Tag Archives: Italy

Massimo Bizzocchi – A Louis Legend

As I continue to make preparations to close our doors this summer, I can’t help but reflect on the people that have had an impact on Louis, and ultimately some of the best fashion Boston has ever seen.

When it comes to our vendors, one man, Massimo Bizzocchi, has always stood out to me as being “The best of the best.” The founder of his namesake company, Massimo produces the best ties and pocket squares in Italy, and truly embodies everything that is wonderful about Italian manufacturing – and Italians period. Like Louis Sales Consultant, Arthur Jordan, Massimo is one of the great romancers of our industry. It saddens me to think that his presence will be diminished in Boston.

When I first began to travel to Italy to buy for Louis I was always met by a warm, welcoming committee. The Italian manufacturers would invite you to “…come in, sit, and have a drink.” They would invite you to dinner and take the time to get to know you and see if you were like-minded in our goals. They weren’t just selling me “something,” because they understood that if you only talk in dollars and cents, you eliminate the soul and beauty and romance that come from buying a beautifully made product.

One thing I love about Massimo is his ability to tell a wonderful story. He is very passionate about what he does. He lives and breathes his work and gives his product a personality, and character, and integrity. He truly makes you believe.

I can only liken it to when you go to an Italian restaurant (in Italy). Your not just given a list of specials, you are told what’s fresh and how it can be prepared and then you are asked, “What can we do for you?” and there are no limits. When it comes to clothes, Italian manufacturers ask how you want to see it and they make it for you that way. And when you succeed they don’t take any credit, they say, “You were so smart to do it…and we’ll do it that way now, with everyone…and thank you for the information.”

This is what it’s like to work with Massimo. It gives him great pleasure to present what he has and deliver it to you exactly how you want it. This makes him happy.

It’s becoming a lost art.

I’m so glad my daughter, Sam, got to meet and know Massimo. She knows him well -and has experienced and now possesses his gift. While I know she uses Snapchat like the rest of her generation, I also know that as she enters the world on her own she also understands how important romancing something is. She knows how to make something rise up and off of the page, and for that I am grateful.

Once again, I asked my friend and writer, Jamie Kohn, to speak to Massimo so he could share his relationship with Louis, with all of you…

 

By Jamie Kohn

I can’t take much of the credit here I can only confirm that what Debi says it true. Massimo is a wonderful, passionate storyteller, and it was with pleasure and ease that we spoke about his relationship with Murray and Debi, and all of his experiences with Louis. I spoke with him on a Saturday, and from the moment he began to speak I was mesmerized. As you read, the nuances of his native language are apparent and contribute tremendously to the charm of this decades long relationship.

 

Jamie Kohn:

Massimo, It’s wonderful to speak with you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today…

Massimo Bizzocchi:

Thank you, Jamie. It is nice to speak with you too. I look forward to telling you about 40 years of my beautiful adventure with Louis.

In 1974-75, Louis was my first customer in the United States. It was known as the #1 store in the United States, not only for the size of the store but the precise direction and unique way that they bought the line and communicated with the manufacturer. I had the pleasure to meet Murray for the first time in New York, at the Waldorf Astoria. I was working with a small company called Berto Modes from Biella, Italy, and had traveled to New York to show previews of the fabric for the season. I selected the fabric for the American market and it was there that my education with Murray began. He was open and sincere in giving me advice and making me understand what I needed to do for the American market. Slowly I understood that it was not the “American” market, but the “Louis” market, because his direction was advanced with color palettes and everything that was related to style. He was always quite a few seasons earlier than the rest of the market would accept or understand. And that was the beginning of my relationship with Murray.

After that I traveled to Boston to better understand the market and the store. At the time Louis was an incredible new source of ideas and also experiences with the sales consultants and young generation that that worked there. I remember they had a jeans parlor downstairs which at the time was quite a new idea. Having the jeans and the music and the ambiance made everything so incredibly young and attractive. The windows were decorated impeccably – I remember once they were decorated with the influence of the Broadway show Les Miserables – and it was fantastic. Everything Louis did was a message of how to show and how to make people part of the style that Murray was promoting and selling.

 

JK:

I have heard a lot about Murray Pearlstein, but didn’t have the honor of meeting him. For someone who knew him for so long, can you tell me, what was Murray Pearlstein like?

Massimo:

Murray was unique. But he was not only unique, he was a leader in the industry and he had a vision. He was a visionary of elegance and an interpreter of designer lines with the sophistication of someone who wanted to adapt fashion to daily life – not only the runway.

