It all started with one sixteen year old kid. Over a century before the soft shouldered sport coat became blogger bait, well before there were Tumblrs dedicated to the style of elderly Italian men, in a time where Gilt and Yoox were just made up words, there was just Luigi Bianchi. As a teenager all Luigi ever set to do was bring some honor to his family, but what he ended up accomplishing was that and so much more.
Luigi grew up in the provincial northern Italian town of Mantova (known in English as Mantua,) where his father and grandfather made a living by traveling door to door as tailors and barbers, offering their services right in people’s kitchens. For the two men this was as far as their trades would ever take them, but Luigi believed that the craft of tailoring deserved better than a traveller’s life. With a head full of dreams, Luigi left Mantova and headed west to Turin, a major city that bred master tailors. When Luigi started his journey in 1896 he was just a boy with an idea, but in 1911 he returned a man that had not only learned the art of tailoring, but was ready to run a company of his own.
Luigi’s vision was manifested as “Luigi Bianchi – Men’s Clothes and Dresses and Suits for Women,” Established at No. 11 Via Pietro Calvi, the shop was everything a homegrown menswear store should be. It offered made to measure, done by Luigi himself and ready to wear, making it one of the first stores to offer both side-by-side. The shop’s textiles and fabrics were some of the finest in the world, a testament to Luigi’s prowess as a tailor and a designer. Luigi’s reputation soon exceeded the small town of Mantova as legends like the Prince of Wales began placing orders at his shop.
Luigi and his family decided it was time to move away from womenswear and streamline their men’s production to keep up with demand. The expansion, spearheaded by Luigi’s eldest son, Edgardo, balanced efficiency and craftsmanship to create products that replicated the quality of bespoke without the expense and wait time. By 1939, the company employed over four hundred craftsmen and had grown into a full-fledged label, dubbed Lubiam, for Luigi Bianchi Mantova.
From day one, Lubiam was a brand that had higher aspirations. Not satisfied with remaining in Italy, they wanted to conquer the rest of the world. Lubiam certainly wasn’t the only well-made Italian brand of that era, but where they really thrived was in their textures. The brand’s textiles and construction gave their unstructured sportcoats a feel that you simply couldn’t get anywhere else, and it was Lubiam’s goal to bring this to the rest of the world. Starting in the fifties Lubiam set up showrooms, sponsored events, had their jackets and suits literred throughout magazines, and generally branded themselves as the paragon of relaxed Italian style. Their efforts paid off and Lubiam gained notoriety worldwide, first in the states and then onto Asia and the rest of the world.
Lubiam is now over a century old, which for many brands is simply a blank figure. Far too many brands that have been around that long are now just shells of their former selves, having been bought and sold countless times. But Lubiam certainly doesn’t fall into this category. As a brand that’s in it’s fourth generation as a family owned company Lubiam has pulled off something nearly impossible in this day and age: they have kept the brand in their family for over a hundred years. And not only that, but Lubiam hasn’t become complacent, they continue to push the envelope, bringing in new fabrics and patterns to create ingeniously beautiful garments. Lubiam creates and we pay attention.
And if I seem biased towards the brand, it’s because quite frankly I am, but I have good reason to be. In the modern era Lubiam has developed a new label, L.B.M. 1911 that makes sport coats in the same vein as Lubiam’s unstructured soft shoulder sport coats only more casual, and less expensive. I personally own three L.B.M.’s and they’re without a doubt three of my favorite pieces. Season after season I’m blown away by what Lubiam and L.B.M. are able to accomplish. Their patterns, feel, and quality are unmatched by any other brand at their price point making Lubiam one the greatest, and smartest contemporary Italian brands. So, over the next few weeks as we begin to get a taste of what Lubiam and L.B.M. have to offer at Pitti and beyond, go ahead and ogle at whatever unstructured gems they’ve got coming, but never forget Luigi, just a sixteen year old who wanted to make his family proud.