Ralph Auriemma has now been at the creative helm of Paul Stuart, bastion of classic American menswear and timeless style, for over two years. A sartorial institution that has successfully maintained an extremely high quality of design and construction since its inception, Paul Stuart takes its inspiration from the golden-age of Hollywood, finding the fine balance between the brash and the understated in its creations. Ralph Auriemma is the man responsible for this meticulous approach to the American sartorial powerhouse, and knows a thing or two about the industry – he’s a veteran of the menswear scene with a metaphorical chest emblazoned with medals of valiant service.
“I think that it’s safe to say that the menswear landscape has gotten bumpier since 2008 at the onset of the financial crisis. We actually saw something of an increase in our business as people who had been casualties of downsizing came to the store rebuild or replenish their professional wardrobes — with, I suppose, an eye to re-entering the workplace in new roles. Our basic suit business benefitted, predominantly in navy blue and charcoal grey across all fabric weaves; sharkskin, nail-heads, tic- weaves – all the basics of classic tried and true business dressing.
For the main part of Paul Stuart’s tailored clothing offering, it’s about keeping it classic but current; I’ve found it more important than ever to concentrate on updating the classics I’ve been referring to for most of my career. This has meant, oddly enough, that I’ve had to do much more research in the vintage files. Looking back to move forward; it’s really evident when you consider the Edwardian influences that are so important to our strong Anglo-American approach. But it also meant focusing on new and updated body fits, new shoulder and lapel shapes, etc., adding some new ideas in formalwear — shawl lapels, frog closures, printed velvets. It’s been equally important to look at just about every aspect of our construction as well; lighter and more comfortable interfacings and so forth. As far as our Phineas Cole line is concerned it’s meant becoming much ‘dressier’, a much leaner silhouette than our Paul Stuart garments, but still maintaining all the great, signature tenets of sartorial tailoring, reinterpreted from a fresher, younger, point-of-view.
Absolutely, men are extremely interested in both the history and construction details of their garments. They continue to want to be educated. There has been a real change made by stores like Suit Supply – for which I have great regard. They have managed to introduce exceptional fabrics from luxury mills with an opening price point construction. It helps build tomorrow’s Paul Stuart customer. It’s no secret that younger guys are discovering tailored clothing, J. Crew is doing a great job too and it all helps to create an aspirational customer.
Classic menswear is probably facing the same challenges as everyone else; finding a vocabulary that keeps the classic sensibility compelling for a contemporary customer. A suit and tie isn’t a uniform to be suffered, but really an opportunity for pretty much limitless self-expression – in ways that jeans and a t-shirt just can’t compete. We still look at the great dressers, guys like John Gilbert, Fred Astaire, JFK, and understand their sophistication from a glance. Who wouldn’t want that?
Luxury for me means being able to work with the finest mills and best factories available. For our clients I think it comes down to their knowing that, at Paul Stuart, they can be assured that they will find the best quality product at the fairest price — and that they are afforded the finest customer experience, with the most knowledgeable and proficient staff available to them. The Paul Stuart man is elegant, sophisticated, and a self-assured dresser. He loves understatement and quality. It’s what continues to draw him to our Anglo-American sensibility. We now have a brand new President and CEO who has a real vision for our future. We’re are currently planning the complete renovation of the New York flagship, and also have an outside marketing firm consulting on every aspect of our business. Beyond that, we will continue to maintain the integrity of our brand. It’s an exciting time for Paul Stuart.”