Critical Shopper: Domenico Vacca: Committing to the Life of Leisure

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Critical Shopper: Domenico Vacca: Committing to the Life of Leisure

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Critical Shopper


I was in the dressing room at Domenico Vacca, wearing linen. White linen. A white linen shirt with blood-red trim ($550). It fit beautifully, with just the right amount of stiffness, which is to say halfway, and just the right amount of translucence, which is to say halfway. It was tucked into a pair of sleek floral pants, with elegantly drawn blossoms atop a muted navy base ($520).

Then the song came on.

Music played over speakers in clothing stores tends to be either motivational or aspirational. In fast fashion stores, the endless thun-thun-thun of contemporary dance-pop serves as a reminder to go, go, go and buy, buy, buy.

Hearing Vampire Weekend or Sturgill Simpson in a more tasteful and considered shop is a reminder to pat yourself on the back for your discernment, and to remind you that overpaying for the artisanal is another way to congratulate yourself.

Sometimes, though, the music serves as transportation, not just a soundtrack to an act of commerce but a representation of heretofore unknown lifeblood available to you. It offers a momentary glimpse at an alternate self — not better, necessarily, but perfectly collated.

So here I was, dressed like an Italian playboy in search of a handful of pomade and a beach party, and the store began speaking to me in what it presumed my native language would be: deep house.

Like, exceedingly deep house, but of the hard, springy variety. “You’ve got kisses sweeter than honey/and I work seven days a week to give you all my/pride and joy,” a man sang, in a thin soul voice that exuded genuine delight.

On it went, for several minutes, this oceanic bliss. Shazam revealed the song to be Nora En Pure’s “You Are My Pride (Croatia Squad Remix),” which is exactly the sort of name you would expect of a song best paired with linen. (What does Shazam exist for if not to teach us the secret to instantly accessing a mood we didn’t know was available to us?)

For a few minutes, I looked in the mirror and believed I could emerge in this outfit and never turn back — a life of committed leisure, in which the most pressing decision I’d have to make is whether I’d have breakfast at sunrise, when I got home from the club, or the following afternoon, when I finally woke up and was ready to start again.

That’s Domenico Vacca in the summertime. In the fall, he’s all sleek suits designed for assassins with standing reservations at Terrazza Brunella. But in the heat of the sun, he’s an adventurer. The top three buttons of his shirt are unbuttoned. His loafers are pastel suede ($580).

The new Vacca store just off Fifth Avenue is a playground: a shop for men and women (and now the designer’s sole New York retail outpost), a cafe, a hair salon and barbershop and a private club; and on the higher floors, a short-stay pseudo-hotel, where private Vacca club members — presumably people not inclined to stay at the Peninsula or the St. Regis just up the block — can avail themselves of Vacca-furnished apartments for rent.

Who are these people? Video screens throughout the store played an endless loop of footage from the store’s recent opening party. Mr. Vacca himself pulls up in a Maserati. The room is full of well-tanned men in excellent double-breasted suits and gorgeous women who towered over them, all of them not quite dancing. That is how the outfits stay crisp, one imagines.

Thanks to the attention of the salesclerk, a spectacularly dressed gentleman with the most phenomenal idiosyncrasy — one exquisitely bent strand of hair shooting out several inches from the rest of his bushy beard — I did my best to imbibe the lavish life.

Luckily, I have a predisposition to florals, and at Vacca they were sprouting all over, from the aforementioned pants — which I narrowly escaped purchasing, though their pull remains strong — to a handful of joyous sport coats ($1,415 single-breasted, $1,452 double-breasted). The theme extended to the walls, where a pair of flower paintings by Domingo Zapata hung, and were for sale ($40,000 each).

The jackets, especially, pulled off the delicate balance of maintaining structure while molding to the body, especially the plaid one I was offered with double-track-stitched pockets, and for which only one is for sale in each size ($2,700). Matched with the peacockish spread-collar shirt in the softest denim ($550), and the black lace-ups with a knuckle for a toe ($912), you’d have yourself a look worthy of a short-term rental, replete with Vacca-branded crocodile-motif plates and candy dishes. For good measure, slip on the soft purple smoking jacket ($3,700).

Which is the point, after all. At its best, a clothing store is less about clothes than the way those clothes should make you feel. It is a swaddle, designed to provide you with a safe place to dream.

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