Uncovering Italy’s Superlatives in people, places and things

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Italian Savoir Faire with Robert Rabensteiner

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If you want style, study the history of fashion. Look at real people, look at the books, look at art”

Robert Rabensteiner

Fashion’s trailblazer

One look at Robert Rabensteiner ~ his casually layered jackets of impeccable tailoring, details and textiles, casually tied scarf, and clever footwear ~ and you know that he means style.  For decades, Rabensteiner has been one of fashion’s trailblazers, setting (and breaking) fashion benchmarks with his classic aesthetic and trademark eclectic touches.

Born and raised in Austria, Rabensteiner entered the Milan scene in the mid1990s at l’Uomo Vogue and immediately established a life-long professional collaboration and friendship with iconic Vogue Italia Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani. “I grew up with Franca. Franca pushed the envelope and transmitted Italianità to the world,” explains Rabensteiner.

“Italians have always been aesthetically on point.”

Italianità, or Italianness as it is loosely translated, is complicated. Considered it the essence of being Italian, intermingling cultural history and regional and territorial personalities with personality.  Add in innate sense of la bella figura, the art of dressing well to make a good and lasting impression, and you’ve got Italian style.  It is indimenticable (unforgettable), seen in the colour, cut and fit. And it’s subject to season, event and imagination. “If you go to the beach, you have one style, if you go to the restaurant you have another. 

Rabensteiner and Franca Sozzani

And it is always related to beauty,” comments Rabensteiner, reminding what the world sees as a single sartorial savoir-faire is uniquely and distinctly interpreted from city to city and region to region.  In other words, what looks good in Rome might not make the style pages in Milan.

Sartorial Inheritance

Aesthetically on point and innately stylish, we are a country of people who love moda and design.  It makes sense.  Italians have always been front and centre in the world’s pioneers of fashion – historic tailors, shoemakers, hat makers, textile designers, artisans whose techniques and innovations are coveted, imitated and exported.  But where does Italian style come from? Rabensteiner views it as cultural inheritance.

“The grandfather sets the style for his sons, for his grandsons,” he explains, adding that nonni and parents are the keystones to Italian culture, as well as fashion sense. Understanding how to put thing together is passed down like a family recipe or an heirloom watch.  Case in point: Giovanni Agnelli and his grandson Lapo Elkann.

The most important gift is observation

It’s not just what is been seen, but ways of seeing.  “When I’m at the airport, I can tell who is Italian by how they are watching other people, not just by what they are wearing,” says Rabensteiner.  It’s all about observation, and Italy is a nation of people watchers, intently ingesting the scene to see all the players, what they are wearing and how they are wearing it.  Rabensteiner grew up an only child to deaf parents, and attributes his passion and success in the fashion, design and art to a childhood of watching, looking and observing.

“The most important gift is observation”, Rabensteiner shares, and it’s fundamental to personal style. Great genes or jeans withstanding, key to style is also about taking in what’s in front of you – art, architecture and people – and interpreting in your own way. 

The Elements of Italian Style

Menswear: Always go for classic with a touch of modernity or the ironic.  Remember that even if a jacket is always a jacket, it can be playful.

Must have:  a classic shoe, sunglasses, beautiful scarf

Womenswear:  Take advantage of all of the new silhouettes a and new cuts.  Women can and should be more playful.

Must have: evening dress, gorgeous shoe, sunglasses.

Photo courtesy of Dylan Don

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