Sunday Reads: Daniel Novela’s Sartorial Journey

Rubinacci Palace
Rubinacci Palace

I have been ordering custom-made blazers and suits for many years, almost as long as I have been collecting watches.  The two things just seem to go together, and comprise two of the three anchors of a man’s outfit: the watch, the jacket, and last but not least, the shoes. They all have to work in harmony.  One thing that has become obvious over time is that when it comes to design, fit, and fabric, the best men’s blazers are made in Italy, and tend to be very expensive. This year, my wife Marcella and I decided to launch a passion project, Casa de Novelas — a menswear line focused strictly on men’s blazers — designed in my hometown of Miami, but made in Italy with traditional Italian fit, fabric, and manufacturing techniques. A New World take on an Old World classic. Before we began our new project, I decided to take a voyage through Italy to meet with three truly great and successful Italian design families, and to combine my passions by finding out which watches they love.

Naples, Italy Rubinacci
My journey began in Naples. It was early June and already quite hot and humid, which reminded me of my native Miami Beach. I made an appointment with Mariano Rubinacci, heir to the Rubinacci brand, tailors to the world’s elite, and father of social media sensation Luca Rubinacci.

Mariano, the consummate gentleman, apologized for being a few minutes late.  We started off discussing Neapolitan tailoring and, most importantly, Rubinacci‘s impact upon it. I wanted to find out how a Rubinacci-tailored jacket is different than any other. A completely handmade garment, a Rubinacci jacket boasts unique detailing, including printed silk lining and unlined sleeves. The best insight from Mariano came when I asked him how the next decade would shape the fashion industry. After a short pause, he said, “I can wear a jacket that was made for my father in the 1930s and it would not look out of place.  We have never had such a long period with so little change. That is what most worries me. What is coming next?” Mariano has always been one step ahead, because he is most concerned with innovation, not trends.

I asked Mariano what watch is special to him, and he showed me his vintage yellow gold Piaget, circa early 1980s—a special gift from his children many years ago. Although I could not tell the exact model, I was sure it was equipped with the legendary Piaget 9P, an ultra-thin hand-wound mechanical movement, which is a mere two milimeters thick and exclusive to Piaget.

A tour of Mariano’s facilities followed, and I was most intrigued by the workshop, where I witnessed jackets being put together by hand. In a space filled with master tailors, I saw only one sewing machine (which, incidentally, no one was using). Button holes, sleeves, and baste stitching were all being done by hand. It was unlike any other tailors’ shop I’ve ever been to.

Outside the workshop, we entered the back courtyard of the Rubinacci palace, where I encountered an unexpectedly grand green space in the middle of downtown Naples. “This is the real Naples,” says Mariano. It’s a well-kept secret, and one that most of us will never see.


Aquatic Show by Ilotopie
Aquatic Show by Ilotopie

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