The style icon, nearing 80 years old, who continues to push the boundaries of quality craftsmanship.
Luciano Barbera is something of an institution in Italy. As the son of renowned fabric manufacturer Carlo Barbera, he grew up in an environment where quality and craftsmanship were ever present. Luciano was born in the beautiful province of Biella where he still lives today, nearly 80 years later. This is also home to the world-renowned Carlo Barbera mill. While Luciano is known for being the designer behind the eponymous brand Luciano Barbera, it all began with fabrics and the art of cloth making.
What are you working on at the moment?
“Right now I’m developing a completely new kind of natural fibre that we plan on utilizing in our cloth manufacturing, which will then be used in our clothing and other products. Without revealing too much I can tell you that the characteristics we’re refining are sustainability and that the fabrics are biodegradable and environmentally friendly.”
I’m also the chairman for the Biella Master of the Noble Fibres Foundation. The aim of the foundation is to offer a select number of postgraduate students a range of courses that teach them all the aspects of modern and traditional methods of working with the most exclusive natural bres, like cashmere, mohair, linen and silk – from yarn to the nished piece of clothing. My idea inspired the foundation of these courses in 1986 and I have been an active part of it ever since. The students begin their journey in the classroom at the Citta Studi University in Biella and nish with a practical module which includes various internship stages in Australia, New Zeeland, Japan, China, Europe and the U.S.” (Those inclined can find out more at Biellamaster.it)
In your opinion, what makes a person stand out style-wise?
“I want to believe, or at least hope, that all people are unique in their ability to choose the contents of their wardrobe – accessories, colours and so on – with the aim of standing out and perhaps even to the point of being envied.”
Who has been the biggest influence on your sartorial development?
“It was in the 60s when I stepped through the doors to Santoria Consilvio, on Via Fratelli Gabba in Milan, where I met the renowned tailor Mario Pozzi. He immediately became a kind of “doctor of the soul”, a role he then held throughout his life. He also helped me develop my personal style which later laid the foundation of my menswear collections.
I still remember the magnificent feeling of trying on the suit he had made for me for the first time. “Wear it, move about, and sleep in it. It should become like a second skin. Only then can you truly call it your own.” “Mario Pozzi and Mario Caraceni created my coats, jackets and suits. My shirts were made by Vittorio Sinischalchi and the shoes by Antonio Bentivegna. I view their masterpieces as my personal archive and as a constant source of inspiration.
As a young man I was an apprentice and studied in England. I developed a strong admiration for the British nobility, in particular the casualwear made for riding, playing cricket and golf. When I returned to my father’s mill, Carlo Barbera, I began to design fabrics where the colour and texture took their inspiration from these elegant Englishmen. In 1975 I designed my first menswear collection in the same vein.
“I was fascinated by the Duke of Windsor’s style. I once read that the duke – who changed the strict British dress codes of his time by wearing softer, more comfortable and impeccably-cut suits – had the same tailor for more than 50 years.
“Mario Pozzi joined Mario Caraceni at his tailoring house at Via Fatebenefratelli where they created an exclusive meeting place for the international elite of the best dressed. When I met this aristocracy I was amazed that every individual was able to express their personality and style through their choice of colours and accessories. It became my personal philosophy: A few well-tailored jackets and suits can be transformed into a great number of outfits just by changing the accessories. To simplify to an extreme, you only need two suits, two jackets, 30 shirts with a variety of collars and colours and 50 ties to create a varied wardrobe. Every morning I make a choice based on my mood.”
Do you feel that italian men have a different approach when it comes to style today?
“The Italian man is a seducer, it’s in his nature. He is individualistic, vain, re ned and picky. He expresses himself through his clothing and wants to stand out and be unique. In the past 30 years the fashion industry has seen a positive development with a focus on more natural silhouettes that accentuate the body rather than hiding it.”
What are your thoughts on the development of classic menswear fashion in recent years?
“I’m saddened by the tie disappearing and the American “casual Friday” mentality which robs people of the ability to express their creativity and finesse and replaces it with a blasé parade of blue jeans and polo shirts. Sadly we can see this dull practice reflected on the streets. “A small number of gentlemen with magnificent personal style do appear but they’re a rare breed today.”