Caruso Store on Milans Via Gesù Picture credit: CARUSO
The soaring sound of high opera filtered through the windows of a store appropriately named Caruso, after the famous Italian tenor.
Inside this new shop on Milan’s Via Gesù, the accoutrements of a theatrical backstage were everywhere: rough plaster walls, columns, arches and a stone floor set with crushed pottery.
And then, finally, behind red velvet curtains, a wooden art installation by Giuseppe Amato: a miniature theatre filled with opera-singing so powerful that it made the elegant tailoring and streamlined coats shiver on their rails.
The Caruso Store on Via Gesù Picture credit: CARUSO
“This is a man’s store,” said Umberto Angeloni, the force behind the newly opened Caruso stores in New York and Milan. He is also an enthusiastic supporter of the consortium turning Via Gesù into a menswear haven, or maybe heaven.
Can Via Gesù challenge London’s famous menswear street, Savile Row, and make itself a destination for the international man who wants the good life and a good hand-tailored suit?
Milans Via Gesù is becoming a strong contender to London’s Savile Row
Across the narrow Italian street hang illuminated banners of trilbies and tailored jackets with the words “La Via dell’Uomo” – a declaration of intent for this new menswear destination.
The famous Neapolitan tailor Rubinacci opened a new boutique on Via Gesù Picture credit: Rubinacci
Since its expanded store opened last week, Rubinacci has been offered a powerful position by Via Gesù. The Neapolitan tailor whose masculine interior includes a library topped by deer antlers, elegant drawings from 1814 of riding coats with top hats and canes, and jackets from the Fifties displayed above today’s tailoring.
The Rubinacci Boutique on Milans Via Gesù Picture credit: Rubinacci
“And I have not even shown you the workshops!” said Mariano Rubinacci, referring to the rooms where you will find the tailors whose handicraft is at the heart of Italian men’s style.
Rubinaccis Via Gesù boutique opening with, from left, Gildo Zegna the CEO of Ermenegildo Zegna, Suzy Menkes and Mariano Rubinacci
Neapolitan brand Kiton was one of the early male-focused arrivals to the Via Gesù, and the company has decided to show arresting and touching photographs of its (1,300) hand-workers at its Milan headquarters. Other noticeable menswear brands on the street are Brioni, Stefano Ricci and Zilli.
Then there are the master shoe-crafters, including Silvano Lattanzi, where cobblers were out on the street shaping and polishing leather footwear. It would be a brave man who walked down the Via Gesù in sneakers.
An image from the Kiton photographic exhibition of tailors based in the Kiton headquarters in Arzano near Naples, Milletrecento Mani (1,300 hands) Picture credit: Kiton
Milan’s grandees still occupy private houses Along the Via Gesù, with long, hidden gardens. One mansion is the home of Versace, while the Four Seasons hotel is located in a fifteenth-century former convent.
But can this discreet road running between the two axes of fashionable Milan – Via Monte Napoleone and Via della Spiga – really challenge Savile Row as the world epicentre of masculine style? Perhaps. In London, art galleries and ready-made clothing stores have invaded Savile Row and now sit side by side with the tailors.
Umberto Angeloni is convinced that focusing on menswear in a single, self-contained street will only strengthen the position of Via Gesù for local and international shoppers.
Kiton tailors in the photographic exhibition. Picture credit: Kiton
As a woman, I appreciated the emotional effects of a street that reflects Milan as a city which keeps most of its charms well hidden. A small alleyway leading off Via Gesù has a welcoming café and restaurant.
Over a cappuccino, I began to think of a modern-day return to the concept of areas of a city dedicated to specifics. In London, these areas were traditionally named after food: Pudding Lane or Bread Street.
But what if – in response to all of today’s online images and shopping sites – cities start establishing specific fashion quarters? I can see it now: a line-up of windows with shoes, bags or dresses, all accorded their own streets.
Perhaps Milan’s Via Gesù will start a twenty-first-century shopping revolution.
The Kiton store on Via Gesù Picture credit: Kiton