When we went to see Nicoletta Caraceni (above) in Milan recently, she had been approached several times by the Italian media to speak about the death of Silvio Berlusconi, who was a customer for much of his life.
She didn’t want to talk on TV, but was happy to chat with us, and I thought it was an interesting window into the world of a politician and his tailor.
“He was a kind man. I didn’t agree with his politics, and don’t even want to speak about his attitude to women, but he was always very considerate,” Nicoletta said.
“When we used to go and visit, my father and I, he would send a chauffeur and we’d take the fitting to him. It was usually during lunch and he was always so grateful for us coming, he never stopped saying so.
“I’ve known a lot of people with less power and less money who are far ruder – who effectively say with their actions, ‘I have paid you so you have to do what I want, do it now’. He had a lot but he carried it very lightly with us.”
Nicoletta recalled one contact particularly vividly, because it was the day her father (Ferdinando Caraceni) died in 2004.
“It was a terrible day in Italy. These two women had been abducted, it was all over the news, there were rumours the government was negotiating with them, arguments in parliament. He was under a lot of pressure.”
Nicoletta is referring to September 2004 when two Italian aid workers, Simona Torretta and Simona Pari, were kidnapped in Iraq. Berlusconi had supported the war in Iraq and was under pressure to pull Italian troops out.
“I got this call from Marinella [Brambilla, his secretary] and she said the President wanted to speak to me. I said ‘ok sure’, and he came on. He said he wanted to personally say sorry about my father, because he was not just his tailor but his friend. We talked for a while about him; it meant something that he took the time.”
Using an Italian tailor was apparently a point of pride for Berlusconi. “He always used to say to my father how tailoring was the best of Italian craft, how that was central to Italy’s identity, and that we embodied that.
“I remember in that conversation he repeated the same sentiment. It’s nice coming from anyone, but particularly from the President of your country.”
“Oh, and he always paid his bills! To the last euro.”
Later in his life Berlusconi wore Kiton as well, but always wore Marinella ties – the navy spot became something of a trade mark, and he wore it with formal daywear such as a morning coat.
In his early years as a politician in the 1980s, he was also noted for adopting the serious dress of a businessman, always sober in his navy double-breasteds, white shirts and ties. Unlike some of the more dramatic dressing of the time.
For anyone that isn’t familiar with Ferdinando Caraceni, the Milanese tailor cuts a jacket with a strong, padded shoulder and bellied lapels that are also wide on a double-breasted. The rest of the jacket has a very lightweight lining, however, and the finishing is very good – on a par with the best of Savile Row.
On Berlusconi, a shorter, larger man, the cut could be a little square sometimes. But on someone slimmer it’s very flattering, even dramatic. That’s me wearing my two double-breasted jackets below, and there is a piece looking looking in detail at the finishing here.
I liked Nicoletta’s little anecdote and I hope you don’t mind me sharing. As ever, no comment is intended on Berlusconi’s politics, and I make no claim either on his style – it was ordinary and sometimes even plain bad (I particularly wish he’d cinch his tie knots).
But it’s nice to hear an inside view on someone in the news, particularly when so much commentary is from the outside.
Ferdinando Caraceni is, oddly, no family connection to the other Caracenis, but was the head cutter there. More on that confusing little knot here. There is also a brand page with all Ferdinando Caraceni coverage here.