Who was Gianni Agnelli?
Well, in no particular order, Gianni Agnelli was a cad, an entrepreneur, a well-connected mogul and widely acknowledged as a men’s style icon of his time. Sound familiar? Save for the bunga-bunga parties, we could be talking about Mr Silvio Berlusconi, but we’ll leave Silvio alone for now.
Gianni Agnelli is not only the god-father of that enduring Italian spirit of ‘sprezzatura’ but his name is synonymous with Fiat, the Italian car company. Inheriting control of Fiat from his grandfather in1966, under Gianni Agnelli’s stewardship he steered Fiat through the headwinds of post-war depression and industrial unrest to reach extraordinary heights of global influence and success. Agnelli at one stage controlled 4.4% of Italy’s GDP, 3.1% of its industrial workforce and 16.5% of its industrial investment in research. His family wealth was estimated at €4 billion and he controlled more than a quarter of the companies on the Milan stock exchange. He was the richest man in modern Italian history, a tycoon, ‘royalty’ and not much happened in Italian corporate life without Agnelli’s nod.
Nicknamed “The Rake of the Riviera” for his rakish style (which also inspired the moniker of men’s style and luxury magazine ‘The Rake’) and “L’avvocato” because he had a law degree (although he never practiced law) and was a law unto himself, Agnelli was just as enigmatic in the fashion stakes, standing out even in his native Italy – a country known for its elegant dress code and for being at the forefront of fashion, style and design. Gianni Agnelli combined classic suits, cutaway collars and ties in sober shades with his own unique quirks. Key to his flair was the art of mixing together pieces of clothing that seemed incongruous at first but actually enhanced each other.
Gianni Agnelli’s sartorial approach showed off his individuality and that Italian nonchalance, “sprezzatura.” Like one of our favourite style icons, Lino Ieluzzi, Agnelli knew the rules and when to break them.
Check out some of Gianni’s personal touches which have made him one of Italy’s iconoclasts.
In order to break the rules, first you must master them
Arguably, Agnelli’s best known style quirk was his penchant for wearing his watch over the cuff of his shirt or even over his suit sleeve – For Gianni, having to go that extra step of pulling the fabric back to check the time was simply a waste of time for someone so busy.
Occasionally, Agnelli combined his country sporting attire with his slick Milanese and Turin business outfits and also wore hiking-boots with his suits –trends that many of today’s top designers send down the runway from season to season but in Agnelli’s time, was considered quite avante guarde.
Another of Agnelli’s individual touches was occasionally wearing his tie knot slightly askew and loosened just so, but never to look ‘off-duty,’ rather to portray a paradoxical whimsy in an otherwise classically debonair outfit.
For some, these eccentricities might have be pushing the possibilities of menswear too far, but Agnelli’s eye for detail combined with his attitude of having nothing to prove made an impact on people and showed how supremely confident he was – a confidence and detail oriented nature that spilled over into his professional life. Agnelli was able to break the rules, because he had first mastered them.
Living ‘La dolce vita’
As any self-respecting A-lister might do, Gianni Agnelli lived and loved the jet-set lifestyle. Magnificent houses, yachts, private planes, fast cars and beautiful women. Gianni Agnelli enjoyed them all. Although he was married to Countess Marella Caracciolo and remained so till his death in 2003, he was a playboy of the Riviera. Agnelli was known to have an eye for the ladies and had many infamous affairs including pin-up and ‘dream girl’ in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita – Anita Ekberg and socialite Pamela Harriman. His dalliances did nothing to discredit or ruin Agnelli’s reputation as a handsome playboy, but rather strengthened it.
Agnelli was a lover of beautiful things – not restricted to his wardrobe and women, Agnelli amassed a fine art collection including four Monet’s, which have since been donated to the city of Turin.
He was a staunch supporter of Made in Italy as are we at Philippe Perzi Vienna. Agnelli loved luxury cars, Ferraris amongst them. A fan of the racing team and the cars themselves, Scuderia Ferrari named their 2003 Formula 1 contender the F2002-GA, in memory of Gianni Agnelli.
Agnelli may never have outgrown his nickname “The Rake,” but he did mature to become one of the world’s most admired businessmen, maintaining his iconic status as poster-boy of Italian masculinity.
“It’s easy to be satisfied with the best” – Winston Churchill
As mentioned, Agnelli was a bon vivant and a lover of the good life and with that came a desire to wear only the highest quality garments. Gianni Agnelli loved the double-breasted jacket – a look that has seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent years (as noted in our blog on Pitti Fair trends) and also boasted a large collection of bespoke Caraceni suits. His suits were well looked after and because of the classic lines chosen by Agnelli, they have stood the test of time – so much so that his grandson, Lapo Elkann still wears some of his grandfather’s suits to this day. Tom Ford – the oracle on all things mens style, gives Lapo props for his innate fashion sense, citing him as the world’s “chicest” man, a man “who wears outlandish clothes but he’s so confident, of his look, of what he’s doing, who he is as a person, and he has a very individual style. And that’s what becomes iconic…”
Agnelli dressed impeccably, because he simply enjoyed doing so – he didn’t need to prove anything. Philippe Perzi Vienna is simpatico with Agnelli’s desire for high quality fabrics and craftsmanship as we choose only the finest quality fabrics from Italian mills and only accept the best cut and finish at the hands of experts. The Philippe Perzi Vienna signature shirt collection is made for the customer who appreciates and seeks out beauty, is astute in the way he spends his money and likes quality and style that endures the years. That’s why we chose Agnelli as a true style icon. And let’s face it, any guy who can make wearing a watch on the outside of his cuff look good is by definition an iconoclast. His genuine appreciation for quality just happens to make him one of our favourites. Saluti Agnelli.