Dominic Lacquaniti, owner of Rocco’s Tailor Shop in Naples, Florida, does more than make custom suits. He is single-handedly breaking the stodgy suit store stereotype – and keeping the Old-World craft of Italian tailoring alive in the process.
Tucked in a strip mall on US 41 in Naples, next to a cremation service and a florist, Rocco’s Tailor Shop is a surprising 1,700-square-foot cathedral of style. The walls are lined with bolts of patterned Italian fabrics, colorful handmade shirts and jackets, silk ties, and leather wallets and shoes. The decor is that of an Old-World tailor shop you might see on Savile Row in London: 1930s light fixtures, decorative tin ceiling tiles, even an antique foot-powered Singer sewing machine.
The man behind it? Dominic Lacquaniti, a lithe 44-year-old designer who epitomizes modern male sprezzatura, wearing tailored pants, a boldly patterned shirt, loafers without socks, and a lightweight, soft-shouldered jacket. His mission? To dismantle the perception of tailor shops as stodgy suit stores and make the fashion more approachable and more accessible through his Tamiami Trail–based shop. “Beverly Hills has a look. Why can’t Naples, Florida, have a look?” he asks. “Well, I’m creating it.”
The Beginning of Rocco’s Tailor Shop
The seeds of Lacquaniti’s sartorial mission were planted a generation ago, through his father, Rocco, in the verdant hills of war-torn Southern Italy. After World War II, opportunities were scarce and Rocco had to pick a vocation early to start contributing. So, at 8 years old, Rocco began a tailor apprenticeship along with four other village boys. Eventually, after Rocco and his family became part of the third wave of Italian emigration, he opened up his own tailor shop in Long Branch, New Jersey, in 1968. “I grew up in that shop,” Lacquaniti says. “I did my homework there after school, ate dinner there. I took naps on piles of fabric under the wood work table.”
After getting a degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and spending a 17 years creating fabrics hand-in-hand with top designers in Manhattan, Lacquaniti began to realize the nostalgia of his father’s little business – that the traditional tailor skills would be lost if the next generation didn’t learn from the old-school masters. Meanwhile, Rocco had moved to Naples, Florida, in the late ’90s and opened a small tailor shop. Lacquaniti thought he could help him take the business to the next level by appealing to a younger clientele. He relocated in 2012, moving the store to a better location and taking over the operations.
His Suit-Making Process
The suit-making process begins by discussing the “vision” for the suit. This involves choosing a fabric and getting fitted, but more importantly, understanding the customer’s lifestyle. What do they do for a living? How often will they be wearing this suit? For what events? For a real estate agent, someone getting in and out of his car constantly, Lacquaniti is not going to make the same suit he would for someone that sits mostly at a desk.
From there, it takes four to eight weeks for the garment to be painstakingly constructed. “You can’t cut corners,” Lacquaniti says. “We take into consideration how someone stands, the slope of their shoulders, where they use the suit, why they use it.” Lacquaniti has four full-time and two part-time tailors working for him. Hunched over long worktables in a large, bright backroom, each tailor handles specific tasks: armholes, collars, buttonholes, and so on. Everything is sewn by hand.
The Tailored Results
The process leads to a well-balanced suit. When men buy suits off the rack, Lacquaniti says, it’s obvious. Some guys buy them too big and they look boxy. Other guys try to be hip and end up with suits that are too small. And, as men age, their bodies change, so the suits they’re used to wearing no longer look right. “Maybe your posture has changed, so the back of the jacket is higher than the front now, or your pants sag at the rear. It doesn’t fit well and it makes you look older. When you come to me, you come for perfect balance. That’s my job.”
And while a custom suit isn’t cheap, it lasts longer than one off the rack. “In the end, you spend less,” Lacquaniti says. “A custom suit should easily last 10 years. A Men’s Warehouse suit, mass-produced stuff, if you wear it regularly, just falls apart.”