My Style: Gennaro Santillo

Portrait of Gennaro Santillo

Interview: Carola Dolci // Portrait: Nikola Borissov for Fashion We Like

What is the biggest mistake one can make when getting dressed?

Having a desire to show off. Or, you could say, showing off rather than just 'being'.

Please describe your style in three words.

I like the British stringency with a twist of Italian taste and elegance.

Do you believe in role models?

Rather than role models, I believe in icons such as Gianni Agnelli, Vittorio De Sica, and Beppe Modenese. These are men who have left their mark in terms of elegance. And when it comes to contemporaries, Matteo Marzotto.

What are your favourite fabrics?

Worsted wool fabrics such as 120s and 130s, carded ones, and tweeds for suits and coats. Also, batista voiles and linens for shirts, and cashmere and wool for ties.

Are there any style combinations that you object to?

Style cannot be improvised. Either it's in your veins, or you have to let an expert advise you.

Which city has the best-dressed men?

Naples, Milan, London, Tokyo, and Paris.

Would you say that you are conservative or bold?

Probably a mixture of both. I am almost always wearing a suit, as I grew up in a tailor shop and have always loved suits. When I am working in the company, for example at the cutting phase, I wear jeans with a shirt.

What are the rules in the way you dress?

No rules: I trust my gut feelings, taste and mood.

Celebrities and style...

At present, there is nobody that I can think of in terms of style. They have no taste; they cover themselves rather than dress. Of course, haute couture these days has very little to say. Great designers such as Gianni Versace and Gianfranco Ferrè, who had such a sartorial background and knew what it meant to hold a needle in their hand, are no longer in the market. Try asking an emerging designer (or a well-known one), the difference between a bespoke jacket and a factory made one, or what is a canvas lining. I bet they won’t be able to answer.

Name one garment/accessory that you can never have enough of?

British shoes and ties. I have a passion for the former and a collection of over 500 (that I luckily got from my grandfather) of the latter.

A man should always look like…

A real gentleman. Not just in terms of his look and outfit, but in his everyday life. His manners, behaviour, work ethics, family and in what he stands for.

Who taught you what you know about style?

Angela, my mother and the founder of Santillo in 1970. She still manages the family business with the same passion of her youth. Other than being one of the best shirt makers in Italy, she has such a strong vision on colours, accessories and the way fabrics perform.

How do you select your clothing every morning?

I just open my closet and choose. My outfit is not something that I prepare ten days in advance, as many fashion bloggers do. This topic needs no study: your choice is up to your taste.

What is your biggest regret?

No regrets, I just look forward.

The three essential things a man should know about style are…

Never wear a short-sleeved shirt. Your shoes must be clean and tidy. Pay attention to your personal hygiene; I cannot stand those who do not care about this.

Do you have any shopping rituals?

None in particular.

We will never see you wearing...

A short-sleeved shirt.

The most stylish person you have ever seen...

Beppe Modenese, a charming man and a true connoisseur.

What is the first thing you notice on a man?

In this precise order: the collar of his shirt (and if it is consistent with the character of the person) and his shoes. You can understand many things from these two small details.

The one image that defined your approach to style...

I was very young, but it's an image of my grandfather Gennaro. A tall man (1,95 m), with great posture and class; he was an example of Neapolitan elegance. He only wore bespoke suits.

Which new designers do you follow and why?

My friends Valentino and Nicola Ricci at Sciamat, although it is an established brand when it comes to Italian tailoring. Valentino is a very humble man, a great tailor, and very well-rounded when it comes to culture. He was a lawyer, but then he had the courage to pursue his dream and make it come true.

The only article of clothing that a man needs to pay close attention to is…

It's not just one. A true gentleman cares about all of his items, as well as his accessories. Details make the difference.

What are the most treasured items in your wardrobe?

I am terribly fussy about my whole wardrobe. I take great care about my jackets, suits and ties, and make sure my shoes are always clean and tidy. Sometimes I like to experiment with garments I do not use frequently, like an old green Field Jacket purchased at a second-hand market. I decided to make it look washed and worn by using an enzyme treatment and a brown dye. It turned out to be an awesome piece which will be part of our ‘Radici’ (roots) collection for the next Autumn-Winter collection by Santillo 1970.

Is comfort an enemy of style?

Not at all. Those who think that comfort means wearing a T-shirt and a pair of jeans are wrong. Of course, a tailor knows that a garment needs to fit the figure of the person; this is a basic rule for me.

Which designer never fails to impress you?

No fashion brand impresses me. Since I love tailoring, I like watching the details of a well-made pair of trousers, a suit or a shirt. This is what the true Italian excellence stands for: the history, the culture of the product, the unique design and the ability of skilled hands. This is the true meaning of Made in Italy. Our unique artisans make me feel proud being Italian.

Who would you like to recommend for My Style?

Well, he does not need my recommendation, because he has been representing the Italian spirit in the world for many years. He is always friendly, kind and constantly smiling; I've never seen him in a bad mood: Lino Ieluzzi.

The best words of advice you have ever heard?

My younger brother Saverio, who is 23 years old, takes care of the production as well as the accounting in the company. Despite his young age, he is extremely mature and has great organisational skills. If Santillo 1970 has grown so fast lately, it is mostly because of my brother. Saverio always told me not to trust anybody, because not everyone is a friend; unfortunately he was right.

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