When he was 10.
Three years ago when my wife and I moved here the first thing we did was introduce ourselves to the neighbors – so they could get to know us, and so we could pick their brains. Standard operating procedure for us since we’ve moved around a bit – plus it’s just good manners.
What are the best restaurants? Who’s the most reliable car mechanic? What the heck is a cheese curd? Where’s the best shopping? What’s winter like up here? Is there a good tailor in town?
We soon discovered that Wisconsinites (or Sconnies as I was told) are world-class chitchatters. I’d go as far as honoring them with the rank of “Black Belt in the Verbal Arts.”
During these lengthy Q&A sessions we received wide-ranging endorsements and recommendations. But one answer was consistent. If you need anything altered (from a wedding gown to an old Oxford shirt), you go see Gino at Monetti’s Tailoring.
Turns out I needed a suit altered for a wedding. So I visited Gino. While he measured and chalked, I practiced my chitchat skills, sharing with him that my first job was working weekends as an alterations boy at a men’s clothier. He smiled and said everything would be ready in a week.
The next Saturday I stopped by his shop to grab my suit and see if his skills lived up to the hype.
Gino had transformed my off-the-rack suit into something that fit like it was custom made on Savile Road. I became a believer.
Recently, I contacted Gino to see if he’d be interested in helping Lands’ End compare our Men’s No-Iron Pinpoint Oxford Shirt to a well-known competitor’s version. He was happy to help.
Prior to the video shoot, Gino and I sat down and chitchatted.
Randy: You definitely don’t have a Wisconsin accent. Where are you from and how did you end up in Madison?
Gino: I was born and raised in Italy – a little south of Naples. In 1986, I moved to New Jersey and worked in a few tailor shops before I opened my own. Then almost 11 years ago we moved to Madison. My wife is from here and we wanted to raise our kids in Madison. I’m very happy in Wisconsin but it’s quite a bit colder than southern Italy. I love the atmosphere, the people, making friends with my customers. . .
Randy: When did you start working in a tailor shop?
Gino: Oh, maybe when I was around 10. I don’t want to say my parents forced me to work but they didn’t want me hanging out on the streets with friends after school getting in trouble. So they got me a job at a tailor shop. There were about 7 other kids in the shop helping out. Doing mostly hand sewing and taking seams apart. Basically getting to know garments inside and out. After finishing high school I started working full time in a few tailor shops to learn different skills – from making bridal gowns to custom shirts.
Randy: When did you recognize your talent for tailoring garments?
Gino: In my late teens – maybe 17 or 18.
I realized I could take a garment that was totally unfitted and alter it so the person would say, “Wow, this looks incredible.” That’s also when I started exploring different areas – working on leather and fur and wedding gowns to get the full experience.
But I prefer working on menswear and custom shirts and suits.
Randy: You’ve been a tailor for almost 40 years. Any interesting stories?
Gino: (Laughing) There’s some I can talk about and some I can’t. Working in a small town in Italy we had some “very formal customers” who were quite picky about what they wanted and how they wanted it. We made them some of the finest custom suits. . .suits that are probably still around today.
Randy: Mr. Monetti, I can’t thank you enough for taking time to talk with me. Feel like looking at a few shirts we brought with us?
Gino: My pleasure. Let’s see what we’ve got…