresses people for a living, and one can only do this well upon understanding the sometimes-indescribable tenets of how clothes ought to look. What makes a tailor great is their ability to bring out a person’s confidence through a personalized sense of comfort and considered proportions.
With Rage Against the Machine blasting behind us, we sat down at Migliarotti’s hotel to discuss his Neapolitan perspective, how the film impacted his career as a tailor, the one piece you can wear to attend a party anywhere in the world, and more.
Tell me about Pommella. What made you start the company and how has it developed?
I got into the business as a filmmaker. I did these documentaries about tailoring. That is my passion. I just wanted to talk about my hometown from a different perspective, different than Gomorrah, which is a great production, but it didn’t apply to me as a Neapolitan. I don’t know anything about that. I don’t want to know anything about that. I wanted to give a different picture of my hometown, even though I grew up there and moved to Milan at 14. I ended up meeting all these people, makers and tailors, and everyone was pushing me, trying to convince me to get into the business because I knew better than them about a lot of things. I was passionate about it all, and educated, too.
I started with the trousers because there was a shortage in the market. There were few trouser makers. Even now there are not many good ones. I started this with my former partner, but it was not fifty-fifty; his name is Pommella, and he had about 20 percent. We split because it wasn’t his thing and he didn’t want to travel. He wasn’t really committed. Even though I put his name on the thing. I decided to go ahead and also open my other brand, PML. This started with machine made trousers, compared to Pommella’s handmade trousers. I developed the entire line—the jacketing, overshirts, overcoats, hats, whatever. We are still developing.
You don’t strike me as the type to have any style rules, but what are some pieces of advice you’d give to a guy who is just starting to get into menswear and build a wardrobe?
Especially if you’re building your wardrobe, you need the standards at the beginning. You need the blue blazer. You need gray trousers. You need one or two suits that have to be a standard gray or blue. That’s it. And a couple of sport coats. That’s for sure. One thing that I strongly suggest to anybody, especially younger people, is a blue blazer, double-breasted, navy, dark, well done. You wear it with jeans and a shirt. That is a kind of uniform for a party anywhere in the world, wherever you go. You go to a restaurant in New York, you go to a party in London, you go to an aperitivo in Milan, you show up like that and you’re cool. You’re the man. No problem.
Anything to add about the fit, or does it just depend on the person?
I think it depends on the person. Every person chooses their own fit. Some people, they are into tight stuff. I don’t like that. I don’t like square stuff that’s too boxy. It has to be in balance. Something in between.
I read an interview that you did with Simon Crompton of Permanent Style and you mentioned Pitti Uomo and some of the men taking themselves too seriously. What are some common mistakes you see guys make that signify that they’re taking themselves too seriously?
They try too hard. There is no irony whatsoever. There is no fun. Most of the time you see them and they want to represent the character that probably isn’t them. They look like a president of a bank. And when you ask them what is their career, I don’t know, they’re in tech. Maybe they’re just young guys. Maybe they’re just in front of a computer anyway. So that is very stupid. Especially when you try hard to be dandy. Very proper, very dapper. That’s stupid. Dandy is a specific thing that cannot apply to our kind of lifestyle. It’s very decadent and it’s very much about details. Either you’re perfect at that or you’re fucking goofy. It becomes costume. It’s not style, which is the most important thing. Style is to express yourself. So don’t take it too seriously. In general, don’t take yourself too seriously.
What is the last item you purchased?
GMs: A T-shirt from Jim Parker [of Tazewell Clothes].
At this point in your life, are you ever really looking for anything? Your wardrobe must be dialed in.
That’s the thing. If I had the money and the time, I would double and triple my wardrobe. I would do overcoats all the time, for instance. I love overcoats. I would buy boots every now and then. Ah, yeah! You know what I want to buy now? Cowboy boots. Not the ones with the point. I want the rounded ones. The heel is shorter and in front it’s a little more rounded so it’s easier to wear. I always loved Western boots. I like all these pieces of outerwear, kind of rugged, kind of strong. I like sweatshirts. You know Savas? She’s making all these suede sweatshirts that are hot! Other than that, I’m wearing a lot of stuff that we make…
Do you get to just make something if you want it? Like, oh, I’m missing a pair of green pants.
Oh yeah. Pants, I don’t miss anything. Same thing with the tailoring stuff. Because I work even with my tailor. So every now and then I just send him the cloth.
Who is your tailor?
Ciro Zizolfi, who is the purest Neapolitan tailor in terms of lineage, because Vincenzo Attolini is the one that invented the Neapolitan jacket. Back in the day, in the thirties, he was the main guy, and he had three kids. They were never apprentices of their father. He had another apprentice. His name was Ciro Palermo. He was my father’s tailor. That’s one of the reasons why I did [the film] O’Mast is because of him. I used to go there in the workshop and have lunch with them at the working table, on the cutting table. They were cooking there and I was like, “This is something else. It’s a completely different.” A lot of people, when they think about tailoring, they think about how dapper it can be, how clean it can be. For me, tailoring is actually a little more human. A relationship with tailors is different. We spend time together. I just go there and sit and talk to them while they’re working. I don’t need to do fittings or anything. And it’s a little rougher than what, for example, the British expect or they want. I like that kind of thing. It’s good.
When you aren’t making films or trousers, what do you do with your downtime?
I spend a lot of time with my kid, which is the reason for everything. And I box maybe three times a week. I go to my bars. Even in New York, I have my spots. You know, when you’re in your spot, and you always go there, you become a regular. I like that. In every city I have my spots. So, I come to New York, I go to Walter’s the first night, then I go to the Ear Inn for beer and some normal food. I go to Cocoron for ramen. Simple places. I go out for sushi with my friends.
If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it consist of?
What the fuck? The rest of my life? It would be a blue double-breasted, denim shirt, jeans.
Light colored shirts, dark jeans?
No, not dark. Medium light. Leather belt, Western probably. Nice boots. Maybe the Edward Green Galway, suede. And an overcoat. Probably mine.
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