Let’s face it: Relaxed menswear causes more problems than solutions.
Without steadfast fashion rules — especially the tried-and-true blazer/tie combo — men started to both squeeze or swim in ill-fitting, dated looks that always seemed sloppy.
Enter Francesco Reale, the 35-year-old owner and founder of Moda Matters. For summer, the aerospace executive-turned-fashion mogul is introducing a line of suits on its website (ModaMatters.com) inspired by the fashions of Italy. He’s calling the style Italian American and with the latest collection dropping next Sunday night, the looks come just in time for the summer wedding season.
“We are taking some of the elements of Italian suits and giving them an American twist,” Reale told me from his office in WeWork on the 1900 block of Market Street.
“It’s a much more relaxed look,” he continued. “Italian American doesn’t mean velour sweatsuits anymore. It doesn’t mean bright and tacky, but it is about wearing the brighter palette. It’s about being dressed, but being comfortable.”
On a recent spring morning, the Moda Matters rack pops with nine pieces from the brand’s summer collection, especially the soft red windowpane jacket that reminds me of what a 1970s sitcom dad would wear, but is the definition of all that’s vintage, cool and modern. Turns out rapper actor 50 Cent is a fan. Fifty posted a few pics of himself on Instagram in late June wearing the blazer. Maybe this means we will see it in season 6 of Power on Starz. (Seriously, one of my most guilty pleasures.)
There are flat-front and single-pleated chinos in such saturated neutrals as olive, rust, tobacco and cream as well as blazers in soft, jersey knits that are totally mix-and-matchable. The major standout: a twice-washed denim blazer that is so soft it feels as if it’s been broken in for years. The pieces have very little structure and even some stretch.
That was a lot of work — and ironing. And it became expensive.
In the last two years, however, menswear, like its women’s wear counterpart, has started taking its cues from athletic apparel. Instead of made-to-measure suits, the focus has been on made-to-measure joggers. And the Italian American look, Reale said, fits easier into today’s reality: the guy who wants to be dressed for work, craves affordability — blazers range from $388 to $488, while chino trousers are about $158 — but doesn’t want to feel stiff.
And, Reale said, as more companies allow men to ditch their suit and ties, as Goldman Sachs did in March, the Italian American look will only become more relevant.
While Reale touts the Italian American style as more relaxed, Moda Matters doesn’t shirk on the details. It’s those details, he says, that give this casual look grown-man credibility.
Moda Matters jackets don’t have shoulder pads (that promotes stiffness) but they do feature lower inside pockets designed specifically to hide bulky wallets and cell phones. The sleeves are hand-stitched onto the jacket and have functional buttons at the bottom. “It’s an added detail that shows off the ability of Italian tailors,” Reale says. The double-breasted jacket opens with the same smoothness of a classic three-button. Moda Matter shirts feature French-spread collars and the buttons are affixed using the classic chicken foot stitch, the true mark of a well-made Italian shirt.
Reale started his business as a hobby back in 2014 while he was working for Agusta Westland, an aerospace company in the Northeast. He was studying for his MBA and had a hard time finding suits that suited his fancy, so he started a business making made-to-measure suits in China. But eventually he moved manufacturing and fabric sourcing to Italy as a way to pay homage to his Italian heritage. Two years ago he brought on friends Stephen Zaffuto, Jonathan Edwards and Scott Silver as partners. And last year, Reale launched a capsule collection with Men’s Style Pro blogger Sabir Peele.
This year, Reale decided to bring ready-to-wear suits to his business because he says the casual elements are starting to drive his customers.