An Italian in New York
Lifetime: How did the Domenico Vacca brand begin?
Domenico Vacca: The Domenico Vacca brand started 15 years ago. I felt there were few brands in fashion that were really making true luxury ready-to-wear collections. Many were using the word luxury, but few were really making exceptional products. I wanted to fill that high-end niche and that is exactly what we did: create amazing ready-to-wear and bespoke clothing and accessories collections for men and women, made by hand by the best Italian tailors, seamstresses and artisans. La Repubblica, the leading Italian newspapers, called Domenico Vacca within 2 years from the launch of the brand the “Ferrari of clothing”, from that day we have become the ultimate luxury brand in clothing and accessories.
Lifetime: How did you learn the business of fashion?
DV: I grew up in the South of Italy in a family that was already deeply rooted in the business of fashion. I grow up on…tailor tables. My grandmother owned her own atelier since 1920, making beautiful women’s dresses and all my other relatives from my mother side had men’s tailor shops making 100% handmade clothes. That was my initiation, my school. 20 years later, when I decided to start my own brand I spent two years working on my first collection and learning everything I need it to know about transforming my vision into reality.
Lifetime: How would you describe your Italian heritage? How has it helped?
DV: To be Italian and to be in fashion is the perfect combination. Growing up in a country that has the most art in the world helps a lot. Since you are a kid you walk through beautiful streets, you visit beautiful churches, you see frescos everywhere, beautiful monuments, the Italian Renaissance, beautiful color combinations everywhere, an heritage of style that you cannot find in any other place in the world, the colors of Italy, the sea, the countryside, Italy is an inspiration, an amusement park for creative minds…like mine.
Lifetime: How did you conquer the United States, a traditionally difficult market for foreigners?
DV: Hard work and a vision. I wanted to bring the original Italian style to the United States. All the other Italian brands, when they entered the American market, were selling to departments stores and their buyers would make them change fit, style, quality of the fabrics, and use more and more machine in the making, in order to have a more affordable product that would fit every Aamerican. My goal was different, I wanted to educate Americans about the original Italian clothes, the Italian fit, the Italian style without any compromise…and look at the Americans walking down the streets of New York, Miami, Los Angeles now, you can actually spot some of them looking very …Italian.
Lifetime: How would you describe your high-end, upscale brand? How did you build this beautiful all-encompassing universe for the discerning luxury lover? The fashion store, the café, the hair salon, the barbershop, the private club, the residences.
DV: After we had three Domenico Vacca stores in New York for 15 years we decided to put all of them under the same … roof and we created The Domenico Vacca, a ten story building on 55th Street and Fifth Avenue right in the heart of the New York shopping area.Lifetime: At The Domenico Vacca we have our 16,000sf flagship store for men’s and women’s that includes a cafe, an art gallery, a barber shop, a hair salon, a private club, a photo and media studio and 30 short term rental luxury residences, all Domenico Vacca decorated and furnished. When we entered the American market 15 years ago the goal was to bring the true Italian style to the United States, now the goal is to create and Italian experience, drink the best espresso in New York at our cafe, get a shave at our barbershop, get a blow dry or a manicure at our beauty salon, have lunch at our private club, visit our art gallery all while doing some great shopping or talking to our image experts helping you to build your new wardrobe and, if you want or need to …you can even move in one of our residences. Fashion retail is now more about the experience than the shopping, you can shop from home, and many of our clients do that also on our website, but if you want to spend some quality time for yourself and really experience our brand and a unique luxury experience The Domenico Vacca is the place for you to visit and spend some quality time with …yourself.
Lifetime: Do you do a lot of limited editions and by-request pieces?
