Meet The Man Behind world’s most expensive Suits, Antonio de Matteis

Kiton just celebrated the opening of its new Zurich store and I had the privilege of interviewing its CEO, Antonio de Matteis.

Before meeting him, I envisioned a reserved and cautious man with little time to spare. I was pleasantly surprised when I got introduced to a charming, warm and welcoming man!

For those who don’t know, Kiton is part of a long tradition of high-quality Neapolitan tailoring notorious for its bespoke suits which can easily exceed $50,000. And to give you an idea of the appeal of the brand worldwide, it grew 5% in 2014, with a turnover of $125 million.

Kiton022

You inherited a thriving business. Did you have to face any challenge?

We have to constantly check out the market because it changes all the time and always have an understanding of what the market is looking for and where it is going. That is the reason why traditional companies like Kiton are still doing very well today and keep growing. So to answer your questions, I didn’t have to face any unusual challenges!

Was there ever a time when you almost gave up?

I never felt like giving up. Never! My evolution within the company happened very naturally. My uncle never pushed me or pushed the company onto me. It all fell into place very nicely. The product speaks for itself and that is what makes the company so successful.

Back then, who were the clients? And who are they now?

Our customer has changed quite a bit along the way, but a similar kind of people keeps coming back. It’s a person who is looking for quality above anything else. He’s not a customer who likes to show off to others but to himself. He prides himself in wearing a quality product which is unique and stylish. He simply wants the BEST.

And not so surprisingly, a lot of our customers are sons who followed the foot steps of their dads.

I read that you really dislike the word ‘luxury’ to describe Kiton. Why? What does the word mean to you?

YES! At Kiton we talk about Quality. Luxury today is a fashionable word which to me has an impolite connotation. But quality on the other hand denotes respect and applies to all levels of life.

Our customers expect quality and we provide it to them. Don’t get me wrong we don’t want to stray away from luxury but quality defines us better. We make the most expensive suit, but also the best quality suit.

Can you talk a bit about how Kiton maintains the original elegance and traditional craftsmanship while still keeping the cut and styles fresh?

Traveling, meeting and talking with people has helped our company and our style stay fresh. A Jacket from 10 years ago looks much different from a jacket today. But what we don’t ever revise are our tradition, culture, and philosophy. My office in on the ground floor with everyone else, and the door is always open to everyone who wants to come in.  They all call me Toto!

What do you think about all the brands in the market today that are more affordable but also claim Quality? 

You can certainly use this word to describe a line that has a balance between price and quality. But in today’s market, it’s common to see very high-priced items that aren’t quality, which is a huge problem that becomes ours! We now have to enlighten people about quality and it is not easy. A personal connection to our customer then becomes essential. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to find those who want to take the time to listen but because we are located in Naples, we get a lot of visits from our customers who can experience our philosophy, culture and production with their own eyes. And most of the time after they leave, the majority thinks that we are too cheap for what we provide! And that means so much to us because they make this statement on their own after witnessing our work.

Kiton is probably the only company in the world with 350 tailors and a school to teach and build the new generation of tailors. Quality is not only about the product, it’s about the quality of life of our employees. We believe in improving their lives and giving them the tools to succeed and be happy.

The service we dedicate to our customers is not only the product but also the quality of 360 degree + 1. My uncle always taught us not to be happy with what we have but always strive for more. That’s the + 1!

Tell me about your school

The school was founded in 2000 when we realised that the average age of our tailors was 55 and started to worry about the future of our company! Today the average age is 37 with more and more young people showing interest in joining our team.

Are your students ready after their program is over?

It’s a 4 year program with 2 years of theory and 2 years of production. At the end of the program they won’t be quite ready but they will be able to start. It takes at least 7 years to be a Tailor. But at that point, we can see if they have the feel, the touch and the passion for it. But most importantly if they feel joy because happiness is key. 

I can honestly say that the results have exceeded our expectations. The younger generation understands that to have a bright future they need to learn how to do a job well.

What kind of boss are you?

I’m an easy boss in some ways but very strict in other ways. I work very hard and spend most of my time being the Ambassador of Kiton and introducing it all around the world. I will forever be grateful to my uncle and my cousins for giving me the opportunity to do this job and strongly believe that everyone should work as I work. Working is my hobby, my life. Being away more than 200 days a year is not a big deal but is a necessity. It opens doors and opportunities never imagined before. It opens your mind to the challenges the market faces today and understand where the future is going. When you stay put you can imagine certain things but you will never be able to fully grasp reality and know if you are on point with your decisions and forecasts. 

How do you deal with mistakes?

Everyone makes mistakes. My uncle definitely allowed me to make a lot of them! But when mistakes are made because you think you are smarter than me then that’s when I get really angry!

What would the closest person in your life say if I asked them, ‘What is the one characteristic that they totally love about you, and the one that drives them insane?

To love me is to get me! I don’t talk very much. I like to work and I am a very simple person. Some people may think I am snobby because I am quiet, but I am definitely not a snob. You should probably talk with my 2 ex wives for details!

If you didn’t do this job, what would you be doing today?

Maybe I would be in the boat business but I love what I do so I cannot imagine doing anything else today! My very first job was at Kiton about 29 years ago. I started as my uncle’s shadow (the founder of Kiton). I followed him everywhere, every day, every second. I think I slept more with him than my 2 wives! He set the example and taught me everything I know. 

I can truly say that I was the luckiest person to be able to work so closely to him. To me he was one of the biggest teachers in the world. I’m very proud to have worked along his side for 30 years.

What advice would you give to a young and excited designer who is hoping to succeed in a world where the bottom line seems to precede quality? 

The younger generation today is impatient. They want everything now because they are used to the instant gratification that technology brings them. But in life nothing happens immediately. After a year, they expect more money and a promotion. From my point of view, they are almost at the same place where they started a year ago. When I started to work for the company I was 22, almost 30 years ago. It took me that long to be where I am today and be recognised for my merits. I’m still trying to grow the brand and it’s not easy. No one will give you the key to success. You will have to climb the mountain day by day, without a break. If you stop, someone better will come and take your place. That is the reality of business life.

Let’s be honest, did your son, who is now in charge of the Active Wear, have to start at the bottom?

Oh worst than the bottom! I have higher expectations from him than I have of any other employees.He has it much tougher than anyone else. I didn’t have it easy with my uncle and he won’t have it easy with me! I always tell him that our job is to set the example and if we make mistakes, we allow everyone else to make mistakes too. He can have fun during his free time, but when he works it’s all about business and Kiton. We are the face of Kiton wherever we go.

Tell me about opening a store in Zurich? A lot of influencers were present to celebrate the opening of Kiton on Bahnhofstrasse.

Opening in Zurich is part of a natural progression for our company. Zurich has always been a very important market. We have been selling successfully in Dolph Schmid, Grieder and Trois Pommes. So opening our own store makes a lot of sense and we are very excited about our future in Zurich!

A big thank you to PR-Ticular for facilitating this meeting and sharing their photographs!

 
Stay connected and don’t miss out on unique Experiences & Discoveries.
Sign up now!