Enrico Libani is the U.S. distributor and brand ambassador for the Neapolitan men’s clothing maker Cesare Attolini. Considered among the Cognoscenti as arguably the best men’s tailored garment in the world, the Cesare Attolini brand remains to a degree a “quiet” brand; among its luxury menswear neighbors like Kiton and Brioni it flies below the radar, due to its apex aesthetic, price and the company’s refusal to scale.
“We’re a delicate brand,” says Libani, “like a jewel. We only make thirty garments a day. To make more would upset the balance in our universe of quality. Part of my job is to protect this brand from the overzealous American market.”
To understand Libani, one must understand Attolini, and to do that, one must think in terms of the peerless, like Porsche or Rolex. Cesare Attolini is peerless, and Libani is nothing if not Attolini’s authentic voice in America, a peerless representative of the pure, striving for perfection. Say to Libani, “Tell me about Attolini,” and you’ll be bathed in what’s known as “The Speech.”
The Speech is an almost one-hour long telling of the Attolini garment’s pedigree and construction; an oratory so well-crafted of so many hundreds of intricate parts, it was as if Libani was a watchmaker, delicately tooling, shaping, fitting and polishing hundreds of components into a flawless and artistic finished mechanical whole.
Libani speaks in a syrupy-rich Italian-accented English baritone, his thoughts constructed of loops of hypnotizing logic, steeped in an authentic passion for and understanding of his work, and dusted lightly with a confection of the sweetest Southern Italian charm.
“I enjoy the real, and the iconic,” Libani says. “Mr. Attolini makes the best jacket because his firm has pursued the perfect jacket since 1930.”
“My admiration and respect of Attolini is equal to the watches I enjoy. It’s the pursuit of not only the mechanically perfect but also the aesthetically perfect. Mr. [Luciano] Barbera said ‘you can spend sixty hours [sewing] and produce the ugliest jacket.’ I like that statement. A watch, like a tailored garment, not only must have iconic technical pedigree, but also aesthetic visual pedigree. The fact that something pleases your eye and at the same time pleases through performance is a wonderful and rare win.”
Libani considers himself an enthusiast, rather than collector of watches. Two original plastic Swatch from 1983, two Zenith, four Rolex and two Patek Philippe make his collection. With the exception of Swatch, those not on his wrist are housed in a Wolf Winder.
“I was always an admirer of watches. About twenty years years ago I began buying. My first was a 1979 Daytona, model 6265. Then, a 1974 Submariner, model 1680. My most recent was a 1661 Submariner. Next will probably be the Pepsi Rolex, with the blue and red bezel. I’ve been charmed by it for some time.”
“A favorite is my Patek Aquanaut. It’s the most unpretentious Patek, I believe, and the coolest and youngest, with no complications. I don’t find it to be excessive. And then there is my white gold Patek World Time, reference 5130G. This I purchased in 2014. I happen to think it’s a beautiful piece because of its complications.”
“Take cars,” he says. “I only drive Porsche 911 since 1996 and have owned six of them. One cannot perfect something if one discontinues it immediately, as American car makers do. Porsche is perfect for me because there are a generation of engineers behind every steering wheel with me.”
“Imagine,” he implores, “all those years of passionate thought pouring into that 911 automobile makes it my automobile. In any 911 I feel ‘this is my car.’ For what they give you that car should cost one million dollars!” He laughs, “To me, it’s an expensive affordable car because over time it proves less expensive because of a value steeped in pedigree and perfection.”
“I’m a purist. Jeans! Levi’s 501 jeans are the only jeans I wear. Classic. I believe Cesare Attolini makes the perfection of the jacket their number one priority as Porsche makes the car their priority and Rolex and Patek makes the watch their priority. One business,” he says, raising a finger, “one focus. The constant improvement…of a constant. When one experiments too often, one cannot be perfect.”