Dressed To Impress

By Lisa Keys

Published June 01, 2007, issue of June 01, 2007.
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One look at Isacco Azra, and it’s pretty obvious that he’s a more than suitable public relations man for his single-label clothing shop, Eredi Pisanò. With a relatively fluent command of English, the Italian businessman clearly loves his label’s high-end men’s clothing. Showing a reporter around his store on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue, he excitedly folds and unfolds candy-colored cotton cardigans and points, with pride, at handmade leather shoes.

But in the world of fashion, appearances speak louder than words. And though he may be a “jeans and a T-shirt” kind of guy when he’s not working, wearing one of Eredi Pisanò’s most expensive suits (slim fitting with gray pinstripes), Azra almost looks the part of a wealthy Italian playboy. Not that that’s a bad thing.

In New York to celebrate the launch of Eredi Pisanò’s pastel-laden spring collection, Azra represents one-third of a brotherhood partnership that runs the company. The oldest brother, Armando, 48, designs the clothes. Raffaele, 42, manages the stores (think windows and staff). Isaaco, the baby brother at 37, is Eredi Pisanò’s chief officer of finance, having studied economics. He is also in charge of public relations.

In the Azra family, it’s not just Jewish tradition and family values that have been handed down from generation to generation — it’s style, too. Eredi Pisanò was started by Azra’s father, Victor, a Libyan Jew who arrived in Italy in 1967. Having had a career in textiles, Victor opened up his first clothing store, bearing his first name, in 1971 in Rome. A second store, Orwell, named after “a writer” (“George Orwell?” the Forward asked. “Maybe, yes,” Isacco replied), soon followed.

Victor spearheaded the single-label concept when he opened the first Eredi Pisanò shop in Rome in 1986. The name, Isacco said, “is fantasy,” and means, loosely, “Aries of Pisa.” “We do it by ourselves,” he said. “We take the fabric, we make it ourselves — it’s all made in Italy.”

Victor passed away in 2005, and now, in addition to the Madison Avenue store, his sons operate six stores in and around Rome and one near Florence, though the family plans to expand soon. Isacco is currently scouting locations in SoHo as well as the Financial District, which is soon to emerge as a destination for high-end shopping, thanks to pending arrivals of luxe brands like Hermes and Tiffany.

Though the store’s sleek, classic-yet-modern suits adorn the bodies of such boldfaced names as Chris Rock and Sean Combs, Eredi Pisanò is strictly a family affair. “We have to keep everything in control — we don’t delegate that much,” Isacco Azra said. “It’s difficult to grow fast like other companies. We’re a very hands-on business.”

“When I was very young, I used to work with my father in the store — I liked it,” he said. “I knew that my life would be in the store.”

The Azra boys grew up in Rome’s small, religious Jewish community, which, according to Isacco, totals about 2,000 people. “The community is growing up,” he said. “Three or four years ago, it was hard to find a kosher restaurant or butcher.”

“We respect all the holidays and keep Shabbat when it’s possible,” he said. And while, on occasion, last-minute work has to be done, “We don’t cook or turn on the lights or drive.”

Isacco currently lives with his mother, Rubina, and the entire Azra family often gathers for dinners and Sabbath lunches. And while mixing business and family may be a potent combination for some, in the Azra family it’s usually pleasurable. Everyone gets along, Azra insists. “We are three — but we are of one mind,” he said.

Lisa Keys is a freelance writer living in New York City.


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