A Great Tailoring Culture – An Interview with Paolo Canali
Recently, David Jones hosted a fantastic lunch at Restaurant Hubert to celebrate the launch of Canali’s new concept store in David Jones’ Market Street. Over baguettes, salted butter and steak frites, we were educated on Canali’s rich culture and history in menswear. A family owned business, now being led by their third generation, Canali has grown from a single shop in Italy to operating in 110 countries and employing over 1800 people.
We were lucky enough to have Canali’s own Group Commercial Director, Paolo Canali, there with us. I had the opportunity to meet with Paolo and ask him a few questions about Canali’s background, their place in the Australian market, and a few of his favourites when it comes to suiting.
What’s it like being involved in such a successful family business?
There’s an emotional part and a rational part. Emotionally, every day you feel the pride to continue the story that was first started by our grandfather and passed down three generations. The feeling of continuing that story is one of the strongest forces that keep our seven very different individuals together. At the end of the day we are a family like a million others with different ideas, characters, and approaches to business. Rationally, the big advantage of the family business is the approach is definitely more long term. We’re always making decisions with the next generation in mind. The decision process is less focussed on the short term advantages, and so the decisions are not always understandable straight away but they will be in the future. The disadvantage is that you’re always talking about it! Christmas get-togethers usually turn into business meetings.
How does Canali address the Australian menswear market?
In Australia we know it’s quite fast paced. Around 2005, 2006, we noticed an evolution in the Australian men’s market, more than in any other market, and we also noticed a change in taste. Our design team has grown from 5 people to 15 people because we know that in order to compete in the market, we need to have a high quality brand but also remain very avantgarde each season. Obviously we’re talking about a specific niche, our customer is not a typical customer, which makes the problem a little more difficult too, so we play with the details. I could say that again the Australian market is always changing, maybe even more open minded and less conservative, more ready to embrace new ideas, but with the right attitude.
What’s your favourite decade in menswear?
For me, it was the 1950’s and 60’s. It was the time of La Dolce Vita. There was the economic growth and boom, and historically, it has been called the golden age of Italy. Before the 50’s the well tailored, good quality clothing was only available to the very rich, but as a result of the economic boom it became more accessible, because more people could afford a nice suit or a nice jacket. But at the same time, it was the decade of some very iconographic movies, where you have the symbols of a great tailoring culture. Very elegant.
Pinstripes or window pane?
For me, window pane is very modern now. It’s definitely more the look of the moment. Personally, I feel sorry because I’m a huge pinstripes fan, but it will come back. It always does.
We would like to thank David Jones, Canali, and Paolo for having us there and wish Paolo all the best for his time in Australia.