Despite living in London since starting up his eponymous menswear business six years ago, Luca Faloni has clearly lost none of his characteristic Italian flair for hospitality. He first came up with the idea for his brand while doing a stint as a strategy consultant in San Francisco. What if, he thought, you could give customers the best of Italian design and craftsmanship for a third of the price. And he did just that.
But just how did Faloni build his business, capture the enduring appeal of Italian design, and what has he learned from it all? Read on for the story behind one of Gentleman’s Journal’s best loved brands.
I have a strong view about how a shirt or pair of shorts should be. However, as a customer, I couldn’t always find what I was looking for. One year, Dockers changed the belt loops on their chinos and made them diagonal. Why?
Some people say, “When are you going to do new products?” We don’t need to. Look at a man’s wardrobe; it’s the same items – these trousers, those shirts – just in a few different colours. We need to improve the products we have and just add colour choices. If you have the best linen shirts in the world, that’s a big market.
We spend a lot of time thinking: What makes a shirt the perfect shirt? We only use mother of pearl buttons. The collar is a one-piece collar, so it’s cleaner and it stays up without collapsing. We think a lot about the angle of it, too. There’s no placket for the buttons. We think about what you can remove to make the design better.
I’m from Turin. It’s the first capital of Italy, the city where the monarchy was based. They call it the little Paris, but I call Paris the big Turin.
90 per cent of my friends have stayed in Turin. I got lucky. There was a maths teacher who asked me where I was going to university. I told her Turin and she said, “Absolutely not.” I think that’s the day that made the most difference in my life. She told me I had to go to Bocconi University in Milan – I didn’t even know what it was. Through Bocconi I went to America and then to London. If I hadn’t had that conversation that day, everything would have been different.
I was at Wharton, where Donald Trump went. I saw all these other young people raising money from venture capital, starting companies. Some of them went bankrupt, some of them made it huge. But people didn’t seem scared of starting stuff – it was normal.
When I did my masters at LSE I went to watch a speech by EasyJet founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou. Beforehand, I went to the bathroom and he was next to me, so we had a brief chat. I asked him what age I should start my business. He said: “Start it at 28.” Why? There are clear studies that show at 28 you are experienced enough not to make silly mistakes and you are young enough not to have too many commitments. You can take four or five years of risk. And, almost by chance, I ended up starting my business at 28.
I’ve read a lot about optimising your week, your day and your hours. I do work a lot, but not always in the times slot you’d think. I like working on Sundays, when you can focus because people aren’t sending emails. I like working at night, too. If I’m behind, I just work until five or six am and then it’s done.
Important trends? ‘Nesting’ is one. With companies like Netflix, Urban Massage and Deliveroo people are spending more money at home. It might be sad from one point of view, but it’s also efficient.
In Italy we develop more designers because of the heritage. Having Armani and Versace means people want to study design. Some nations develop an intrinsic advantage in one area which perpetuates. But we don’t have many large, global companies. Italians are either too humble, think they’ve made it, or sell up too soon.
Want to learn more about Luca? This is what his perfect weekend in London looks like…