December 21, 2020
Local Spotlight: Rucci Menswear
Marylene Vestergom, a local freelance writer and marketer, had a conversation with Paul Franzese, owner, RUCCI Menswear in the Yonge + St.Clair neighbourhood about menswear trends and how small businesses are taking it day-by-day.
Marylene has generously contributed this article to the Yonge + St. Clair BIA to spotlight how local businesses have been responding to the challenges brought about by COVID-19.
As COVID continues to impact our the neighbourhood’s small businesses, spending and shopping habits have changed. Even the fashion industry has taken a hit. The question remains: will COVID set a new trend as a fashion indicator of these times?
In the 1920s, economist George Taylor of the Wharton School of Business penned the term Hemline Index. It was his observation that the hemlines in women’s fashion were a direct correlation to the economy. When the economy was booming – think mini-skirts. And during the depression and during economic downturns – hemlines dropped. From miniskirts to midis.
COVID has meant ZOOM calls and working from home. Will PJs and yoga clothing be the new uniform of choice in these pandemic times? Paul Franzese, owner of Rucci Menswear at Yonge and St. Clair, does not believe dressing well is a thing of the past. In fact, he’s hoping the pocket square in a fitted sports jacket will be replaced by a coordinated face mask, and he sees the face mask becoming a fashion index for our times. “We just have to ride out this nightmare, and our customers are helping us do just that. That’s what makes the Y+S neighbourhood special.”
Marylene Vestergom, Yonge + St.Clair: How long have you been in the Y&S area and why Y&S?
Paul Franzese: Since 1994, so 27 years. Originally, we were in Little Italy, but as the neighbourhood changed, we needed to find a location that catered to a more sophisticated clientele. This area of the city was ideal, and it allowed us to expand from 600 square feet to 2500. We cater to professional businessmen in their 30s, 40s, 50s plus. They have established their roots in this neighbourhood. It’s an expensive area of the city; with that comes a discerning clientele, and Rucci Menswear fits the bill and their lifestyle.
MV, Y+S: What makes this neighborhood special?
PF: The people who live here. They come from all walks of life. You never know who will walk through the door. The best part is we’ve been a part of their journey — from CEOs, hockey players, singer Robert Palmer, and former Prime Minister John Turner was one of our customers. I even dressed CBC News legend Peter Mansbridge. It was my honour to sell the suit he wore for his last evening broadcast on CBC’s The National.
MV, Y+S: Why men’s fashion?
PF: I have always loved the fashion industry. In fact, earlier in my career I used to model and I loved being involved in fashion shows. In fact, when the Yonge and St. Clair Centre first opened, I did their first fashion show. Those were good times!
MV, Y+S: What can your customers expect when they visit Rucci? What are your COVID procedures?
PF: We adhere to all the protocols from Health Canada. We sanitize our hands and have hand sanitizers available. We wear masks, we sanitize anything they touch including our entrance/doors etc., and if they try on anything that is in contact with bare skin, we put it aside for a day or two.
MV, Y+S: How has COVID impacted your business?
PF: We are very fortunate, as we have a lot of loyal customers. They know this pandemic has hit us hard. Some will drop by and pick up a few things even though they don’t need anything. That’s what makes this neighborhood and our clientele pretty special. Some will just call to see how we’re doing. They miss not being able to just drop by – especially some of our older customers.
MV, Y+S: Has the style of your customers evolved since COVID?
PF: It’s more dress casual. You can’t go wrong with a good tailored sports jacket from Italian designer Paul & Shark, some nicely fitted jeans, a great shirt with loafers or a flat boot. Our customers have put their suits on hold, but when they buy something from Paul & Shark, they get a smart, elegant cut that’s not only stylish but comfortable to wear.
MV, Y+S: What is the one item of clothing every man needs?
PF: At Rucci we pride ourselves on providing a pulled-together look. Every man needs a nice sport jacket, which you can interchange with three slacks, three sports shirts. The look is clean and will always look impeccable, and it will take you through that ZOOM call or a quick shopping trip for groceries. These are times when you need to feel good, and getting out of your sweats is the first step to breaking out of that routine. If you look good – you’ll feel great, and everyone needs a boost.
MV, Y+S: What does the fall/winter season look like?
PF: Funny you should ask. What fall? Manufacturers were closed for the most part, so whatever we’re getting now is limited. What I can say is, we see a lot of muted greys, burgundy, olive greens and browns with blue overtones. Also, sweater jackets are big right now as everyone is embracing the cooler temps. And everyone should have a few scarves in their wardrobe. A nicely knotted scarf is a great way to finish your look.
MV, Y+S: Last Words
PF: We always say – you need something. Not, do you need something? We exchange a good laugh with our customer over that one. And they’ll buy a pair of pants. These are very hard times. I’ve been in the retail game for 40 years and forecasting was second nature, but with COVID – we have no idea. Thank God the landlord is working with us. When we had to pay spring, we worked something out. Everybody is helping because they want us to stay in business – but it’s not easy. We couldn’t do it without the support of our loyal clientele, and that’s a sign of how special the Y+S community is.
As for the future: Truth is – we don’t know what’s happening tomorrow. Retail is tough at the best of times, but at least you could forecast. With COVID – it’s day-by-day. If things don’t open up, we won’t be getting the usual business. No one is travelling or going to special events – but today, our door is open. You need something!
Visit Rucci Menswear at 1426 Yonge Street or call 416. 975.5330