Capturing the quintessential look of Etro is a complex endeavor.
So much so that head menswear designer Kean Etro doesn't trust store managers to use their judgment when dressing mannequins.
When a shop runs out of, say, a lavender- and green-striped shirt that is part of a showcased ensemble, the manager must e-mail a photo of his suggested replacement to the Milan headquarters.
The suggestion is usually vetoed. "You always correct, " said Etro, who was visiting his shop while in Miami for a conference.
Kean is one of four children of Gimmo Etro, the man who started the line of luxurious textiles in Milan, in 1968. He and his siblings have successfully turned the company into a destination for the man in a suit with a touch of dandy.
"In a way, maybe we're a niche company, " Etro said. "We're for people with a very strong sense of individuality. You need confidence wearing color."
He looked at his jacket, the color of split pea soup. "It took me 20 years myself to wear a green coat."
Etro has a wild mop of hair and studied medieval history at Cambridge University. He seems to enjoy nothing so much as ruminating about the line and life.
"I like to have imperfections -- irregular, " he said, trailing off as he fingered a nub in a sweater on display. "We are human beings -- we are a quantity of imperfections. I want a garment that's alive."
At Etro, rainbow dress shirts and pocket squares poke fun at pinstripes. Shirts usually have a white background to offset the strong hues, but the Etro aesthetic is still busy, bright, fussy.
And apparently, knowing exactly which striped shirt goes with which striped tie is something of an art. Which raises the question: How in the world can a consumer sort it all out once he's back in his walk-in closet, far from the headquarters-approved combos?
"We are never telling the customer to buy the complete look, " Etro said -- only pieces of the look. And working with single items, they say, is something you can safely do at home.
The fact is, a little bit of Etro goes a long way. That's a good thing, considering a dress shirt can run you $245 and a suit $1,400, easy.
Despite succumbing to certain fads in previous years, such as the subdued colors of the '90s, Etro more lately has stuck to its color-flushed roots.
"It wasn't easy and in these days sometimes we did go minimal, " Etro said.
"But then we said, 'Are you a leader or are you following someone else?' "
Where: Etro, Village of Merrick Park, Coral Gables. 305-569-1669.
What we love: Brown sport jacket, $1,320 with Pietro dress shirt, $350; suede waist belt, $550; messenger bag, $700
Why we love it: For the urbanite who knows how take herringbone and turn it on its head.
What: Pinstripe suit, $1,450; blue pinstripe Jacopo shirt with contrast collar and cuff, $245; blue and fuchsia silk tie, $125
Why: For the man in the boardroom who's not afraid to express his inner pink.
What: Pinstripe suit, $1,500; pink- and green-striped Warrant shirt with contrast collar and cuff, $295; paisley silk tie, $125
Why: We really don't know why, but it's the way Etro does it, and so be it.
Kean Etro's punchy, pricey designs are for guys who don't mind making a fashion statement. Photo: Peter Andrew Bosch