The Canali man makes a conscious decision to go contemporary while still maintaining a sophisticated air.
JUST so you know, the original James Bond wore a Canali suit. That’s what it says in Ian Fleming’s book apparently, and so did another well-known spy, the Saint.
“We have had our share of gentleman spies,” said Paolo Canali with a smile. The third generation of Canalis involved in the close-knit family-run business, Paolo, 50, confessed that he was groomed to be acquainted with the business from an early age. “But when I was nine years old, I did dream of running my own newspaper,” he quipped.
Founded by brothers Giovanni and Giacomo Canali in 1934 as a gentleman’s outfitter, the brand today specialises in the designing and manufacturing of men’s clothing, including accessories, and can be found in over 1,000 locations worldwide.
Synonymous with the quintessential gentleman dresser, the Canali name has long been associated with impeccable suits, immaculate quality and classic elegance. Once regarded as the suit for the discerning “older” man, the brand has been reinvented to portray a more youthful and trendier image, yet still refined and sophisticated.
The latest Canali Spring/Summer 2014 menswear collection reflected these modern aesthetics, with attention to details, bright colours, slim silhouettes, masterful tailoring and top notch fabrics.
In an exclusive interview at the Canali headquarters in Milan, Paolo talks to Star2 about the new collection, the Canali heritage and a peak at what’s in store for the future.
Star2: What is the inspiration behind the Spring/Summer 2014 collection?
Paolo: Each season, our inspiration comes from a different city. We started with a tribute to Italian cities and have gone around the world, including cities like Tokyo and London. This season, we looked at Paris and concentrated on the the ideal shade of blue (which we named Klein Blue).
Tell us more about the new collection.
It’s really about being trendier and more casual, while still looking sophisticated. We’ve got comfortable jackets that are light, made with soft fabrics, items that are elegant but not rigid, which is especially good for summer. The jackets are shorter, has more waist. They look more modern and relaxed. At the same time, we believe in comfort and achieving balance.
Who is the Canali man?
He could be a businessman, an entrepreneur, a self-made man, a doctor. He is sophisticated and knowledgeable about style and quality, and appreciates the intrinsic value of the brand. We’re not a “trendy” brand. The Canali man knows what he wants, and makes a conscious fashion decision.
We have a very loyal clientele. They say the world has changed all because of a woman! (That’s a good thing for us!) As men want to dress younger, sharper and look more fashionable for women!
In past few years, our formal jackets, knits and leather pieces have become more fun. There’s this perception that men want to dress more casually these days. So, the look has become more contemporary. We always try to be more elegant, sophisticated, but we’re also proposing a fresher look, one that’s a little more edgy but not too extreme.
How do you view the current Malaysian market?
Canali has a long history in Malaysia and a good experience in the market. It was a well-considered decision to open in Penang and we are confident it will do well.
What of the Malaysian man?
In the early years, the men who were very traditional would look to what their fathers and their peers wore. Suits were only for special occasions. However, the world has become “closer” thanks to social media and Internet exposure, making Italian fashion more visible to the new generation.
In terms of trends, Canali has always tried to understand local needs and we have catered to that by looking into lighter fabrics (less than 200g), which are half the weight of what they used to be. It’s more difficult to make suits of lighter fabrics as Canali suits are all handmade, so we need really skilled workers. The Malaysian man is quite different and he prefers something brighter. Colours like purple and yellow have become quite classical colours in Asia.
In Italy, heritage is a source of pride. What about Canaali?
Heritage plays a very important role for Canali. Our values are rooted in the past, passed down from one generation to another. The know-how is passed down, which is often lost in today’s fashion. Such craftsmanship can only be kept alive when it is conveyed though a small family-type of business. The idea of having artisans and tailor-made clothes was very important to fashion in the past. But after the war, there was a huge transformation in the clothing industry, afterwhich many businesses went into mass production.
Canali made a conscious choice not to compete with the masses and chose to specialise in the niche market (of elite menswear). Some companies carry diffusion lines, but in order not to betray the quality of our clothes, Canali will not do so. It is exactly what Canali stands for – an elitist view – which is why we will not embark on a women’s line either.
We will continue to be tactical in our approach and are constantly sharing input with our designers. The key is to keep fine-tuning the formula. Of course, it’s becoming more of a challenge these days. For example, it used to be impossible to get quality clothes through the Internet, but that’s changed. Perhaps, we may look into having a stronger presence in the digital world in the near future.