Inspired by Italy’s sexiest industrialist Gianni Agnelli and embraced by London’s City boys, the shirts of luxury tailor Angelo Galasso are truly one of a kind, says GQ editor Dylan Jones.
In 1999, I was in Monaco a few days before the Grand Prix. I’d spent all day in the hills and had come back to the harbour for dinner with a Californian friend who was entertaining a dozen or so people on his 49 metre yacht, which I think had been built by Admiral.
As the guests arrived, kicked off their shoes and grabbed a glass of Champagne, I noticed that nearly all the men were wearing blue blazers, white chinos and coloured Benetton-style belts. So far, so south of France. But the shirt my host wore was certainly out of the ordinary: it was white and big-collared, and what struck me was his left sleeve, which had a hole cut in the cuff exposing the face of his gold Rolex. This was obviously a copy of the shirts that Gianni Agnelli – the Italian industrialist and playboy, who was allergic to metal and couldn’t wear watches next to his skin – was so fond of.
Not being used to complimenting men on their clothes, I hesitated for a moment before asking my friend where his shirt was from. “Do you like it?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s made by my friend Angelo Galasso in London.”
Three days later, I went to visit Galasso’s London menswear shop in Conduit Street, 100 yards behind my office in Hanover Square. He happened to be there that morning, wearing one of his Agnelli-style shirts, naturally. He was so good-looking, he even looked like Agnelli.
“I always loved the Agnelli shirt, so I wanted to make them for other people,” he told me. “It is such a classic style, and one that I quickly got a reputation for. I think my customers enjoyed the quirkiness and the stylishness. These days you really need something to stand out if you are going to make a splash in the fashion world.”
There and then I bought six of Galasso’s shirts (OK, I bought two and he gave me four), altering my wardrobe in one fell swoop and making a lifelong friend in the process. I started spending a lot of time with Galasso, and I wore his shirts every day to the office.
The timing was good for Galasso: this was the era of “dress down Friday”, when every financial institution in the City encouraged its staff to come to work in casual clothing. Not only did this cause panic in the Square Mile (some men were so used to wearing a suit to work that they turned up in corduroy trousers and Wellington boots), but it also encouraged other companies to do the same, allowing every man to turn up in jeans and a T-shirt if they so desired. Many, like me, ditched their suits, but because most shirts back then were designed to be worn with a tie, we didn’t know where to turn. I wore Galasso’s shirts, not because I wanted to see my watch face on top of my cuff, but because I wanted to wear a suit with a shirt and no tie, where the shirt collar held its shape and I’d still look smart when I walked into a room.
“It was amazing the way in which my shirts took off,” recalls Galasso now. “When I first started designing I thought that men would always want to wear my shirts with big bold ties, but then the Londoners started wearing them on their own. And then in the evening with dinner jackets too!”
His customers are still mixing it up in this way, bringing a touch of the Côte d’Azur to nightclubs and cocktail bars in London, Moscow and New York – the cities where his clothes sell the most. And although dress down Friday is a thing of the past, and much time has passed since my dinner aboard that yacht in Monaco, I am still wearing Galasso’s shirts to work, every day, in fact. Fashions come and go, but good design will always last.
Dylan Jones is chairman of London Collections: Men