Kiton Suits Are More Than Just Vicuña
For those in the know, they’re the purveyors of the world’s most expensive suits (their LASA made-to-measure starts at USD 50,000), and also some of, if not the best in quality. We speak to Antonio de Matteis, Kiton’s CEO who is also part of the 2nd generation since the company was first founded in 1956, to learn more about the measure of a good suit, true quality and why luxury is a word that is frowned upon.
HNW: Should a good suit be timeless?
Antonio de Matteis: Yes.
But you also admit that the suits which you produce today look very different from the ones that you made 10 years ago.
You can still wear it, even though it’s an old one. [gestures to the suit he wears] This is not a new suit, it is 3 or 4 years old, but I still wear it with a lot of pleasure. I think you can have old suits in your wardrobe which you may not wear every day, but are still a pleasure to wear when you put them on a few times in a year. I believe our suits are an investment, they are not what you buy just for one season, you can have a suit that will last you for 10 to 20 years.
What essential suits should a man own?
He needs to have 4 full suits, and he needs to wear them the right way—that is very important. For me, it’s quite… it’s not very chic to wear suits without ties. But maybe that is acceptable in Singapore, because of the weather here. Today, I see young people who are very precise in what they wear, especially when they attend certain events. They like to be in the best and to see that the new generation is still in love with a product like ours, is a great sign.
Kiton only does ready-to-wear and made-to-measure suits. What is the difference between having a bespoke suit then?
It’s a joke for people who don’t make anything who talk about bespoke. When we have special events, we always have our tailors come from Naples to take their measurements. That means our made-to-measure suit is the perfect bespoke suit.
You have a new women’s line in Singapore. With so many choices available, why would a woman choose to have her clothing made-to-measure?
For the same reasons as a man, being that there is no one specific reason for choosing made-to-measure. It could be that you want the perfect fit for your unique physique, and sometimes it is because a particular cut or fabric that you want might not be available elsewhere. So everyone needs to understand that our made-to-measure and ready-to-wear is done in the same way, piece by piece—by hand—by our artisans. It’s no different in production.
How should one take care of their suit?
Suits for me are the same as shoes. You have to change your suit every day. A suit needs time to sleep—you can use it maybe once a week, but you cannot use the same suit 2 days in a row because you need to take care of the fabric. Everything needs to rest and to be given time to return to their original shape or weave. If not, they get destroyed very soon.
Is there a difference between quality and luxury to you?
It’s a big difference, because I feel we make quality, and the customer who buys our products has the luxury to do so. We are people who make products, we don’t make luxury. Today, “luxury” is a word that everybody uses in the wrong way. What is more important to us is being known for our quality.
What does quality mean to you then?
Quality starts from the product, the fabric, the way that it is made, the design… everything. But it is not enough. It is a beautiful word but it’s not just related to the product. Quality also means the quality of the life—of the people who make the products like our tailors and artisans—and the quality of relations that we have with our final consumer. It’s a “360 degree, plus 1” deal. We’re never happy: always plus 1—that is our signature.
How do you plan to expand internationally while maintaining that personal touch?
Like we always do—by constantly improving our quality and making our product known in an easy one-to-one way. We do it all around the world, even since our beginnings.
You plan to move into exploring e-commerce sometime in late 2018/early 2019. What is your approach given that you’ve avoided the realm thus far?
We like to be a little different from others, and our online experience should give you a reason to visit our store. That is how we’re approaching it. It’s not just to sell more, but to make people come into our stores to talk with us and understand more about our products. It’s not about selling more units… it’s to make people come to us.
Are visitors welcome to your factory in Naples?
I would love it if people came to Naples. That is our home base, near Capri and the Amalfi coast which is great in the summer. We feel that by being there one can really understand what we do. The reaction from many of our final consumers who’ve come to see our production is always the same. They tend to feel that for the amount of workmanship that we still put into our suits, we aren’t actually that expensive after all. And we are the most expensive producer of suits in the world.
A USD 50,000 suit is not considered expensive?
To see 350 tailors still working by hand, together around a table, is something that you cannot find in any other factory in the world.
What is your relationship with your staff?
Our company is like a big family. Although we have 800 people worldwide, the feeling of our company is similar to the time when we had 100 staff. Nothing’s changed. Nobody addresses me by Mister, they call me “Toto”, which is my family nickname. I don’t have a secretary and my office which is on the lower floor is always open. And I think with the people working in the stores, plus our managers and staff, we are still able to offer the same family atmosphere that we have in Palazzo Kiton in Milano. The feeling, the relationship and the atmosphere have to remain the same.
Kiton is growing healthily under your leadership. Would you consider it a success?
I don’t consider the success of Kiton, but ways to improve it instead. Like my uncle, we’re never happy about what we are doing, and are always thinking about what we have to do in the future. You cannot feel that you are successful, because once you do, you will start to go downhill. You must always feel that you are not where you want to be.
You bought your own mill in 2010. That aside, your company is 100% vertically integrated. What are the advantages?
Kiton is very well known for its fabrics, and that is part of our DNA and why we are recognised worldwide. Buying a mill factory in Biella, which is the best place to make clothes in Italy is a big point for us. We are now able to invest intensively to develop new quality, dedicated to creating the very finest. It’s a very expensive process and other suppliers are afraid to invest in top quality. But we are not, because we know that we can sell. That’s how we developed our own vicuña which has unprecedented levels of quality.
Are there any unique differences or requirements from Asian customers?
We don’t really see a big difference in customers around the world. Maybe it’s because we are selling to a certain level of customers that have roughly the same needs and lifestyles all around the world, which is why I think Kiton is one of the unique companies in the world that doesn’t need to make a specific collection for a specific market.
If you didn’t work for Kiton, what would you be doing?
My hobby is to go out on a boat. I would sell or make boats if I didn’t do this for a living.