I used to travel to Como with Arthur Jordan and woman named Mrs. Lupini who owned a company called “Personality.” Together we would travel from place to place to choose fabric for the ties for Louis. Everything that was shiny or loud made Murray very upset to the point where he said, “I will teach you for a couple of seasons, but then you need to prepare what you know I want to see.” He told me, “I don’t have much time and I want you to do it fast.” He was like a tornado coming into the manufacturers. They would have 3-4,000 designs he would grab 5 in 5 different colors. His major request always reflected the kind of finishing on the silk he wanted to make the color soft. And the fabric would have a touch of cashmere – something that took 30 years to develop – but he had the sensibility to request it already.

The school that he presented to us, and the vision he had for colors and product made myself and the company develop a sensibility that in the end, many times, we made just for Murray and his store. Others were not mirroring his direction, and I know this made him very happy. We had many interesting adventures in Italy and Milano and after 5 or 6 years he thought I knew enough (but never really enough) to go by my self and do research for my own line of ties that he helped me to promote. He helped me start my own brand, Massimo Bizzochi.

Murray and Debi were extreme supporters of my tie line. When Mrs. Lupini passed away, the small factory that she owned was going to close, but Murray helped me transition and take over the company and helped me build my business. He encouraged me to use my own label along with Louis of Boston label.

 

JK:

What is your relationship with Kiton?

Massimo:

I started to work with Kiton in 1984, almost 10 years after I met Murray, and I dedicated my attention to the American market more than any other. I remember going straight to Murray with the owner of Kiton, who Murray knew through the fabric trade show in Italy – Luciano Barbera – Kiton was producing some of his garments under that name. I remember Murray bought a pin strip suit, double breasted, in pure cashmere. It was the first thing he bought from Kiton through me. After that the experience of the selection of fabric and the way to style the product was absolutely unique – and that tradition has been brought to this day through Debi. This developed over all these years, a special and unique model for Louis, with a lot of success. Kiton dedicating time and effort and took risks that they would only take for Louis, and Debi always knew exactly what she was looking for. Debi always respected our quality product, in fabric and workmanship, and she always tried to help us continue to have the Louis of Boston image on the product and give the consumer a the kind of experience that only Louis of Boston would bring to them. She would buy a different silhouette and have different measurements of the lapel and shoulder – taking a major risk, like she always did, because it was going to be unique in the market, and very early in the market.

 

JK:

What was it like working with Debi once she took over?

Massimo:

It has been a phenomenal, fantastic experience. I went from having a professor (Murray) telling me what and how to do something to somebody (Debi) who tired to help me understand the reason. She was generous in her ability to share information. It has been a friendly journey more than a business relationship. With Murray I would listen and take notes and then hopefully translate the notes properly to deliver what he wanted. With Debi she always asked me to try, she asked me if I understood, she asked me to discuss with her what she was looking for. Her patience has been one of the ingredients that made me feel comfortable giving my best to the relationship and developing with her, all that she desired. She has a fantastic knowledge of the Louis style, that never changed, and starts with the fabric. Whenever we would start a new collection she would say, “Let’s start with the best. Show me the top of the line fabric and let’s get on the (design) table the colors and styles and designs that, for me, will represent the next season.” Then she would go through the whole line (2,000-3,000 swatches), pick 20-30, and from there she would narrow it down to 12-15. She already had in mind who she would present those pieces to, what sizes she wanted for each piece, and what kind of ambience she would create visually in the store from the pieces she bought along with the rest she was buying.

My admiration for Debi is the highest it can be. I can’t describe the kind of experience we had making all of those collections together. While it stayed greatly the same, it seemed that every 6 months the Louis image would evolve, and reflect the knowledge Debi had for the young generation and the consumer that would approach the line in the way the sales consultants, like Arthur Jordan, would translate the line to the consumer. I have had a wonderful relationship with Arthur, and I have to say he was the only one who never had a problem translating the line because he was in complete symphony with the store. We spoke often and he gave me excellent advice and comments about consumer reactions as he made them try our garments.

Debi married the old Kiton world that was clothing, to the new world where Kiton started to represent lifestyle – jeans, sweaters, leather pieces, nice overcoats, etc. Debi always chose things from us that were different from the other lines. When all the pants were plain front, she bought them with one pleat. She was the one that wanted things to be a little shorter…or more flexible, etc. She was the one who said let’s design a new color, a new style, a little shorter point, a little more spread. Her sensibility for designing comes not only from her education but also from the artistic world of Art Basel and the old galleries she would visited in Paris , London and Milano – by herself. And I think we have to give a lot of credit to Debi for traveling all these years, at least 6 times to Europe per year, talking to herself about the selection she was making. Being sure that what she was going to invest in was going to be received in the store the way that she meant it to be. I understand because this is how I learned myself – traveling alone to suffer in silence while making great decisions.

