A visit to a tailoring house sparked a passion that helped focus this Italian fashion entrepreneur's future
Founder of The Bespoke Dudes
Co-founder of TBD Eye wear
Born in Napoli, Italy, Fabio Attanasio is a man of many talents. He has a Law degree, writes for international style magazines, founded a leading Italian website championing craftsmanship and tailoring (The Bespoke Dudes) and co-founded TBD Eyewear, an exclusive Italian Eyewear company. He is a busy man but we managed to grab some time with him to discuss his passions, his motivations and his influences.
You’ve been wearing the brown braided Awling belt, so what do you think?
I love it, I have finally found a brand of beautifully made belts, I love the quality of the leather, the design and the fact it doesn’t wrinkle (he has a walnut brown braided).
How do you move from law to fashion entrepreneur?
I studied Law at Bocconi University in Milan, but I quickly realised my future was not in law. It wasn’t until I did a semester studying in Buenos Aires that I realized my passion lay elsewhere. Being so far from home, I saw things through a different perspective and started to explore my passion for writing and fashion through blogging. I have always had an interest in fashion, not high fashion but the style epitomized at events like Pitti, where style and individualism are the focus. In 2012, I launched the website, The Bespoke Dudes, with no particular plan but to share my passion in the industry. I love telling stories and writing.
As well as writing for the site I was also writing for a number of fashion magazines. For one particular assignment I was sent to a tailoring house and that was it, I was in love - the craftsmanship, the heritage, the fabrics and the art.
I have travelled all over Europe and to New York in the last 7 years, visiting over 120 workshops, learning from the masters of their trades, from hat makers to shoe makers and everything in between with one aim, to learn about the craft. I wanted to tell their stories and champion the unsung heroes of tailoring.
What would you say are the key differences between Italian and English tailoring?
Italian tailors focus on a handmade suit, each one can take up to 60 hours to make and no machines are used. The fabric is lighter, especially in the iconic Neapolitan suit, and the focus is not on the perfect fit but a more relaxed cut in keeping with the climate.
With the traditional English style, fit is key. This is epitomized by iconic Saville Row tailors Kent & Haste, where each suit is perfected over 3 to 4 fittings and produced with heavier fabrics. The British layering is also inspired by the military to work in the cooler climate, which is not an issue we have in Napoli!
You have launched your own product now but how did you decide on sunglasses?
Four years ago I launched TBD Eyewear.
I had been working with brands on product placement and realized I could offer the same service to our own brand. I love wearing sunglasses, in particular small more unknown brands which always generate a lot of interest from our readers. I had initially hoped to collaborate with one of these brands but the timing wasn’t right. At this time I met my business partner, Andrea Vigano, who has a background as an entrepreneur and in digital marketing complemented by fashion knowledge, and the brand was born. Initially we found a family run workshop who agreed to make 12 pairs for us and now 4 years later we are producing 10,000 pairs a year!
It was important for me to work with small family run businesses. My mission is to help artisans to keep their skills, to create a handmade product where the minimum amount is made by machine so each pair has its own story. For example, we have an 82-year-old man who is in charge of aligning the arms of every pair of TBD Sunglasses. Our suppliers have grown with us and it’s been an interesting learning curve understanding how different suppliers work with different materials, finding suppliers that fit with TBD Eyewear ethos and growing together.
As Awling is proud of its British heritage, TBD Eyewear is fiercely Italian which is something our global customers love. In fact most handmade Italian fashions are exported worldwide, predominately to the UK, US and Asia where the trunk show phenomenon has taken off.
When you have some free time, where do you like to travel?
I have fallen in love with Colombia after some amazing travels there last year. I experienced the barrios of Medellin and rode horseback through coffee plantations in the company of our 60-year-old guide Oscar. I was blown away with the vibrancy and warmth of the people, the pride from the importance of preserving the land to communities taking things into their own hands to improve their futures.
What have been your key influences?
Italian actors from the 50’s and 60’s. There is a famous Italian actor called Toto, who stared in almost 100 films in the 50’s and 60’s. I was so inspired by the cut of his jackets I asked my tailor to create the look for me.
I’d also say Cary Gant, for me he epitomizes classic male elegance. I am starting to appreciate the stylish men I meet who live their elegance in silence, they dress for themselves not an audience.
What tools are you never without?
MacBook air, phone, Moleskine notepad and my Mont Blanc.
You now live in Milan, what are your recommendations as an insider?
VUN – Milan’s no. 1 restaurant with two Michelin stars, so not so much a hidden gem but a must if you are in town. It is headed up by Chef Andrea Aprea, a proud Neapolitan. Every dinner here leads you on a trip to the South of Italy without having to move from your chair, it reminds you of your childhood but introduces innovative pairings and new ingredients.
Then it would be off to 1930, the first speak-easy bar in Milan. The oriental coffee shop décor and prohibition styling ignite the magic. Behind the bar cognac, whisky and niche gins are served and the cocktails are considered an education in drinking. How to find it? Oh, I couldn’t possibly tell you that.
And finally... What does style mean to you?
Style in my opinion is the ability to let your nature, your attitude and your clothes coincide to express a unique beauty.
Thanks for reading