Tailor Nazareno Fonticoli & socialite Gaetano Savini founded one of Italy’s most iconic fashion brands in Rome, 1945.  The pair wanted a name that would evoke both the ultimate in luxury, as well as being short and memorable for the American, fashion-forward men they were targeting. They chose “Brioni” — a small island off the coast of Croatia (once owned by Italy), that was playground to the rich and famous.

Fonticoli’s sartorial skill and Savini’s social networking prowess proved to be a potent one-two punch that rocked the boxy Ivy League sack suit, and stuffy Savile Row, back on their heels.  Their reputation and legend grew strictly by word of mouth, as Hollywood’s biggest stars (Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, and John Wayne to name just a few) became faithful customers and highly visible spokesmen for Brioni– a brand that would not see the need or desire to advertise in the traditional sense until some 40+ years later.

Along the way, they set the gold standard by preserving and innovating the art of fine Italian tailoring. In 1978, Brioni opened what is now one of Italy’s most highly regarded tailoring schools– offering a four-year program that not only keeps Brioni’s own talent teeming, but also the world’s best fashion houses and clothiers.  Bravo!

Brioni Roman Style S.p.A. co-founder, Gaetano Savini with handsome Hollywood icon, John Wayne.

In 1960, the young tailor from Abruzzo and the entrepreneur from Umbria made their mark as the world’s ambassadors of Italian Sartorial excellence.  Brioni melded ancient sartorial principles with modern industrial organization, thus staying ahead of evolving fashion trends and technology. via

Hollywood stars Henry Fonda (with co-founder Fonticoli) & Clark Gable were early Brioni believers.

1950 — Italian luxury brand Brioni’s formalwear and sportswear collection for men.

In 1952, Brioni forever changed the idea of the fashion show at Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy– by featuring men on the catwalk for the very first time. via

Breathtaking Brioni fashion show.  Yes– they are in water.

From LIFE magazine, 1955.

1957 was a turning point in the history of men’s fashion: Brioni added a touch of color to men’s formalwear and in particular, to a series of dinner jackets: culminating in the Hess collection pictured below–

From The Diplomet, March, 1957. “Rome, which in the past has shown little imagination in men’s attire for the cocktail hour, the theatre, and the not too-formal dinner, now is doing something about it. Specifically, Gaetano Savini of Brioni has designed a series of men’s suits for the parties to which women wear cocktail dresses. He feels that the business suit is too workaday, sportswear not right, and the black tie too formal for the after-5 social hours, so he has created the cocktail suit for men. Here are three of the more conservative models imported by Hess Brothers of Allentown, Pennsylvania, (from whom you can buy them). They are photographed in the newly-opened Bird Cage Bar at the Pierre Hotel in New York. The ‘little dinner’ dresses herewith pictured are all from Fontana of Rome.”

A cutaway jacket with shawl collar in Giorgione blue wool flannel, with trousers of charcoal grey mohair. The vest is gold-colored, single-breasted, with shawl collar. Mushroom pleated shirt with ruffled edges and collar. Skinny bow tie in gold brocade. $400.00. (All photos by Hale Haberman) via

From The Diplomet, March, 1957. Brioni iridescent copper-colored Diipioni silk jacket, doublebreasted, with shawl collar and Roman cuffs. There’s a double breasted vest (not seen) in copper and black. Black silk tapered trousers. The shirt is mushroom pleated, with lace edging on bosom and color. $500.00. via

From Sports Illustrated, January, 1959.

Ivy Style Suit a favorite today from Madison Avenue to Market Street, has three buttons, unfitted shape, flap pockets, notch lapels, center vent.  For many American men, it is the only way to dress and has been since their fathers’ day. They are not very likely to change their minds in the near future.

Continental suit jacket is about one inch shorter — in the Italian manner: has darts to give custom fit look at waist — ala Bond Street.  It has two (sometimes three) buttons, peak lapels, side vents, slanting flapless pockets, an unpadded, more forward shoulder, is worn with neat, spread collar shirt.

Brioni Roman Style S.p.A.  “To have believed in an Italian style when it was difficult, almost impossible one might say to believe in it, is one of the most important facts in the Brioni history– perhaps the most important and decisive.”

(Lt.) 1967, NY — Actress Joanna Pettet posing with male model wearing a white oxford-weave wool cardigan jacket made by Brioni. — Image by © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis

(Rt.) 1964, Florence, Italy — Model standing in a niche in the Piazza del Mercato Nuovo, wearing Brioni’s light blue wool gabardine double-breasted blazer. — Image by © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis

(Lt.) 1963, Pitti Palace, Florence, Italy — A male model wears a fur trimmed tuxedo designed by Brioni of Rome for a fashion show in Florence’s Pitti Palace. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

1970 — Brioni formalwear smoking jackets for men and women.  Pioneers in luxury cocktail attire.

circa 1970 — Brioni formalwear smoking jackets for men.  Style pioneers in luxury cocktail attire.

In 1978, Brioni opened what is now one of Italy’s most highly regarded tailoring schools– offering a four-year program that not only keeps Brioni’s own talent teeming, but also the world’s best fashion houses and clothiers.


  1. The Italian Menswear industry really benefitted from the Marshall Plan after WW II, it is not a stretch to say that the modern world of classic tailoring and style from Milano to Napoli was kick started by the American effort to rebuild Europe after the devastation of the Second World War. I own some old Brioni, it no longer fits but I can’t get rid of it. The craftsmanship, passion, and love in those garments means everything.

    JP-believe someone taught us about those things many moons ago, lovely work.


  2. No one does it like the Italians; fashion, food, film, women, wine, cars and motorcycles to name a few. Nothing but the best!

  3. JP,
    Great post! The photos are great and the information is quite ineresting. To see a company understand how to foster talent is refreshing (even though it started years ago). I would love to get my hands on one of the smoking jackets, particularly the paisley guy. Thanks for this read.

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