 

JK:

What will it mean when Louis closes?

Massimo:

We will all miss so much when Louis closes. The only thing I can hope is that Debi will continue to help us, through whatever medium she can, continue to see her vision of the future. I hope to belong to a small club of people who can follow her as closely as we can, in the future. When she moved from Newbury Street, which became “The Louis Building” to the waterfront she had a vision. She had been hunting property down at Fan Pier when she first brought me to the area. The Volvo Ocean Race was passing through the city on its 37,000-mile journey, and I said to her, ‘It’s a parking lot with a great view,’ and she said, “exactly.” I understood immediately and smiled at her. I always supported her vision and she made a success of it, as she always does. She continued to share with me how she imagined the restaurant, and the store, and the light coming through, and the way she would present the garments to her customers. I know Debi still has plenty to share with us if she wants to.

I think we will all try to chase, in any way, the future of Louis of Boston, and Debi’s visions. The doors might be closing, but hopefully we will see something from her again.

We need to wait until Debi tells us something. So, we will wait.

Fashion in Boston will never be the same because what she did was so special. It’s like when you have a beautiful painting, created in a beautiful light. You can ask the painter to do it again, and he will always say, “I’m sorry, I can paint another painting, but not the same as the one that I already did. There is only one.”

**

As we began to conclude our conversation, Massimo stopped me and said…

“This is one little thing that I have to share. When Murray passed things to Debi, I was so nervous, especially during the first seasons, not knowing what would be. Once, she came to Milano and I was to pick her up at her hotel. After she got in the car I began to drive away. However, I was listening to her so intently that I didn’t notice a car parked on the side of the street…and smashed right into it. Debi said with her wonderful laugh, ‘Are you trying to kill me before we even start?’ I told her I was paying close attention to what she was saying and she said, ‘Well, you have to drive too!'”

**

And with that, Massimo and I shared a hearty laugh and a fond farewell. A lovely man. Truly one of a kind.

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Our beloved Massimo Bizzocchi

Discover Kiton, Cashmere for Fall. Luxury Like No Other.

I would hope this goes without saying, but it’s important that you understand I’m not just out here preaching about EXPERIENCE and APPRECIATION. I live it.

I want you to know that I don’t buy for Louis, and ultimately for you, from my computer. Doing so would be insulting to all of us, including the artists/designers who work tirelessly to craft impeccable garments that must be seen and touched to be appreciated. In my every effort to keep Louis looking and feeling like Louis, and make sure it never morphs into a “trendy” department store, I step out from behind my own computer and travel the world so I can ensure that the pieces I intentionally bring back to Boston are like nothing you’ve seen or touched before.

With that said…

While we’ve all been enjoying the sights and sounds and smells of the summer we never thought would begin, I find myself looking forward to seeing the leaves change color and feeling the slight chill that Autumn brings to Boston every September. New items for the season have finally started to make their way to the store, and while I am excited by every piece that comes in, none excite me quite like the menswear that has arrived from Kiton – especially their cashmere.

If you live in Boston, you simply have to have a different kind of appreciation for cashmere. We all need outerwear that’s deliciously warm, and while a puffy down parka will suffice, albeit awkwardly over a suit, it will never look and feel as luxurious as cashmere. In menswear, most outerwear cloth is purposely created to be an in-between weight that translates just fine in other parts of the world, but it just doesn’t work here in New England. Do you remember last winter?

When you visit Louis you will see cashmere from Kiton you likely won’t see anywhere else. From luxurious overcoats crafted from 600 grahams of blanket soft and incredibly warm cashmere, to lightweight cashmere jackets that look wintery, but feel comfortably cool. Offered in rich palettes that include beautiful browns, bright blues, and interesting olives, it’s immediately apparent that the man who shops here simply isn’t interested in adding another navy blazer to his wardrobe. The man who shops here is looking for depth and dimension, and Kiton delivers.

Not only will you see things here that you likely won’t see elsewhere, the shopping experience at Louis is also quite different. While other stores only offer “try on” pieces in navy or gray, along with fabric swatches to confuse you and make you wonder what your garment will actually look like once your order comes in, we want to do better. And we do so by investing where others won’t.

