His talent for combining tailored suits with relaxed workwear has made him a star in men’s fashion circles. We travelled to Milan to have a chat with style consultant Alessandro Squarzi about his vast collection of white trousers, his love affair with social media and his 30 year career in the fashion world.
WHITE TROUSERS in autumn. Through winter. During summer. Come rain or shine – Alessandro Squarzi wears his pale signature trousers. “They shouldn’t be too clean; they should be like a part of you. I wear them for two to three days before washing them – and I’m someone who appreciates cleanliness,” says Alessandro.
It’s a hot late summer’s day in Milan – perfect for white jeans. He combines them with a white shirt with Korean collar, a light-weight Solaro jacket and a bandana around the neck. Always dressed in whatever takes his fancy on that particular day.
“I was photographed by a Korean magazine today. After that I changed my outfit and simply wore whatever I felt like. I often wear a Korean collar actually.”
Alessandro Squarzi is the vintage collector, designer and style consultant behind the hugely popular Instagram account that feeds a hungry audience with inspiring photos from a globetrot- ting life. Newspapers can’t get enough photos of him after discovering his success on Instagram. More than 100,000 people follow Squarzi’s visits to book shops and fabric warehouses and trips to Saint-Tropez and Milan. His audience is even bigger in The Sartorialist where he’s been featured regularly since 2009, back in the early days of the photo blog. Preferred outfits include white jeans with a military jacket and cigar, or a perfect suit from his 82-year-old tailor in Rimini. It’s no coincidence that the Italian is always seen dressed with perfect, nonchalant negligence. As the Instagram hashtags say: “Gipsy classic.” Squarzi is a successful wizard on the fashion circuit and has been for some time. His white rabbits are magicked from a sharp intuition for the beautiful and authentic, not to mention his natural talent. A few years back he was involved in selling Dondup to luxury giant LVMH but has also launched brands such as Jucca and Forte Forte.
“I’m convinced that everything you do that comes from the heart will do well. My talent consists of watching the market, understanding what people want and then giving it to them. I create a brand and make it important. Just like with Dondup.”
Now he is in the process of doing it again with AS65, a contemporary interpretation of the fur-lined winter parka, and Fortela, his own brand that he has big plans for.
“We’re doing great work with Fortela. Sales are already good in Korea, Japan and the U.S – markets that are receptive and appreciative of things that are authentic,” says Alessandro.
Being authentic means wearing the clothes himself. With Fortela he creates clothes he would like to wear but can’t find. The designs are his own while the vintage fabric has been gathered from forgotten places: dusty tailor’s shelves, military material and old French mattresses. Upcycling, as we might call it in 2016.
“I can’t tell you anything yet but in time for the next winter season we are going to present something beautiful. People are going to talk about what we’ll be showing at Pitti Uomo in January.
Born in 1965 to a working-class family, Squarzi had no connection whatsoever to the fashion world. As a 14-year old he searched for white jeans in the markets of Montagnola outside Bologna.
“I went to the markets to buy second-hand jeans as that is what I could afford while my friends bought brand new Levi’s.”
His career started in 1992 as a sales assistant in a clothing store. The very same year he opened his first showroom, which has since expanded to Milan, Florence, Bologna and Ancona. Today he employs 40 people to look after a number of new brands that are hoping to emulate Squarzi’s success story.
“Fashion is what I always wanted to do in life. I’ve been fascinated by the fashion world ever since I was a young boy and I started out completely empty handed as a sales assistant in a shop.”
Could the interest in clothes have come from his father perhaps? Always elegantly dressed, the man has remained one of Squarzi’s biggest fashion role models. A chequered camel coat is one of Alessandro’s most cherished items of clothing.
“My father got it when he was my age. It’s an exquisite masterpiece and a classic item that never goes out of fashion. After forty years the coat is still perfect,” says Alessandro.
He sums up his own style with a few words that could have belonged to his father’s generation.
“I try to never dress unsuitably. I would say that I wear classic clothing and add something of my own.” This could be a pair of red socks with a chocolate-coloured, tailor-made suit; chequered Vans sneakers with casual jeans or a sturdy military jacket that sets the mood. This is pretty much the same style he’s always had. “My taste hasn’t changed much. I wore white jeans when I was young and still do.”
A rebuilt silo hosts the archive. The fashion connoisseur collects his old clothes across the 500 square metre space in Forlì, his native town that lies at the middle of the Italian east coast, a three-hour drive from Milan. Alessandro claims that he’s got enough clothes to last him for the next hundred years and that he’s never thrown away one single item in over twenty years. Here you will find ex-quisitely tailored suits, scarves, and black and camel-coloured coats and, of course, endless amounts of white trousers.
“People don’t wear white trousers, they’re scared of them. They need to open their eyes and stop wearing blinkers like a horse.” Even if fashion might advocate tight jeans or shirts you still have to think about what suits your body. I don’t like men in elastic trousers, they’re not real men.”
The fashion might change, but Alessandro Squarzi doesn’t. He points out that his tattoos have nothing to do with being fashionable. The first one he had done aged 22 in Miami by Lou, a tattoo artist who has inked celebrities like Mickey Rourke and Foxy Brown.
“The tattoos are a part of my history and say something about my life. The first one I had is all about feathers, a Native American symbol. It stands for family, values and roots. Another one that means a lot to me is my daughter’s name inside a sacred heart.”
Authentic. The word keeps cropping up when he’s talking about himself. Squarzi attributes his success on social media to his own authenticity.
“The fashion world is developing. Globalisation means that people want things with a story, things that are authentic. I don’t believe in bloggers much. It’s a fake invention that will die out. My Instagram is a view of my world and the everyday life I live. I wear my own clothes and don’t need to be given things.”
In 2009 Alessandro Squarzi made his first appearance on social media after an American suddenly started to snap away at him with his camera. When it happened a second time, Squarzi mentioned it to his wife: Very strange about that American photographing him again.
“She told me it was Scott Schuman and well, I didn’t know who it was. He’d just started out shooting back then. Schuman continued to run after me and we became friends as I always treated him just like a regular person. Now we regularly spend time together. I visit him in New York and he comes to see me in Milan.”
“Us Italians are always going to have class, great taste, great food and the world’s most renowned lovers. The world wants Made in Italy.”
The interest in clothes is not something they share however. The Italian bluntly asserts that The Sartorialist doesn’t really understand such things.
“Scott is an American. He only understands the people who wear the clothes, he even says so himself. He is, although, a big fan of Made in Italy, with its tailoring and beautiful fabrics. But he’s American and doesn’t really get what style is.” According to Alessandro, this is something that Italians do understand.
“Here in Italy the culture of tailoring, fabrics and craftsmanship is huge. We could have been the richest people on earth. But sadly we’ve been bought and sold for half the price.”
Alessandro Squarzi adds that the future looks bright.
“Us Italians are always going to have class, great taste, great food and the world’s most renowned lovers. Made in Italy is life itself. The outside world comes to us wanting Made in Italy and there’s a reason for that.”