Magazine article The New Yorker

That's Italian

Magazine article The New Yorker

That's Italian

Article excerpt

Women in Italy have taken to the streets recently to protest the shenanigans of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but, at a party in Manhattan the other day, a different side of Italian life was being discussed. The event, held in the Madison Avenue store of the leather-goods company Tod's, marked the launch of Tod's new coffee-table book, "Italian Touch," whose title has nothing to do with the inappropriate doings of prime ministers. The book, which weighs about as much as a medium-sized leg of prosciutto, consists of more than three hundred pages of photographs of attractive Italian aristocrats hanging out on their family properties. Its purpose, according to promotional materials, is "celebrating the Italian lifestyle."

But what is the Italian life style? "It's a very casual, relaxed life style," said Emanuele della Valle, who is a member of Tod's board of directors, and who does marketing for the company. On the other hand, he added, it also means "having everything perfect." A waiter walked by with a tray of pink-and-orange appetizers.

"Lobster mango?"

"No, I don't think so," della Valle said. "They don't look too Italian."

He continued, "It's about acknowledging a set of rules and then breaking them, without forgetting what the rules are. For example, if you wanted to get a great suit, you'd go to the old tailor in your city, because you know he'll do a better job--no disrespect--than, say, a big flagship in the middle of Tokyo." Della Valle was wearing the same outfit he always wears: blue-tinted glasses with thick black frames ("They shout 'Hollywood junior producer,' " he said), jeans, a baggy Brooks Brothers shirt, and a tailored blazer. "Once, I would pay more attention," he said of his look. "But I gained a few extra pounds, and I thought, Let's decide on a formula."

A young filmmaker named Riccardo Costa said that the Italian life style is "about finding the right reasons to live your life." He added that he had recently completed a short film on this subject: in it, he stands near the Astor Place subway stop with a camera and polls passersby about their careers. "I asked, 'What are you doing? Are you happy to be doing that?' Some people said, 'I think so,' but they were not sure. …

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