DV: Yes, we do. Our bespoke men’s and women’s program includes more than 2,000 fabrics from Super 160’s wool to Vicuña, the most expensive wool in the world, for jackets, suits, pants, skirts and overcoats, and another 1,000 fabrics for shirts and blouses. We also custom make shoes, handbags, luggage, belts in exotic skins including crocodile. We also custom make watches, jewelry, home furniture and tableware beside having a full ready collection for “instant shopping” in all these categories. We are the watch makers of clothes and accessories, everything we do is valued by how many complications it has, exactly like a watch, every suit, every shirt, every accessory has an almost infinite number of complications, the way we make the shape of the pockets in a jacket, the way we stich it by hand, the way we cut the fabric, the way we center the crocodile skin in a pair of shoes or an handbag, it takes hours and hours, sometimes days of work of expert hands of master tailors and artisans.
Lifetime: How important are watches for your business?
DV: Very important because my clients love watches, many of them are serious collectors and they pushed me to design our own Domenico Vacca watch that is very unique, it is the only watch in the world to have a crocodile face that matches the crocodile band and comes in 15 colors in a five timezone style. Very unique and very …Domenico Vacca!
Lifetime: Your collaboration with Entourage was outstanding – fashion design at its best. And you are known for your successful movie collaborations in general. Are you planning another Hollywood partnership?
DV: Thank you. We have developed a great relationship with Hollywood. Entourage was a great project and dressing main character Ari Gold played so well by Jeremy Piven was to be part, with our clothes and style, of American pop culture. It was almost a 10-year project between all the TV series seasons and the movie and I think trough Entourage we took part in the evolution of men’s fashion in the United States and perhaps also in those countries were Entourage was showed. Doing wardrobe for movies and dressing movie stars like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Denzel Washington, Jeremy Piven, Will Ferrell, Forest Whitaker, Harrison Ford, Terrence Howard, Diane Keaton, Renee Zellweger, Glenn Close and many others and dressing on the red carpets of the Golden Globes and Oscars Daniel Day Lewis, Forest Whitaker, Alan Arkin, Steve Carell, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Mickey Rourke and many others has helped our brand to be known worldwide. We are working on a great project for the big screen, the wardrobe for Robert De Niro playing Enzo Ferrari in the new movie about Ferrari and on a TV series project called Framed, about the art world.
Lifetime: What are the things that men should have in their wardrobe at anytime? How about women?
DV: A man should always have 6 crisp white shirts, a navy blue blazer, a pair of great jeans, a grey suit, a blue suit, bench made loafer, double monk strap shoes and of course a navy blue Domenico Vacca tuxedo…it brings good luck, it is a matter of fact that every nominated actor at the Golden Globes and Oscars who wore a Domenico Vacca tuxedo…won! For women: a great pair of high heels, a pair of loafers, a black dress, a handmade tailleur, a pair of jeans, a white shirt, a silk blouse and our signature Julie handbag in crocodile.
Lifetime: How would you define true luxury?
DV: The sensibility to appreciate the finest things in life. Luxury is not about an object, it is a state of mind.
Lifetime: What is the concept behind the Domenico Vacca Luxury Residences? How do you see this segment of your business developing?
DV: To bring in home decor and hospitality our DNA made of attention to details, craftsmanship, style and fashionable living. Next step is to have a full Domenico Vacca furniture and home collection and have Domenico Vacca hotels around the world.
Lifetime: How would you define the best in-store shopping experience?
DV: The one that does not feel like you are … shopping.
Lifetime: What plans do you have for 2018?
DV: Keep being better at what I do and keep dreaming about creating great experiences for our clients. In particular, to develop the many business that we have under the roof of The Domenico Vacca in New York and have them become a spinoff of our brand and make them have a business life outside our flagship store. Also, we just launched The Shops at Domenico Vacca, an extension of our retail area at our flagship store in New York where we are offering to high end brands the opportunity to join us in creating a true embassy of luxury in New York.
Lifetime: Many are talking about a downturn in 2018 – what is your opinion and what is the best strategy in these times?
DV: We have been in a downturn in many businesses for several years already. The way of doing business as changed almost completely in the last 10 years. Best strategy is to adapt to the new times, focus and think creatively.
Lifetime: What is your favorite thing about New York?
DV: That still almost everything starts or arrives in New York, one of the few places in the world to live where you feel you are not missing out on anything.