Hector Powe's Italian Connection - Angelo Litrico
In 1945 an 18-year fisherman’s son named Angelo Litrico arrived in Rome to begin his apprenticeship at the Atelia Marinelli tailoring firm. Litrico knew he had to leave his hometown to achieve his ambitions, but even he could not have imagined that his genius would take him right to the heart of the global stage.
It comes as no surprise to us, that The Times newspaper credited the famous tailor’s ‘volcano of ideas’ to his being born in Catania, the Sicilian coastal town in the shadow of Mount Etna. On more than one occasion have Powe and Sicilian folklore crossed in extraordinary circumstances, and as such we are acutely aware of the mythical reputation of the Italian island.
Angelo’s rise in the vibrant Rome fashion scene was remarkably swift, and by 1950 he had been credited with being the first designer to introduce menswear and male models to the catwalk.
One of Litrico’s models. The tailor was the first designer to introduce menswear to the ‘catwalk’.
However, Litrico’s famous association with celebrity and stardom only began with a chance encounter in 1956. One evening at the Opera, a famous actor named Rossano Brazzi asked Litrico who had sewn his dinner-jacket. Too shy to reply that it was his own creation, the tailor only gave him his address. The next day the actor ordered two suits for more money than Litrico had ever seen.
Angelo outside his Rome tailoring shop.
Soon Litrico was making a stir beyond his homeland and in 1958 an invitation from Hector Powe enabled him to enhance his fame in London. The British press described the partnership between Hector Powe and Angelo Litrico at 165 Regent Street as a ground-breaking “Rome-London reciprocal tailoring service”. One of the great Anglo-Italian sartorial collaborations, it was marked by a deep mutual respect and a recognition that to compete when each represented the best of British and the best of Italian, would be unseemly.
Instead, clients of Hector Powe in London with a taste for Italian style could receive a bespoke service from Angelo himself. According to Maison Litrico, this exclusive group was “more than 50 in number” and “all spearheads in their respective environments”. A testament to Italian storytelling if nothing else!
The flair of Litrico tailoring.
In return, Anglophiles in Rome were treated to the understated elegance of Hector Powe’s “HP Cut”. I’m unable to confirm whether they were also “spearheads” in Italian society, but their exquisite taste in menswear cannot be disputed.
Having now established himself at the heart of international fashion, Litrico then found himself at the epicenter of geo-politics. In 1959 Nikita Khrushchev, Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, in anticipation of a trip to the United States, commissioned Litrico to devise him a complete wardrobe, including his shoes. The "famous shoe" that during the 1960 United Nations Assembly Khrushchev took off and banged on the table in protest, was signed "Atelier Litrico".
Angelo preparing a suit for the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Litrico’s allegiance however, was to style and style alone, and he took no-sides during a Cold War that dominated the global arena. The list of statesmen who were dressed by the Sicilian genius reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the 20th Century: JFK, Tito, Peron, Pertini, King Hussein, Eisenhower, Nixon, Nasser, to name but a few. He was the tailor who with his Italian scissors, cut the Iron Curtain.
By the time of his death, he had also achieved great acclaim for his charitable work. He had a close relationship with the pioneering heart surgeon Christiaan Barnard, and paid for hundreds of underprivileged children to undergo life saving procedures in Cape Town. As fate would have it, Litrico died prematurely from a cardiac arrest on 13 March 1986 in Rome.
The legacy of Angelo lives on through his nephew, Luca Litrico, who shares his uncle’s passion for the dedicated service of personal tailoring. Ever the globe-trotter, Luca visits Moscow from Rome every month to dress his exclusive Russian clientele. To this day, the two Houses of Powe and Litrico remain friends, bound together by a shared history and a shared passion for luxury menswear.