G. Bruce Boyer, pal and acknowledged menswear authority, recently queried me about J. Press and Brioni. He disclosed a recent conversation with Joe Barrato wondering if I knew him.
Mr. Barrato recently published an entertaining book Beyond Category, disclosing his personal career path including two decades as CEO and president of Brioni USA.
Barrato, whom I met years ago, told Bruce that Brioni had made some suits for J. Press and that Frank Sinatra bought one. Proof of the pudding, he produced a store receipt from our Mad Men quarters on 16 East 44th Street.
The February 24, 1969 sale reveals Sinatra a canny buyer, purchasing the suit at reduced sale price. The sales slip was transcribed by star salesperson Ken Trommers. I always made certain to be on hand to supervise Mr. Sinatra’s selections along with rotating Sinatra sales for the entire staff allowing them extra commissions along with keeping the sales receipt for a souvenir.
Irving Press was a golf companion and friend of the Brioni USA representative in the early 1960s who was trying to open up an American market for the brand. They both contemplated a collaboration. Coincidentally, Irving was planning a European jaunt including a visit to Brioni’s Rome headquarters on Via Barberini. An arrangement was made for a collection of suits and blazers in the J. Press model on Brioni patterns utilizing Italian fabrics from their top tier Roman collection. The J. Press/Brioni collaboration featured bespoke details including hand-sewn edges and lap seams, repp stripe/paisley silk linings, and specialty horn or brass buttons.
The venture came to an end in 1971 when Brioni expanded their American operation and their prices ballooned, dimming our early competitive advantage.
Meanwhile Ol’ Blue Eyes cashed in taking care of the Brioni remainders.