The bottom line is, when I visit the Kiton showroom I like to take some risks. Risks that other stores won’t take because having pieces handmade in interesting (and expensive) fabrics to carry in inventory is just not within their comfort level. Perhaps they don’t have enough confidence in their buyers, or perhaps they don’t have enough confidence in you. So in the end, they put the risk on you – with a navy “try on” and a 6-inch swatch.

Me? I’m I more than willing to take that “risk” because I have confidence in Kiton, I have confidence in my experience as a buyer after all of these years, and I have confidence in you.

Kiton has a taste level that’s unparalleled in the industry. They are the best at what they do, and I have no problem investing in the best.

Once you come in to DISCOVER and APPRECIATE the Kiton tradition of luxury, you won’t be able to live without it either.

Trust me. Try it on.

 

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Where Have All The Icons Gone? Menswear: A History

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that my affinity for clothing, especially men’s clothing, began long ago.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact I’m the fourth generation of my family to own and operate Louis, and all that goes along with that is now in my blood. Contrary to what people may believe, Louis wasn’t founded to sell women’s clothing. As a matter of fact, the history of Louis was built around the best menswear money could buy, and both my grandfather and father were pioneers in the industry.

My father, Murray Pearlstein surrounded by his cousins Louis (l.) and Jerome (r.)

My father, Murray Pearlstein surrounded by his cousins Louis (l.) and Jerome (r.)

From L to R: Nathan Pearlstein (my great uncle), Saul Pearlstein (my grandfather), and a few of their dapper friends.

From L to R: Louis Boston owners Nathan Pearlstein (my great uncle, Louis and Jerome’s father), and Saul Pearlstein (Nathan’s brother, my grandfather)…and a few of their dapper friends.

In the 1930’s and early 40’s, when the silent film era began to decline and “talkies” took over, the movie studios understood the value in their investments, and had beautiful clothes custom made for the actors in their films. They brought in the best tailors from Italy; to dress them, and give them what would soon become “signature styles.”

A craft that had been taught and passed down from generation to generation, the Italian tailors took the business of fabric, tailoring, and fashion very seriously. The garments were handmade, and depending on the region of origin, were distinctly different from one another. Hollywood brought them over to help their stars develop distinct differences as well, and they did.

You only have to take one look at the suits Cary Grant wore, with defined shoulders, lapels, and patch pockets…or the fitted garments Gregory Peck wore, with much stronger shoulders and very baggy pants, to see the incredible custom work that was being done and the impact these “style icons” were beginning to have on fashion. As Grant’s co-star, Eva Marie Saint remarked about the actor: ”Other men wear suits. But with other men, there’s the man and then the suit that’s on him. That didn’t happen to Cary Grant. Style was like (his) skin.”

Cary Grant

Cary Grant

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

When the war was over at the end of the 40’s the Italian tailors returned to Italy, but they took something from the United States with them. It was here that they first became privy to the concept of “off the rack;” and the understanding that suits did not have to be made entirely by hand to be special. For the first time they began to alter their designs for a much broader audience, and my father was among the first to buy them and bring them back to Boston. Even though the garments were now part of a larger production process they still had the quality only the Italian tailors could impart to them. They were still something special. Word spread, and toward the end of the 50’s and more so throughout the 60’s and 70’s, when the Baby Boomers were starting to take their fashion more seriously, Louis saw a substantial amount of growth. It was around this time, when I was a young woman, that I took a real interest in Louis and our family business.

My father developed a shop within our shop called “Down with Louis,” which was created for consumers in my generation. He was importing 3 piece suits from Italy, crafted in gorgeous gabardine fabrics, and sold them for $125 each. With a sales team made up of only women (including me!), our male clients couldn’t get enough and began to buy 6 or 7 suits at a time, in every color they could get their hands on.

As the 70’s wore on and designers continued to develop their lines based on the signs of the times, men’s fashion took a turn…for the worse. Men were being presented with Rayon suits and chunky, high heels shoes, and after a brief fascination with the trends, they started to turn in another direction. They abandoned these clown suits (sorry!) and sprinted back toward conservative and emerging designers like Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren who knew exactly how to “save” them. Throughout the 80’s they did just that by creating comfortable “uniforms” so men didn’t have to think or be different. They were simply, and gladly, fitting themselves in to the images the designers created. The “Armani suit” infiltrated the professional set, and from preppy, to safari, to dude ranch, to Wall Street – Ralph Lauren mastered the presentation. Men who weren’t sure anymore about how to dress themselves felt a wave of relief. It was all there for them. It was painless, mindless, and safe.

