Pal Zileri's Italian renaissance

Chief executive Paolo Roviera on how he took a lesson from Lamborghini when revitalising his menswear brand

I've been a car enthusiast all my life. My other great passion is music. My frustration at not really knowing how to tinker with cars is on a par with my inability to do justice to my Gibson Joe Perry guitar.

My destiny led me in a completely different direction to the dreams of my childhood. Fate guided me to a profession in one of Italy's sectors of excellence, fashion, where I am now at the helm of the relaunched Pal Zileri. Our philosophy, which we have named Avant Craft, is the embodiment of our desire to unite tradition and excellence with vision and innovation. This is exemplified by one of my favourite motoring anecdotes – the tale of a disagreement between two of the great post-war geniuses who helped make Italy the "bel paese".

It was an Italy in which an animated discussion in a sunny village square in the Po Valley could lead to the founding of a company, which is exactly what happened to Cavalier Ferruccio Lamborghini and Commendatore Enzo Ferrari (how great was Italy in the days when knights of the realm went to work?).

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Ferruccio Lamborghini was an established tractor manufacturer, as well as a customer, appraiser and almost-friend of Enzo Ferrari. A self‑made man, he allowed himself the luxury of beautiful cars, which, of course, he loved to drive fast. At that time, the early 1960s, he owned two Ferraris that he would race around the quiet Emilian streets, burning rubber at every opportunity.


Predictably, his driving style took its toll on the handcrafted Maranello masterpieces and his cars actually spent longer in the workshop than on the road, more often than not to replace a ruined clutch. One day, Lamborghini – who by this time was fed up with supplementing Ferrari's wages by constantly having to have his 250 GT repaired – brought it to his own tractor workshop to have the clutch fitted. The effect was astounding: it didn't burn out.

Proud of his technicians' superiority, Lamborghini went to see Ferrari to inform him of the poor quality of his own mechanics' work. Ferrari took offence at the comment and is reported to have replied: "There is nothing wrong with the car. The problem is you only know how to drive tractors, not Ferraris."

The rest, as they say, is history. Incensed, Lamborghini decided to produce his own luxury sports cars of superior quality to Ferrari's, offering the performance, reliability and comfort that the track cars produced at Maranello, in his opinion, could not.

Ferruccio Lamborghini was therefore extremely Avant Craft. He exploited the excellent skills of his workforce to offer something to the market that other bigger, longer-established manufacturers either chose not to, or did not have the capacity to produce. He fused tradition, heritage and vision and over the years was always in search of innovation to enhance his product range.

When we were asked to tackle the challenge of relaunching a great Italian brand, in a way, we more or less knowingly took the same approach as Cavalier Lamborghini. We wanted to draw on the outstanding manufacturing pedigree of the Quinto Vicentino workforce to offer customers something the "Ferraris" of the market did not seem able to.


As with any major change, the effort everyone put in to bring to the fore the brand's history of excellence via a new, attractive and unconventional clothing range initially threw us all off our stride, but to our great satisfaction, it's finally paying off.

Food, cars, design and fashion are symbols of the productive and innovative nature of Italian industry, which is infused with traditions that cannot simply be improvised by countries with emerging economies. Moreover, it is synonymous with an innate creativity that I think all Italians have as part of their DNA.

When we do something, we do it well, we do it with passion, we make it beautiful, and we do it better and before everyone else. This is what it means to be Avant Craft.

Paolo Roviera joined Pal Zileri in 2014 and has spearheaded the Italian tailor’s transformation into a leading player in modern menswear;

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