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.

Plaza Uomo UK - - SIDAN - john werich WORDS AND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

For ar­dent

­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

the world.”

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

loyal clients.”

“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

a day.”

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.

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