Celebrities and executives seek out Dominic Lacquaniti's suits, preserving a craft that's disappearing.
When Keith Urban came to watch his wife, Nicole Kidman, in her new theater production in London in September, the country music star looked sharp in a suit made by a tailor in Naples.
Tucked in a strip mall on U.S. 41 next to a cremation service and a florist, Rocco's Tailor Shop has developed a reputation as a tailor to stars, corporate chieftains and Wall Street investors.
“I fell in love with the nostalgia of the business,” says Dominic Lacquaniti, 42, as he proudly rolls out the Super 240 fabric he'll use to make a $10,000 suit.
Rocco Lacquaniti, his father and master tailor, moved to Naples from New Jersey 20 years ago. Like many entrepreneurs, he failed at retirement and opened a shop in Naples that grew with the town.
Meanwhile, the younger Lacquaniti worked with the world's top fashion houses as a broker for Italian mills in New York City's garment district. But Dominic Lacquaniti was burned out and didn't like where fashion was headed. “I got sick and tired of China,” Dominic Lacquaniti says. “It was so dumbed down and cheap.”
So in 2011, Lacquaniti fils joined Lacquaniti pÃ¨re at Rocco's in Naples. “He thought I was crazy,” says Dominic Lacquaniti. “I was making good money” in New York.
Dominic Lacquaniti also hated growing up in a tailor shop. “I started out making hangers, turning on the boilers, picking up the pieces,” he says. It would be years before dad trusted son with a tape measure.
But while working in New York, Dominic realized his father's skills would be lost if the next generation didn't learn from the old-school tailors. “There's not a lot of them left,” says Dominic.
Blame the rise of mass-produced suits and Americans have embraced a more casual approach to clothing. But the trend may be reversing: “There's a whole new movement of guys dressing up,” says Lacquaniti.
Southwest Florida's weather is no excuse. “Men used to wear sport coats,” Lacquaniti says. “It's a lie that it's too hot.”
Lacquaniti started a club at his shop called Jackets Required. “I just wanted to see guys dressed up,” he shrugs. It's an invitation-only group of seven to eight men who have purchased two suits or sport coats at Rocco's and they get together for wine and conversation. Then they pick a restaurant and have a fine meal. Even when a restaurant is full, the group gets seated immediately because they're impeccably dressed. “All eyes on us,” Lacquaniti laughs.
Lacquaniti declines to cite financial results of his shop but notes it has recorded 8,000 transactions in the last two years. The average sale is $3,500.
Lacquaniti travels to Italy twice a year to buy material for suits. The Super 240 he uses for some suits, for example, costs $800 a yard.
The Naples Winter Wine Festival in January brings a flurry of business, says Lacquaniti, who chatters with his father in Italian and fuels his days with espressos.
Lacquaniti says word of mouth is his best advertising, though Keith Urban gave him permission to promote the shop on social media. He's ambivalent about promoting his business with celebrities. “Great tailors don't give away their client list,” says Lacquaniti, who once played guitar in a rock band.
Lacquaniti has recruited tailors from as far as Argentina and the Dominican Republic. Five work in the shop now. “I think we can become bigger,” he says.
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