MILAN — Ciro Paone, founder of Italian luxury tailoring brand Kiton, died at 88 in his home in Naples, Italy, on Wednesday, said the family in a statement. The cause of death was not disclosed, but it was known that the entrepreneur had been ill for some time.
He is survived by daughters Maria Giovanna, who’s vice president and women’s creative director of the brand, and Raffaella, who’s head of human resources at the company. Paone’s nephews covering institutional roles at the firm include Antonio De Matteis and Antonio Paone, who are chief executive officer and president of the U.S. subsidiary Kiton Corp., respectively.
“Workers of the seven Kiton factories across Italy were astonished and have already reached the bedside of a man who for everyone represented more than an entrepreneur. He has always welcomed employees with passion, stimulating their determination and the desire to always work with the utmost care and love,” said the statement.
One of the most charismatic entrepreneurs on the Italian fashion scene, Paone brought the Neapolitan sartorial heritage and know-how across the world, while preserving its artisanal appeal and cultural value throughout the years.
“I’m deeply saddened by the loss of Ciro Paone, a visionary, elegant entrepreneur who enhanced the Neapolitan sartorial tradition, making it famous across the globe,” said Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana president Carlo Capasa. “A man with great values, he dedicated his life, with love and passion, to his family and to his company. He wrote a significant chapter of Italian fashion and he will forever be a role model for the future generations.”
“Ciro was a good friend. I have always thought that there was something special which linked us together: family values, attachment to our beautiful country, Italy, love for the product we make, starting with the best of fabrics and a positive attitude to life to make our customers happy. I will miss him a lot,” said Gildo Zegna, CEO of Ermenegildo Zegna.
Leo Scordo, brand CEO of men’s wear company Pal Zileri, defined Paone as “a great master of style, refinement and Made in Italy excellence that I’ve always respected and appreciated.”
Paone prided himself on having dignified the job of tailor. A fifth-generation member of a family of Italian fabric merchants, he established a small production of tailored pieces in 1956 under the CiPa label, which combined his initials. The company was eventually rebranded Kiton in 1968, taking inspiration from the name of the tunic worn in Ancient Greece.
Ever since, the Neapolitan suitmaker increasingly grew to offer outerwear, suits, shirts, knitwear and ties as well as footwear and accessories. In 2005, it also introduced the women’s range, defined by the same attention to luxurious fabrics and perfect fit.
“The motto he used to lead his company has been ‘the best of the best, plus one’,” recalled the statement released by the family.
His drive for quality and business vision earned him several honors throughout the years. For one, in 1999, the late president of the Italian Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi bestowed him the Cavaliere del Lavoro title, one of the highest recognitions in the country.
In 2017 he was also honored at Pitti Uomo with the Pitti Immagine Career Award and an exhibition celebrating his life called “Two or Three Things I Know About Ciro,” curated by fashion journalist Angelo Flaccavento.
At the time, Flaccavento said he set out to create a portrait of the values that Paone stands for, defining him as “the patron saint of Neapolitan tailoring, in the sense that he gathered all of the tailors in the Naples area and created this whole myth; it was an art in danger of disappearing completely.”
The exhibition unfolded across six rooms themed around the values that best represented Paone’s world, including “Naples,” “Tailoring,” “Wearing” and “Quality.”
The opening room was dedicated to the theme of “Family,” a key aspect in Paone’s life and career, as he was often considered a patron and point of reference by members of his family and employees alike.
“Ciro Paone was really one-of-a-kind. He has been a true visionary and enlightened entrepreneur, able to build a successful company, but also inspire younger people and create a strong legacy within his family,” said Pitti Immagine CEO Raffaello Napoleone. “He will always be a role model for the whole industry, thanks to his vision, passion and honesty. He established a business model based on quality and creative excellence with an always discreet, humble approach.”
When in 2014 De Matteis was awarded the Prize for Entrepreneur of the Year at the Milan Bourse, he shared the honor “with the whole company, especially with my uncle Ciro Paone,” explaining he owed “all the goals we reached to him.”
“His genius and his entrepreneurial vision are a daily teaching and inspiration for me,” said the executive at the time.
“Knowing Ciro Paone was a privilege I will always cherish,” said Tom Kalenderian, former executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s, children and home at Barneys New York, and now strategic adviser for retail and merchandising at Ermenegildo Zegna. “He embodied the essence of excellence and inspired us all to achieve our best. He created a pinnacle brand and organization that will endure for generations to come.”
Louis DiGiacomo, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s at Saks, said: “Ciro Paone was an icon in the men’s industry. He brought ingenuity, inventiveness and challenged the status quo. He made his partners feel like family and cherished his relationships within the industry. He will be truly missed.”
“Ciro Paone created a signature interpretation of the Neapolitan tailoring tradition with his founding of Kiton, using color, pattern and scale in a way that became synonymous with the brand,” said Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. “On our many appointments over the years in the Kiton showroom in Milan, Ciro has been ever-present, always greeting us, accompanying us on walk-throughs, and, in later years, always giving a thumbs-up sign from his chair. His love for the craft and artistry of tailoring was truly remarkable and will continue to inform the future of Kiton.”
Based in Arzano, a 30-minute drive from Naples, Kiton counts 750 employees and five production sites, including a knitwear factory in Fidenza. Committed to securing a supply of textiles as its business was growing steadily, especially in the U.S., in 2010 the company acquired a controlling stake in Biella, Italy-based textile mill Carlo Barbera, a well-known high-end yarn manufacturer, for 3.3 million euros.
The brand, which has more than 50 freestanding stores globally, usually shows its women’s and men’s collections at Palazzo Kiton, the company’s Milan headquarters, a building it acquired from the house of Gianfranco Ferré.