THE MASTER OF FLORENCE
How did a shop owner from Tuscany become an international icon? we visit the artist and style aficionado simone righi in florence.
menswear fans, the Florence based biannual event Pitti Uomo is unmissable. A giant hub of impeccably dressed attention seeking men strutting their stuff for bloggers and photographers alike, the trade show is the go-to event for those keen to have their meticulously assembled outfits seen by the world. As someone who’s grown accustomed to the spectacle, and admits to quite happily participating in it, Simone Righi is commonly known as the most dapper shop owner in Florence. For thirty years he’s run the small and exclusive menswear store Frasi, located in Florence’s primary bespoke clo- thing quarter, Via della Vigna Nuova.
”I’m convinced that growing up in such an elegant city as Florence forms your identity. As kids we used to play football on Piazza Santa Croce and row down the Arno past the Uffizi Gallery. All this beauty and history have shaped me and my way of looking at the world.”
Born and bred in Florence, Simone was raised by his mother, a seamstress serving the city’s socialites and aristocrats, and his father, whose lifelong career as a chef wetted Simone’s appetite for cooking. “I was expected to walk in my father’s footsteps,” Simone tells me as we sit down in his humble yet sophisticated shop. The walls are covered in purpose-built shelves filled to the brim with beautiful garments made from the finest merino wool, and tweed suits are lined up on rails further into the store. Despite his curiosity for cooking, Simone decided to explore his interest in clothing and its associated craftsmanship. He took job in a menswear shop where his passion for tailoring blossomed. “Florence was a city proud of its craftsmans’ heritage; there were carpenters and gilders on every other street. That pride is still felt today, albeit not quite to the same degree.”
“The beauty of Florence has formed the way I view
Pictures of suit clad men and Tuscan motifs are hung next to the shelves, baring witness to Simone’s artistic side. He pondered becoming a painter in his youth, but had to push those thoughts aside in favour of the store. Now a hobbyist painter, Simone is uses a technique where his hands function as paintbrushes, resulting in big bold shapes. During the interview, customers keep popping in, one after the other. There’s a young woman on the hunt for a present for her father and a male model from India who tells us that he was intrigued by Simone after reading about him in an English fashion magazine.
As a matter of fact Simone is becoming more famous than the store itself. Sure, the main reason people visit is to enquire about the elegant suits made by one of his three tailors, Atolini, Kiton and Sartoria Fiorentina. But there are increasing number of people who drop by just to catch a glimpse of Simone. This trend can partly be attributed to the fact that he has made a name for himself, an inevitable consequence of running a fine tailoring boutique in a city that’s grown more prominent on the global menswear map thanks to the trade show Pitti. Twice a year the city becomes a mecca for extremely trendaware and neurotically style- conscious middle aged men, who, through their social networks and blogs, have introduced the Florentine shopping experience to an international audience. One of the first to do so was Scott Schulman, whose blog The Sartorialist sparked massive hype that still surrounds style blogs today. Schulman caught sight of Simone during one of his first visits to Florence and the shop owner has since featured regularly on the blog and in the The Sartorialist books.
“I can’t deny that The Sartorialist has meant a great deal for the store. Lots of people come by because they’ve seen me or the store on The Sartorialist or similar websites, however, the majority of my clients are the same loyal Italians from before all that happened,” says Simone, while showing me one of the tweed coats from the latest collection.
“I still have the same
“I love this classic restaurant, specialising in simple Tuscan cooking, situated by the Arno. Try the prawn
curry – it’s fantastic!” “Whenever I feel like something a bit more modern and refined, I go to Ora d’Aria behind the Uffizi Gallery. Located in stunning premises, this restaurant deserves a Michelin star! The tapas and miniburgers are just divine.” “This place is perfect when you want to escape the hubbub of the city centre. Modern takes on old Tuscan classics – the fish is great.”
Simone’s designs are best described as classics with a modern infusion. He relies on traditional, quality materials, the majority of which are made in Italy. “I have, in many ways, held onto the fashion styles that were trendy when I was taught my clothes making skills thirty years ago. Classically tailored suits, coats and shirts by the best manufacturers.”
While the way people have dressed has changed drastically during the years he’s run the shop, Simone is convinced that people’s taste in clothes has more or less remained the same. “Thirty years ago, Florentine men commonly changed outfit three times a day. They wore a morning suit, an afternoon suit and then changed into a dinner jacket in time for dinner. It was very different compared to today.”
Simone believes that his duty is to make his clients feel confident and sure of themselves. “It’s vital to get to know the client. He has to feel comfortable in the clothes made for him. Everything has to be right, from the shade to the cut.”
Judging by the popularity of the shop it looks as if Simone is staying true to that duty. People have flocked to Frasi for over three decades and, as of a few years ago, Simone is also hosting regular trunk shows, including locations like Seoul in South Korea and New York.
“The reason I got into trunk shows is as a result of the many style blogs I’ve been featured on. I often receive emails and comments from people wondering where they can buy the clothes I wear. When they find out I have designed them myself they want to to know straight away where they can get hold of them.”
“Thirty years ago, Florentine men commonly changed outfit three times
Simone Righi’s stardom got a kickstart when images of him were published on The Sartorialist.
Simone’s shop Frasi sells suits made by Atolini, Kiton and Sartoria Florentina.
cPlaLsAsZicAvπUieOwMofOthe Arno river, a stone’s throw away from Simone’s store Frasi.
He dreamed of becoming an artist, but went all-in for menswear instead.
Simone grew up in Florence and rowed on the Arno as a boy.