By  on May 15, 2013

After nearly four decades of working for other people, Luigi Leonardi has branched out on his own, launching a new online-only company of high-end men’s shirts called Alenford.

Over the years, Leonardi has worked for a variety of well-known brands, including Gucci, Fred Joaillier, Malo USA and La Camiceria Italiana, and trade show organizer MAGIC, where he was director of the international development office. A native of Italy, he started his career in Rome in the late Fifties when he was an apprentice for an Italian retailer. Not long after, he was poached by Dr. Aldo Gucci, who hired him and moved him to New York to launch the company’s men’s ready-to-wear business in the U.S. He worked with Giorgio Armani when the designer was an in-house stylist at Cerruti, was executive vice president of Manifatture Associate Cashmere USA Inc., where he oversaw the wholesale growth of Malo and Gentry Portofino, and most recently was executive vice president of the Italian shirtmaker La Camiceria Italiana New York, and opened the company’s American flagship in New York.

But the economic downturn took its toll on La Camiceria and the business closed, leading Leonardi to search for his next chapter, a path that led him to launch Alenford, which is named for his grandmother.

“We saw an opportunity to develop a product with fine Italian fabrics and rather than endure the hardships of brick-and-mortar, [we decided to open an online business],” he said, adding that it is “prohibitively” expensive for a start-up to open a retail store. Alenford’s shirts are produced in a small workshop in southern Tuscany from pima, Sea Island and Egyptian cottons and use mother-of-pearl buttons. The craftsmen employ a 36-step production process that includes a single-needle English stitch and a full overstitched tab on the side seams. Alenford offers more than 150 options in classic and modern patterns with different cuff and collar treatments. The shirts, which retail for $135 to $155, are offered in regular or slim fit, sleeve lengths can be customized, and monogramming is also available. Alenford offers one-on-one assistance for customers online and a “home try-on program” that allows shoppers to order shirts to try on for free at home and send back what they don’t keep.

In addition to its online presence, the company has a showroom in the Garment Center, where customers in New York can visit and see the breadth of product available.

“We want to communicate to the customer that we are manufacturing in Italy but doing it in an American way,” said chairman Milan Milasinovic. “We’re getting back to craftsmanship.”

Leonardi said plans for the future are to add sweaters and other product categories. “This is just the beginning,” he said.

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