They ran from this:

1978 Men's Fashion Advertisement Vintage 1970s Menswear 5-1

To this:

Armani

Armani

and this…

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren

Similar to the history in women’s fashion, the 90’s brought all things to a screeching halt because Generation X wanted nothing to do with nostalgia or achieving a particular “look.” The truth was everything to the contrary. The demise began with the notion of “Dress Down Friday” which turned into, “Fu*k it…let’s dress down every day.” “Deconstruction” and “Grunge” made men deconstruct wearing a suit to wearing, well, anything…and besides bankers and attorneys, you would see everything from ripped t-shirts, old jeans, sneakers, and even pajamas on the street. This was fashion?

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Later in the decade the tech bubble burst which required GenX to find “real” jobs and present a bit more professional. Suits were still out of the question, and when the next century began a new uniform emerged in the form of no crease, no stain, fabrics made from Petroleum and Teflon. White t-shirt + blue button down shirt + gray suit =  fashion? I know you remember it well. photo

Soon thereafter, with a downturn in the economy, men’s fashion began to genuinely lose its footing and once again men became unsure of where to turn…to find another uniform. Because of the spread between generations, and due to the fact that is no longer a “one suit fits all” landscape, it seems that luxury department stores have had to divide the shopping experience for men into “tailored” or “designerwear.” In my opinion, they’re getting extremely lost on the path between two places, and I think their customer is getting lost right along with them. Tailored clothing are no longer one style fits all, and designerwear has developed into extremes that are unequivocally not for everyone. barneyspicstitch

To be honest, if they don’t find what they’re looking for soon I’m afraid men are going to rebel like they did in the 70’s and we’re all going to find ourselves staring out into a sea of mediocrity once again.

So where do men turn for their inspiration today?

Long gone are the days of Marcello Mastroianni, who ordered custom suits from his Roman tailor….and the rugged dressed-down style of Steve McQueen…and the New York City grit of Al Pacino. From the casual cool of Marlon Brando and James Dean, to the sex appeal of Richard Gere in American Gigolo and the power of Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street,” who are men looking to for inspiration today?

Are there any icons out there?

If you find them, will you let me know?

Brando, Dean, McQueen

Brando, Dean, McQueen

Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve

Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve

Pacino, Gere, Douglas

Pacino, Gere, Douglas

This brings me full circle to my affinity for menswear, and fuels my purpose to bring inspiring pieces to Louis today. I travel the world with what I just shared with you in mind, and remain determined to help men find a way to pack their jeans away. It just has to happen! I make it my mission to help men who shop here find their own contemporary, relevant sense of style – where clothes are tailored correctly to fit closer to the body without looking awkward, and where urban and athletic style come together with PANTS, refined hoodies, gorgeous fabric, gorgeous blazers and sophisticated sneakers that will blow them all away…

Long Journey jacket, Mathias pant, Greg Lauren plaid shirt, Public School sneaker

Long Journey jacket, Mathias pant, Greg Lauren plaid shirt, Public School sneaker

Tim Coppens jacket, Ami shirt, Valentini pant, Tim Coppens / Common Projects sneaker

Tim Coppens jacket, Ami shirt, Valentini pant, Tim Coppens / Common Projects sneaker

Belvest Jacket, Malo hoodie, Haider Ackermann tee, Tim Coppens pant, Belvest scarf

Belvest Jacket, Malo hoodie, Haider Ackermann tee, Tim Coppens pant, Belvest scarf

Long Journey jacket, Melinda Gloss shirt, Massimo Bizzocchi tie, Haider Ackermann pant, Public School shoe

Long Journey jacket, Melinda Gloss shirt, Massimo Bizzocchi tie, Haider Ackermann pant, Public School shoe

I’ll leave you with this…

I remember once, when I was young and single (oh yes I was!) and living in a Townhouse outside of Boston, an acquaintance asked if they could set me up on a “blind date.” Never one to turn away from trying something new, I agreed and waited, and wondered who would arrive at my door.

After several days of anticipation, the date was upon me. I remember hearing the doorbell ring and walking to the door with the anxious/excited feeling one (hopefully) gets just before a blind date and swung open the door.

To my excitement, the man who stood before me surprisingly very handsome, and I felt a wave of relief take over…until my eyes left his face and found their way to what he was wearing, and before I knew what was coming out of my mouth, I said, “I’m sorry, you must have the wrong address…I’m waiting for my blind date!”

He didn’t get it. Do you?