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It was our privilege to be featured in Spy News Magazine.
To read the interview visit http://spynewsmagazine.com/don-alfo
It’s never been so easy to look stylish as a male. Over the past few years, the march of minimalism in men’s style has, to some extent, demystified fashion. Everything is stripped back – the palette, the dress codes, even the menswear rulebook itself, which is today slim enough to skim-read in its entirety on your commute. We approve, of course. In fact, we positively championed the movement. Style should be accessible. It should be inclusive. And yes, to roll out an overused term, it should also be effortless. The fact remains that men doesn’t have enough to play with and to create a style that is different like their female counterparts. The trouble is, when something is easy, there is a danger that it becomes predictable – and even dull. As a result, you could argue that there’s a constitutional crisis in menswear right now. Well, there is a dying need for a disruption in the menswear industry and one brand we think is capable of doing that is Don Alfo menswear brand is equipped with Italian sartorial heritage with the African flamboyant cultural heritage.
Spy News Magazine: You was born in Italy, but raised in South Africa. We do not know much about Johannesburg lifestyle, as we judge according to the media that usually covers more political events. Tell us more about your background and childhood.
Alfonso Di Muro: I was born in Johannesburg and my sister in Rome, we lived between Rome and Johannesburg. After a few years, my parents decided to settle in the seaside city of Durban, South Africa for our schooling. After school, we moved back to Johannesburg, and I have lived in Johannesburg since then. Growing up on the coast was a great laid back and beach lifestyle. Johannesburg, however, is the economic hub of Africa so the lifestyle is much more fast-paced. The social scene is restaurant, bar and home-based.
There are many safari lodges and mountain destinations close to Johannesburg so I try to get away as much as possible. I really enjoy the bush and the countryside, recreationally I enjoy boxing and Polo(I love horses). Johannesburg is a beautiful multicultural city – at any given time, you meet people from all over the world and South Africans with a mix of heritage. You can find whatever you are looking for, classy places where you’ll find people dressed to the nines, street side cafes as well as a large selection of restaurants and nightclubs.
Spy News Magazine: You are quite often back in Italy, aren’t you? How does living in South Africa affect your personal style?
Alfonso Di Muro: Yes, I spend quite a bit of time in Italy. For business purposes, to visit my factories and work on collections, as well as to spend time with my family. South African style is generally quite traditional and classic and I would say this has influenced me to keep my style simple. Personally, I stick with the “lounge shirt and loafer” look in general. However, having said that, a fitted suit a good pair of sneakers has grown on me as my daytime standard look.
Spy News Magazine: What was your biggest fear when going out and starting your own line? Are you self taught or did you study fashion design?
Alfonso Di Muro: I have faith in my product, but my biggest concern was to get my products in front of the correct clientele so they can experience the feel of the material and fabrics firsthand. I have always been appreciative of fine detailing and luxury products. The more I matured, the more I noticed that a lot of brands sell ‘luxury’ items solely based on their well-known name and not on the quality or exclusiveness of their products.
So when I went shopping, I couldn’t find what I wanted or I felt let down by what the market had to offer. I realised that as I am really passionate about the field so why not put my ideas to paper? Most importantly, I wanted to go back to the era of the artisanal craftsmanship of traditional Italian tailoring and shoemaking. Every stitch is done with the intention to make art and not a product. I feel that the personal touch of the Italian artisan makes all the difference. I felt that the ethos and offering has become scarce in the market and decided to fulfil my drive in offering precisely that. So no, I have never had any professional fashion training. I created the Don Alfo brand with the focus on high-end quality. I want my clients to be able to wear their Don Alfo items for a longer period time.
Spy News Magazine: How is working in fashion in South Africa is different today from European market? Is it less competitive?
Alfonso Di Muro: It is not necessarily less competitive. We definitely have less choice when compared to Europe or the USA. However, the consumer market for premium apparel is in the great minority. But those who can afford luxury products are brand loyal and tend to purchase what they see while travelling or what they know. That said, I am fortunate that my shoes are stocked in stores with a good reputation and that sell well-known luxury brands.
Spy News Magazine: How does African heritage and traditional man crafting skills affect your creative process while designing the collection?
Alfonso Di Muro: Growing up in such a multicultural society has definitely influenced my creative process. It has allowed me to think of my client as an international person instead of a certain market segment. I design my products with clients from all walks of life and ethnicity in mind. I feel the modern gentleman with a discerning taste will appreciate it across the globe. In my designs I am currently working on I am including a touch of African art, which I am very excited about. That will allow the world to see a mix of African heritage with Italian craftsmanship in a modern yet classic style. The market is over full with new brands, that makes it quite difficult for consumers to choose among the variety. In order to stand out, what artisan techniques or other know- how did you use in the concept of your brand?
Spy News Magazine: What was the hardest part in creating your own brand?
Alfonso Di Muro: The most important aspect for me which will allow Don Alfo to stand out is the quality and attention to detail. The artisanal techniques used by my shoemakers and tailors are those which are generationally ingrained and taught from a young age. It is not something that can be done for mass market. I also put a massive emphasis on comfort, I feel this is important and I spare no expense in this regard. Your outfit must be an extension of you, the more comfortable you are in it the better you wear it.
The hardest part about starting my brand was deciding where and how to start – with so many ideas floating around in my head, you have to pin one down and simply start. I plan on expanding the Don Alfo range into many more products. The luxury lifestyle has so much that complements it. The premium market is so large and I get new ideas every day. So narrowing it down to starting with only shoes and suits was definitely the hardest part. As mentioned above there’s so much pressure for designers to come out with their greatest collection season after season.
How do you personally handle this? I have positioned the Don Alfo brand as more timeless in its designs rather than seasonal. I want my clients to have longevity in their Don Alfo pieces. I suppose I learn as I go. I observe the markets and see where it leads and I took this into consideration in my new suit collection as well as my new shoe collection which will be launched end of May. The challenge for me is to combine a fashionable design with a timeless style in the same design, but I love it, it’s precisely what I am passionate about.
Spy News Magazine: How would you describe a lifestyle of your customer? Who is this man?
Alfonso Di Muro: In one word the Don Alfo man is elegant. A man who understands that luxury is about fine detail, a story and the energy behind every piece. That is the definition of elegance and it is fundamental to how I interrupt luxury. The lifestyle of my customer is that of the connoisseur of finer things, a man who appreciates details and exclusivity. You won’t see him everywhere but when you do you notice him without him speaking a word.
Spy News Magazine: Are there any types of clothing that you avoid creating?
Alfonso Di Muro: I wouldn’t want to mention any as there are so many possibilities that arise along the way – so it would be reckless of me to exclude anything at this point, especially since the brand is so young. For example in my travels and research, I have come across very interesting fabrics and manufacturing techniques that I would like to include in ranges going forward, so I discover new things as I go and constantly think of incorporating new products into my range.
Spy News Magazine: What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
Alfonso Di Muro: Simplicity.Whatever I do and however I live, I am making an effort to make sure it is the simplest way. I am finding much tranquillity in simplicity. Simplicity is fundamental to sophistication and thus has fed into my work a great deal. It is the backbone of Don Alfo, elegance is simplicity with a story.
Spy News Magazine: Are you superstitious or do you have any rules you live by?and what is your motto?
Alfonso Di Muro: I am not superstitious, apart from my obsession with the number 3, haha. The motto I live by is “If you want it, take it”