Scarves as a mean to freedom, the social value of rules, rituals and traditions and why dressing is so much more than a frivolous thing
We met Gerardo the simplest way. On the second day of our first ever Pitti Uomo, he and wife Margherita Cardelli step by our booth to say hello and see the new additions to the collection. They found out about the brand the previous summer when Margherita bought herself a piece of Gênes, 09h17 at the Pelliclub, the boutique of Hotel Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole.
The feeling of like-mindedness and immense gentleness of Gerardo and Margherita was stunning; we just met but it felt like we have known each other for quite some time. Not mistakenly that very same feeling kicked back each and every time we would meet, most of the time around Negronis’ at Harry’s Bar in Florence under the high patronage of Matt Hranek and the WM Brown project.
Gerardo is a tailor. One of the most elegant men in the menswear scene today. The epitome of sartorial flair. An Italian movie star allure backed with down-to-earth, authentic values about life. The simplest sophistication and the chicest nonchalance. Someone worth knowing really.
He sits with us today for a chat about how and why is dressing so much more than a frivolous thing.
Here it is, in full length.
LBH: Hi Gerardo, thank you very much for taking the time to sit with us; we know you’re quite busy these days so it means a lot.
GC: Hello Sylvain, I am currently working on the new women’s collection and on the launch of the men’s ready-to-wear collection for our brand Giuliva Heritage Collection, so yes I am quite busy. I have a great team to support me though, which allows me to take a few pleasant breaks from work. The long hours spent talking with you – in the way too rare occasions we get to see each other – are proof of my constant search for a stimulating and interesting interlocutor, as well as proof of how much I enjoy talking to you. I feel this will be time well spent, so thank you.
LBH: Thank you very much for your words, it's a shared pleasure really. As a starter, we’d like to know more about where you come from; where did you grow up exactly?
GC: I spent my childhood in a small town called Montoro. It is not far from Salerno, a beautiful city that overlooks the sea, like Latins used to say, mare nostrum; I am viscerally linked to that city, I really grew up among the old town’s streets and in the waters of the Amalfi Coast, another wonderful place of which I know every single detail and view. So many memories link me to those places. I lived them intensely as if they were a great love. Then, for a greater love, the one for Margherita, I moved to Rome. I return to my sea every time I have the chance. The places where I grew up, the memory of those colors and smells are for me a constant inspiration.
LBH: What was your connection with style growing up?
GC: I received a strict education, not different, however, from the one that 40 years ago was given in many Italian families, especially in the south of Italy. I come from a small city, where some educational methods and social habits have never been entirely unhinged. Fortunately, I would add. In those places everything flowed quite slowly; everything was punctuated by symbols, signals and rituals (at that time we had not yet been influenced by customs and traditions so distant from ours, everyone maintained their own tradition, xenophilia is only a phenomenon of these days). This made me live constantly in contact with some precise models, rich of history and tradition; layers of experiences that crossed social customs also during my teenage years and that left, without me noticing it, a strong trace inside me. Try to imagine, for example, the ritual performed by a boy, who admitted in the adults’ circle, was finally allowed to wear long trousers; or, the change of suit after sunset, the habit of systematically avoiding to wear clothing with patterns at dinner time, or the ban of jeans and similar things.
I’ve always looked with respect at traditions, admiring the history that generated them and the reasons that grant them an incredible longevity; history and tradition give us an identity, providing us with tools to understand, appreciate, and live in a way rather than another. It is our roots, without which we would have nothing to tell and therefore nothing to pass on.
Having said that, I believe that my passion for the way of dressing has been mainly fuelled by my grandfather, and I believe I absorbed it just as any other type of teaching. There was Latin, Greek, art history and then there was my grandfather, with his teachings (his brother was a tailor, his name was “mastro Giannuzzo”. I preserve and often wear some suits he had made for my grandfather). I learned from my grandfather how to tie a tie or a neck scarf or how to shine shoes; but regardless of the practicality of daily gestures, the thing that was really interesting was represented by what was behind every choice, dictated – according to his judgment – by a natural attitude, for a determinate type of man, of feeling the need of dressing. This was not to complement his personality, but rather to communicate it, without talking. It is a concept that is mainly linked to the interior substance, to social and cultural maturity that a man possesses, or should possess. The external form is nothing but the reflection of what we are, and of what we have inside.
LBH: Those stories are so inspiring Gerardo, getting back to the social and cultural meaning of clothing is so essential; how does it infuse in what you do today?
GC: I try to translate my baggage of cultural and social experiences in the work I do today; this helps me to have some stable references, which for me are very important to maintain the custom tradition alive, just how I received it and how I intend it today. Often though, I like to color tradition by experimenting shapes, weights and geometries which sometimes give a less formal flavor.
LBH: Sartoria Giuliva is redefining the classical approach to menswear by exquisitely combining the strength of rules and traditions to a delightful, Neapolitan lightness; how would you describe the unique position it occupies in today’s menswear scene?
GC: I would like to know where you read this news! I’m joking. This makes me happy, it repays the efforts of a constant work, often carried out in a sought-after, deafening and blissful solitude. I simply try to convey my passion and I try to present to others my personal point of view; not only through the suit I wear, which, as beautiful as it may be and despite the many functional details, still remains just a suit. I try to convey all that revolves around a certain way of living, of which clearly the suit is a part. I often manage it, sometimes I don’t. According to this way of seeing for example, I prefer blazers with more generous shapes, more abundant – both in the lapels, as well as in the length and in the width; or for example, trousers that are high rise on the waist, harmonious from the leg to the bottom of the trousers, avoiding any extravagant stretch.
LBH: We love your take on volume and proportions, it always convey a high level of comfort in your attitude. What’s your relation to it?
