Art of Style

Strong Suit

Dominic Lacquaniti sets a new standard for menswear through his Naples atelier that turns shopping into a refined experience.

BY June 1, 2020
Courtesy Dominic Lacquaniti/ Mark Poucher

Going into D. Lacquaniti Bespoke is an immersive experience. When you arrive, you’re greeted by Alexander von Kreuzberg, the shop’s Swedish concierge, who is always dressed to the nines with a silk ascot, vest and stacks of jewelry. If you’ve been to the shop before, he’ll greet you by name, and whether it’s your first or 10th visit, he’ll make you feel like royalty. At some point, you’ll meet Teddy Dobos, from Hungary, and the Albanian-born Ornella Cipi—the two sewers who stitch every piece that comes out of the shop. Nicholas Swacyra might pop into the frame, too. The bright, 25-year-old moved to Florida from Chicago for the sole purpose of apprenticing under Dominic Lacquaniti—the 45-year-old tailor who serves as the connective thread for the multicultural cast of characters that make up this Naples atelier.

A fabric savant, Lacquaniti works with mills across Italy to secure a range of fine materials in limited quantities, so no two looks are alike.

The future of in-person shopping in the face of a pandemic is uncertain. Even before the pandemic, brick-and-mortar stores were already struggling to compete with online retail. In an age where shoppers can buy anything with a few deft touches on their smartphones, a store has to offer more than merch to stand out—there has to be heart behind the operation.

In the local menswear space, Lacquaniti is forging the new path in shopping, with a model based on white-glove hospitality, interactive experiences and originality.

When you visit the atelier on U.S. 41, you enter into a warm and welcoming space, with leather armchairs and copper ceilings. A dramatic neoclassical-inspired painting, depicting a gentleman riding a horse, anchors one of the walls, and antique sewing machines line top rows of pine and oak shelves that hold color-coded stacks of fabric hand-picked by Lacquaniti from various Italian mills. On a handful of shelves, mannequin hands and mini figurines flaunt samples for various cuff and collar styles one can choose from.

The entire operation can be described as handsome, exuding a classic sense of masculinity, but Lacquaniti takes an unrestrained approach to fine tailoring. His is the atelier for the modern man—though rooted in timelessness. “Men’s clothing and styling is all about history,” he says. “You have to know where you come from to know where you’re going.”

Lacquaniti moved to Naples full-time seven years ago, when he joined his father, the late Rocco Lacquaniti, in the tailoring business that Rocco established in the ’90s. Though his father mostly focused on alterations, Dominic embraces the Old World approach, where people frequent the tailor for made-to-measure clothing. At the atelier, the team hand-selects fabrics and measures, cuts, and sews each piece—from relaxed day wear to evening suits—to the client’s specifications.

Lacquaniti, who was born and raised in a Southern Italian family in New Jersey, credits his father for blessing him with an innate understanding for men’s garments. But the younger Lacquaniti forged his own way in the industry. After studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology, he spent the first 15 years of his career traveling between New York and various locales in Italy, sourcing fabrics for brands and working alongside names like Nicole Miller, Proenza Schouler, Zac Posen and Oscar de la Renta.

All that experience gave way to him opening D. Lacquaniti Bespoke in 2018. Through his atelier, Lacquaniti aims to elevate men’s style in Naples, a city he feels lacks an aesthetic identity, but has all the potential. In this socially active town, he says, “women look absolutely beautiful,” and men can stand to “step it up.”

The first order of business, he believes, is in educating the local man, many of whom limit their wardrobes to shorts and T-shirts on the more relaxed end to a three-piece suit on the formal end of the spectrum. Lacquaniti argues there’s a large gray area in between, filled with tailored denim, drawstring pants, soft-collar shirts, unstructured sport coats, suede loafers, fashion sneakers and other laid-back essentials. “These pieces define a ‘quiet elegance,’ which to me is the ‘Naples look,’” he says.

He educates people on textiles and which fabrics work best for our climate (Hint: lightweight wool is better than silk. “You’ll be cooler and look cooler,” he says). And though the designer has many gifts, his understanding of fabrics is unmatched.

Though suits remain a priority, the tailor encourages clients to play with lapel and cuff styles, cuts and pattern choices, as well as more relaxed pieces, like unstructured sport coats, drawstring pants and soft-collar shirts.

In fashion, everything starts with textiles. A year or more before a collection is launched, designers travel to Europe to source materials. The options inform the collections for the fashion houses. For years, sourcing textiles was Lacquaniti’s job. Those relationships are evident in the shop’s assortment. The designer gets single cuts of the textiles to guarantee no two jackets are the same.

His background in womenswear gives him an edge in designing, as he can think beyond the rules of traditional menswear. But it’s also garnered Lacquaniti a following with high-power women who come to him for sharp suits that don’t compromise on the female form.

At the core, though, the business relies on the old adage that proper tailoring is the key to proper dressing. “It means you’re paying attention,” he says. “It shows that you care.” This applies as much for galas as to everyday wear. Even a basic T-shirt looks sharp when it fits well.

Lacquaniti also aims to change the psychology around shopping—especially for men who are typically less inclined toward the activity. At D. Lacquaniti Bespoke, shoppers sip on espresso and talk about motorcycles and cars with Lacquaniti and his crew, while being measured and fitted.

In the near future, Lacquaniti looks forward to expanding his business to create a one-stop style center, or as he calls it a “men’s emporium,” where people will be able to get fitted, get a cut and shave, commune with fellow aesthetes and stock up on other fine goods, like cigars and scotch. Within a decade, he sees himself launching a ready-to-wear collection and a namesake cologne, and having a team of tailors he can deploy to clients’ homes.

The vision is grand, but it’s the intentionality behind the operation that most draws people here. Lacquaniti doesn’t see the atelier as a superfluous fashion resource. He finds the most satisfaction in helping others, and sees his work as a conduit to help people feel better about themselves.

After the pandemic struck, it didn’t take long for his team to start sewing face masks, donating more than 3,000 in the first couple of months to people in high-risk areas around the country. Recently, the team also rolled out D. Lacquaniti Bespoke Masks, which are made-to-measure with the same high-quality fabrics used for the clothing (though clients can also opt to supply their own materials).

We’ll all have to continue to adjust. Social distancing practices are forcing everyone to adopt new perspectives and priorities. But it’s also paved the way for creativity and support for local businesses to flourish. And with places like D. Lacquaniti Bespoke, we can all feel a little better about putting our money where the retailer’s heart is.

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