We don’t always take the opportunity to focus on menswear here at TCLB, but when we do it’s going to be for something good, and this is no exception. We had the pleasure of sitting down [and enjoying a glass of wine, of course] with young Italian tie designer and mogul Massimo Scapellato of DolcePunta Neckwear [and his lovely colleague, Laura] to discuss their work, fashion, family and generally living the good life. Ladies, if the men in your life are in need of ties then Dolcepunta is the way to go.
Prior to the fantastically successful and decidedly “manglam” event hosted by Frederick Lynn Haberdasshere feting DolcePunta, our contributor Greg got to step out from behind the scenes and sit down with Massimo and Laura, taking a glimpse into the wonderfully soulful world of European design. Sitting down in Frederick Lynn owner Aaron Comes’ impeccably masculine office, we took a trip to the hills of Pescara…and enjoyed every minute. The pride Massimo takes in his work is extremely evident, and we should all take copious notes on both his artistry and passion as well as the unmistakably Italian way he is finding success while enjoying La Dolce Vita.
[Greg] Welcome to Chicago! What do you think about the city? You’ve now been here for almost two hours…
[Massimo] I like Chicago. To me it’s the closest to New York, and that is my kind of city.
Me too! They are so different, but we think you’ll like it. So you run and are the creative force behind DolcePunta neckwear. When did you start with the company?
The company has eleven years at this point, and I work since ten. Step by step I started when I was still in school. I started working part time in the afternoons and evenings following my father, and then year by year I started to work full time.
So this is a family run company. Has the family been in the tie business of ties for a long time?
Yes, my father has been in the industry for 40 years. He created all the neckwear for Brioni, so that’s why I was born in my mind with ties.
Born into ties! Well Italy has such a culture of fashion. Did you always love fashion and wear ties as a kid?
Yes, I always appreciated fashion, but I didn’t always wear ties! But when I started with the company I start to play with ties, even with a cardigan. This is very casual [he motions toward his fabulous cardigan] but you always need a tie.
You do look great, by the way. Do you have any tips for how men can wear ties more casually?
Yes, in the summer I love to wear a tie also with a polo and maybe a light jacket. Do it with a cotton tie. Very good for summer!
You don’t really do a lot of press, in general, but your product is so well received here. Are you looking to expand here more in the states?
Oh yes, we have a million ideas, and as you can see we’re young, and crossed fingers, we would love to expand the brand. Always focused on the ties, not other products. What we sell, we produce; that is very important to me, my concept. Usually when you have a brand after ten years you say okay lets introduce a shirt, cufflinks, but then someone else has to make that for you, and I don’t like that.
The ties are handmade. From where do you source your fabrics?
From Como, the silk capitol of the world.
[Amelia] And George Clooney! That’s what I know about Como….
It’s high on my list for both reasons! Well Chicago isn’t known for being the dressiest of towns… Do you have any tips for the Chicago man for casually wearing ties?
No, just do it. [*laughs] I mean, you always have to renovate your ideas. It’s always comfortable to wear a tie if you wear a good shirt and its soft and you yourself are relaxed. That way you can be comfortable. Maybe it’s a lightweight cotton or a linen jacket. Even if you are on the beach, drinking a good mojito…you should still be wearing a tie.
What are your simple style rules for a successful young man?
You mean, suggestions? A good shirt is very important to me. You can have a great jacket or cardigan, but if you miss the shirt it’s just bad. Also a good hat. I almost always wear a hat. It’s an expression. Have you ever been to Italy?
NO, she has [to Amelia] but I have not sadly. I can’t believe I’ve never been.
You should visit Dolcepunta!
Oh we WILL!
Well you must. You know what let me tell you this, and this is very important. When people ask “what makes the difference with your ties, they’re beautiful, bla bla…” This is the difference, the secret is this: we start working at 8am. At 10 we have a break of 20 minutes, everyone. All the women, all the family has a break of 20 minutes and we have an espresso all together, with Italian Mocha of course. At 12:30 we have a lunch break, two hours. Then at 4 we have a coffee break of another 20 minutes, and then we go home at six. That is the secret to the product, because you go slowly. You don’t have the pressure to produce and to produce and produce. If you have to make more ties, and we hope so always, you just add a new person to help you produce, but you don’t go faster to produce more ties. Try to think of this, and you get a good sense of the product.
Wow, I am so impressed by the level of pride you take in the product.
You know, I could spend a lot less money to produce a tie, but you want something special. Say I spend ten on one tie, I could spend one, but you can’t and you don’t want to do that. Even if the final customer most of the time doesn’t recognize the final product, the real quality, but if you keep doing it right then everyone will recognize the quality as a whole in the end, even with you at the other end of the world. Okay? When you have pride in the product you know that it will translate.
You decided to stick with the family business. Why not try something else for a while?
We are all friends. Our parents were very successful at keeping us all close. I am a very lucky guy. My parents are first of all my friends. I work with my sister, we send 20 or 30 emails a day, but firstly we are friends. We play, we laugh. This is the most important point, and I feel very lucky.
Well that is not always the case with a family business!
My parents know how to handle sons and daughters, and they also understand how to sometimes stay away from some of the discussions. They are very very smart. If you are intelligent, and I am not necessarily talking about me, you can have much success.
Was it hard for your father to step away from the family business?
No, he was very happy. [*more laughs all around] He called me, for example, a few months ago, he said, “Hey Massimo, there is someone in Sweden who wants to see our products and blah blah blah. You know what? I’m going to Capri; good dinner and the beach awaits me. YOU are going to Sweden.” We always laugh and that is the key. You know the coffee break? That is not a silly thing…
So what are your current sources of inspiration?
You know, if you wake up in the morning and see the olive trees, not traffic, you don’t have the noise, you have a big house which is really a home. Oh! And once a week, and this is not a rule but it’s spontanio…spontaneous! The women of Dolcepunta create this beautiful handmade cake: real bread, which we eat during break with olive oil and salt. It doesn’t get better.
I’m pretty sure my heaven looks like perfect bread, olive oil and salt! What is the vision of the company moving forward? How will Dolcepunta look different between you and your father? When your father created the company it was a different customer.
It’s about the service. I would say in a few years, no more than ten, there will not be any more the store that will sell to the traffic but will be more like Frederick Lynn. It will be about the experience. People will get smart and passionate about how they spend their money, and they will want something unique. Made to measure will be a real logo, a real thing but accessible. All the factories will have to change. Maybe you don’t want to spend $5,000 on a suit, but people will still want it to be personal, but also quick. “Made to Measure” will have to be both special…and fast.
Well this has been a real pleasure. Massimo, Laura… you are both so lovely. Thank you for taking this time. Let’s go play with the ties! This outfit needs one!