MILAN — Mario Caraceni, a legend of the Milanese tailoring squad, died on Wednesday at age 95.
The mastermind behind the ‘70s success of the A. Caraceni tailoring atelier in central Milan, Caraceni was born in Naples in 1926. He was the son of Augusto Caraceni, member of an Italian family of tailors, who had moved to Paris to set up his atelier in the City of Lights.
When World War II broke out, Augusto closed his Paris location and returned to Italy. Opening a boutique on Milan’s Via Fatebenefratelli, he was joined by his son Mario in 1946. Mario inherited the family business in 1972.
Mario Caraceni spearheaded the atelier’s success between 1972 and 1998, renaming it A. Caraceni as an homage to his late father. He helped define the quintessentially Milanese suiting style, loosening up designs and broadening lapels to follow the general trend of Italian clothing toward softer fabrics, lighter internal construction and comfort.
“It’s part of the Italian character,” Caraceni told WWD in 2000. “We’re gentle people, so it’s only natural that — whether we’re dressed by Neapolitans, Romans or Milanese — in the end, we’re all wearing soft suits,” he said.
Under his lead, the A. Caraceni atelier dressed Austrian barons, Italian counts and industry titans, as well as Milanese millionaires. He was the tailor behind some of the impeccable suits sported by the late Fiat president Gianni Agnelli, an Italian style icon on his own terms.
Agnelli’s grandson Lapo Elkann, who inherited several suits crafted by Caraceni from his grandfather, said, “Caraceni’s death is a great loss for Italian tailoring and style. He was and will always be a true icon of men’s style. I’m particularly grateful to him because he allowed me to enjoy and rejoice in wearing suits that belonged to my grandad Gianni.”
Upon his retirement in 1998, Caraceni passed the baton to his daughter Rita Maria and son-in-law Carlo Andreacchio, who continue to helm the company, along with their sons Massimiliano and Valentina.
“I stood by his side for 40 years and needless to say, he was an exceptional man in every way,” Andreacchio told WWD on Friday. “He had three loves in his life: work, family and faith. He was indefatigable and asked all of us to stay at the atelier until late at night. He was very strict when it came to work, he expected the best from us, and that has helped the atelier thrive throughout these years,” he added.
Andreacchio recalled addressing him with the formal “lei” rather than the intimate “tu,” or you, for 20 years until one night during a cocktail reception at the Principe di Savoia hotel in Milan, Caraceni — clad in a tuxedo and sipping champagne — asked him to start using the familiar “tu.”
“We started crying regardless of the formal situation….This anecdote epitomizes the man he was, he had to ponder things before letting himself go, but at that point I knew he considered me the son he never had,” said Andreacchio, noting that he always supported his employees also outside the workspace.
International fashion designers also flocked to Caraceni’s atelier in the Golden Triangle luxury shopping destination over the years to have their suits crafted from the expert hands of the tailor.
These included Karl Lagerfeld, Ralph Lauren and Gianfranco Ferrè — who praised the atelier’s ability to interpret his signature style with “exquisite mastery,” as well as Calvin Klein, who used to send thank you notes to the atelier for “the most perfect suits in the world.”
In 1975, the tailor cut and sew the tailcoat worn by Italian poet Eugenio Montale to receive the Nobel prize, and in 2004, he was bestowed with the “Order of Merit of the Italian Republic” honor, which recognized his painstaking dedication to work and contribution to the country’s entrepreneurship.
Nino Cerruti, president of the Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti woolen mill, which has supplied the A. Caraceni atelier, praised the tailor’s expertise. “The Italy of artisans is sometimes a land of princes, such as Mario Caraceni: A prince, artist and tailor,” he said.
A public funeral service will be held at Milan’s Chiesa di Santa Croce on Saturday at 11 a.m.