you have hand-tailored clothing Made By siMilar processes in larger Factories, But it’s so industrialized, so perFect and regular, that it loses the artisanal aesthetic.Antonio Azzuolo
When Antonio Azzuolo arrives at the Bowery Hotel for our meeting, he is more than a little cranky. The New York factory where he makes his tailored menswear is changing hands, and the new management doesn’t seem to care as much about precision. He may have to move his business. The 42-year-old designer also happens to be jet-lagged, just having gotten back from Taipei, where he was meeting with the owners of a mid-size brand of which he may soon be tapped to serve as creative director. It’s just one result of the growing notoriety of his five-year-old label, capped in 2012 with Azzuolo’s nomination for the CFDA’s Swarovski Award for Menswear. I want to ask about the award, but Azzuolo won’t stop talking about the factory. “You have hand-tailored clothing made by similar processes in larger factories, but it’s so industrialized, so perfect and regular, that it loses the artisanal aesthetic,” he says. It is unsurprising that a threat to quality has Azzuolo beside himself—tailoring is in his blood. His father was a tailor who immigrated to Montreal from Italy but had to change careers to support his growing family. Azzuolo has carried the memories of his father’s custom suits through his 22 years in the industry, from fashion school at Toronto’s Ryerson University to his work for Kenzo, Hermès, and, most prominently, Ralph Lauren’s Purple and Black labels from 2006 to 2008. “Everything is niche,” he says. “There will never be another luxury brand like Ralph Lauren, one that does everything.” But this doesn’t mean Azzuolo’s niche needs to be a small one. While he cannot abandon his commitment to the precision of his signature blazers—lush examples of classic menswear gone modern, traditional cuts spiced up with alternative materials like denim or covered with floral patterning—he wants to bridge out. “I think a lower-end collection could work really well,” he says of his possible next move. So what does he need to make that happen? “Bigger balls,” he jokes. “Money. Money and boldness.”
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