GC: Feeling comfortable in what one wears is the first rule to avoid looking like a mannequin. As I said earlier, the choice starts with one’s own personality.
LBH: Let’s get to that mystic, philosophical school you’re preaching around the world that is, ‘Giulivismo’. Would you tell us more about it?
GC: I’ve never thought of a real cultural movement, but apparently, it’s becoming quite famous. I’m joking. It is actually a way of approaching life, carefree but not superficial. It is a sort of optimism and positivity manifesto, where values, traditions and authenticity are established. It’s the search for beauty in little things and gestures. The search for real life, the beautiful one.
LBH: We couldn’t relate more to that. It seems that you’re also applying that concept to womenswear through Sartoria Giuliva Heritage, that you co-founded with your wife Margherita Cardelli.
GC: Yes, I started adapting shapes, styles and fabrics originating from male tailoring. In this case, as for all the other choices I made in my life, I never followed a trend, but rather my passion. For me, it all started from a true story. My wife started wearing blazers and coats which came from my cupboard. She wore everything with extreme balance and without any stretch. From there, I started elaborating my image of women, as a harmonic style, softer, more gracious, but at the same time strong and full of personality. I like the result I reached so far, but the most interesting thing for me is that everything is still in a continuous, slow evolution.
LBH: Your work is deeply inspired by the past; how do you relate to modernity?
GC: I often look back on the past because I find more inspiration, especially in the way life was intended. I am not a nostalgic, I simply believe that in the past everything had its precise connotation and a precise function, including that of communicating, to whom watched, the soul of which it was made. From cars to objects, to clothes. There were things called “quality”, “reliability”, “warranty”. Things were made with a soul, as they say. If today we still can live things which were crafted 40, 50 years ago, it means that these really worked. In the past, things weren’t consumed so quickly as it is done today. If I drive a car from the 70s, or I wear a suit that used to belong to my grandfather, this means that I don’t really need to substitute neither of the two: these still fulfill both their practical and aesthetic function. Today we have too many tools at our disposal – we have instant access to culture through google, we have technologies that now perform tasks that were once performed by our brain. We are becoming lazy, and this does not allow us to really choose what we want. The result is a general flattening of the various personalities that would be supposed to emerge. Going back to your question, how do I relate to modernity, I answer: I observe it, I study it, I criticize it, I admire some faces of it. Yet, then, I live according to rules and customs that don’t have an expiration time, this doesn’t make me feel like I live in the past.
LBH: Very interesting, some kind of curation of modernity. How do you infuse this approach to what you do?
GC: In the past and in the traditions I talked about, I find a characteristic that for me is the key to everything I do: authenticity. I try to convey my personal concept of authenticity.
LBH: Talking about authenticity, you’re the face of the 1st issue of WM Brown Magazine, the manly lifestyle publication of your friend Matt Hranek where you appear in an intimate and sublime story shot in the Middle of Campo Imperatore, Abruzzo. A concept that you share with Matt and that infuses everywhere in the pages of WM Brown magazine is the ‘Maschio Vero’; would you tell us more about that?
GC: With Matt everything started from a joke (as most of the things I do today, they start from comparisons on deep topics addressed with irony; Giulivismo is this as well). We were asking ourselves what a real man wears, eats, where he goes on vacation, what car he drives, and things like that. It was clearly ironic, but from those ironic talks, we realized how much men have drifted away from their definite universe (as definite as a universe can be), from customs, rules, more or less fixed in time. Men have perhaps lost their social dimension, devoured by appearance, rather than fed by their inner self.
LBH: You’re probably one of the most elegant people in the menswear scene today, really. How do you approach the process of getting dressed in the morning? Is that something you put lots of thoughts in?
GC: I’d like to know where you read this news, I’d like my mother to read it. For me it is quite natural. I approach my cupboard, holding our daughter Aida Atena in my arms and our Italian Bracco Ottone between my feet. I have a coffee and think of the day I’ll have. I look back at the cupboard and I get dressed. Everything is very simple.
LBH: What about colors?
GC: Choosing colors is quite easy. I believe everyone has a color that identifies them. So, I know I am not every color, but just some colors. For example I know I am not the color black (other than for the smoking). I love, for instance, mixing colors and fabrics that alone would seem discordant and instead, when put together, find a harmonious dimension.
LBH: What is style to you?
GC: Style, for me, is the footprint of what one is. Through its own style a person can communicate its taste and also its way of thinking. When someone’s style is not pretentious, or merely copied, this contributes to the expression of its personality.
LBH: It appears that you wear lots of scarves. What do you look for in a scarf?
GC: I love neck scarves. My grandfather used to wear them often. A neck scarf gives me a strong idea of freedom, of dreams, it lets me imagine travels to distant lands that then in time I live for real. Yes, a neck scarf needs to be a good travel companion.
LBH: How do you wear it usually?
GC: I like to tie them not too tight on the neck, letting the tips fall on the chest. I also often wear it without knotting it, by simply putting it under the neck of wool, short-sleeved sweaters (that apparently are summer t-shirts just for me.)
LBH: You’re the owner of a Senigallia 15h32, 60cm format. What do you like about it?
GC: I love that scarf. Going back to the colors I was mentioning earlier, I am one of those colors. Soft at the touch, but at the same time fresh. It’s the size that I prefer in a scarf.
LBH: How would you describe LBH in 3 words?
GC: Fresh, dreamy, free.
LBH: Who would you like to read on our next issue of the Style Talks?
GC: I’d like to read Matt Hranek, he is a really stimulating person with whom to discuss these topics.
LBH: Thank you very much for this Gerardo, it has been so rich, and best of luck for your upcoming projects.
GC: Thank you, it has been a pleasure.