“Put most menswear on a table and it all somehow looks the same now,” says the flamboyant Angelo Galasso.
“You have to open the jacket to see the label to know what you’re looking at. What I want to offer are clothes of distinction.”
Blurring into the great morass of grey conservatism is one thing Galasso has never done.
His may not be a name to rival fellow Italians Armani or Versace, but he has had his influence on menswear: Galasso is the car salesman turned investment banker, turned shirtmaker, who launched the Interno 8 brand in 1990, bringing with it not just the Gianni Agnelli-inspired watchcuff - a section cut out of the cuff to better accommodate a statement, and typically extra large watch - but a trend for towering collars, open necks and loud prints that defined the style of the premier league and, in many instances, still does that of TV presenters. In short, he rescued the humble shirt from wardrobe obscurity, creating a 100 shop international business in the process.
“But,” Galasso adds of his decision to sell up, “I like to work with passion and just didn’t feel it anymore.
“We’d built a new reputation for the shirt but I spent a lot of time on the shop-floor and could see that the the market was going towards something more haute couture.”
And he isn’t kidding. Haute couture may sound like an exaggeration, but Galasso’s latest incarnation - as the front man of an eponymous brand, via launching Billionaire Couture with Flavio Briatore, with whom he has been through a protracted and “stressful” legal battle - comes close.
It is not for the wallflower: lavish print and colour, crossed with a high Italian luxe creates the kind of menswear one does not forget, for good or ill.
Everything, from fat ties to pointy shoes, is available in a more bespoke version should you wish to turn the volume right up.
Shoes, in fact, are a good example, available as they are in crocodile and ostrich, but also stingray, python, goat, mink... Even jeans may weigh in at £5,000 a pair, thanks to gold rivets.
“It’s about selling the right fashion for the right customer,” says Galasso, now 53, who admits his determination to stand out probably comes from his growing up in a big family - even as a teenager he was using local factories to alter his clothes, having brightly-coloured piping put on, for example, or jackets made of blanket material.
“And there is a customer who wants something different, something bolder. Too many brands just use womenswear to sell menswear - they just put out a few suits as an afterthought. There isn’t really anything special out there for men.”
Indeed, for those more comfortable with muted sobriety, Angelo Galasso’s clothes may prove a leap too far. After all, as he notes, most shoppers - and for that matter, most shop buyers - are “scared of buying anything too different because they’re used to buying the same thing over and over”.
But for those bored of the same old, same old, his style is a breath of Neapolitan or Florentine air. For those who can look beyond the extravagant detailing - a jacket lined with tie silk, for example - it is, Galasso argues, actually all rather traditional: Savile Row on a psychedelic high.
“Savile Row,” says Galasso, “because that’s where the most elegant men are. There, and in Naples.”
Galasso concedes that, despite the rapid launch of womenswear and even childrenswear spin-offs, his new brand is niche - more a case of ‘build it and they will come’ than answering a clear need. But he hopes to, as he puts it, “catch the right moment” in a changing male sartorial psyche.
“Whenever we open a new shop it’s a risk of course. But so far they have always shown that there’s a customer for what we make,” he argues.
“I think so many men out there feel that designers rarely think about what they want, or understand that now the male personality is different, and that men want to look different, to dress more expressively - perhaps a little more flashily, but certainly differently, and to get complimented for doing so.
"You can’t overdo the flashiness, of course - you do it with one piece, not head to toe. Some people will still think it’s too much, and that’s fine.”
Fine perhaps because Galasso - who thinks he could build his young business up into another 100 store chain - has something of a track record of going his own way and finding enough men to follow him.
It was while he was working in finance and unable to find clothes he liked for himself that, despite a lack of training, he started to make his own. Soon colleagues were placing orders, enough that he decided to make it full time - with the novelty of having 14 women on motorbikes bombing around Rome taking client measurements at work.
Soon after that, the unlikely combo of Jay-Z, Tony Blair and the King of Jordan started buying too. Similarly, his own label has attracted the custom of Paul McCartney, David Beckham, Michael Caine...
“When Coca-Cola was launched its growth was all about word-of-mouth,” says Galasso, by way of analogy.
“People just asked for it, until an agent turned up, started pushing it, and then suddenly everyone wanted it.”
Similarly, now, he reckons, we style-conscious men are all undergoing what might be called - turning to another foodstuff - the mozzarella transformation. Think back, Galasso asks, just a decade, to a time when mozzarella could be bought almost anywhere in the UK.
Now think of the kind of burrata mozzarella that can be bought today and which comes, coincidentally, from the southern Italian region where Galasso was born. It’s in another class. It’s the kind of difference men are seeing in their clothing choices. Just don’t drip the olive oil on any of it. n
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