Wearhouse hero: To hear him tell it, Tony Finocchiaro has the best job in menswear.
Tony Finocchiaro, recently promoted to VP fashion director at Men’s Wearhouse, feels fortunate to have been with this successful retailer for 16 years, part of a team that’s grown the chain from 130 to 620 stores.
“I got started in retail at 16-years-old when I got a call from a neighbor to come and work as a stock boy at Kutler Brothers, a men’s store in San Francisco. One busy Saturday I was invited to help out with sales and I was hooked! Eventually I was invited to come to New York to help with the buy.”
And how’d he get started at Men’s Wearhouse? “It was like déjà-vu. While I was at Kutler Bros., Bob Friend transformed the store from a pipe-and-rack into a fine men’s retailer. When I came to Men’s Wearhouse 16 years ago, we were essentially doing the same thing. I was charged with building a casual sportswear business—basically it was bringing in sportswear that could dress down a suit.”
Finochiarro cites the influence of mentors like Kutler Brothers’ Bob Friend, “At a young age, he didn’t hesitate to play hardball with me; Sol Solk came to the store from Grodin’s, another great California retailer, and taught me a lot about OTB—to be a sharp merchant, but not afraid to take a risk. Robert Story was ‘an old clothing dog,’ and was meticulous about inspecting a jacket for everything from the gorges to the canvas linings. Doug Ewert had already joined Men’s Wearhouse about a year before I did, and he’s been instrumental in giving me the freedom I need to do the job, and his support and confidence in me have been priceless.”
What’s the most exciting part of the job? “I really enjoy working with our team and all the vendors. Sure it’s a big chain store, but we approach it like it’s a specialty store. I love getting into the market and taking a risk on product. I get charged up every season. The challenge is that the store has to be constantly reinvented.”
And the least exciting? “I’ve been known to be sensitive. I recognize that you can’t make everyone happy and that criticism comes with the buy, but I still take it personally. Also, the travel can be a bear.”
“Business is good,” says Finocchiaro. “We’re seeing a lot of excitement in slim-fit through all classifications, which is great because we have a ‘mature’ customer, so it’s nice to see that we’re appealing to a younger customer, too. We’re seeing a lot of movement in wovens and soft jackets are great.”
Does that get political between sportswear and tailored? “My job is to referee what goes on in sportswear and clothing. If it’s sized S to XL, it’s sportswear and is shown on T-stands. If it’s sized, it goes on the wall. We have a similar problem with dress and sport shirts. The styling is so similar these days, where does it go?
“For fall we’re seeing hoodies and cardigans doing well in addition to the wovens, so we’re anticipating more of that for holiday. I’m also bullish on outerwear. We’re a clothing store, so we have to sell topcoats and raincoats, but last year we did well with some three-quarter-length cotton pieces and peacoats that were more about fashion than temperature.”
Finocchiaro, a native San Franciscan, still lives in the Bay Area, driving from home near the San Francisco airport to Men’s Wearhouse’s Oakland facilities. He’s been married for 27 years and has a 23-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter. “There’s a kind of romance we have with San Francisco. It’s a great town. Snow is two and a half hours away if you want that, but warm is usually…well five minutes away: we have such microclimates here.”
Finocchiaro is a history buff—he’s currently reading accounts of his parents’ native Sicily—and also a major sports fan. “I root for the 49ers and the Giants. I would love a Giants/Yankees World Series! I love that the Giants originally came from New York. I’m not that spiritual, but sometimes I think I might have been reincarnated from New York—I can really imagine them playing in the Polo Grounds. I actually went to see the plaque that commemorates them in upper Manhattan! I’ve also been getting into gardening the past few years…it’s a kind of therapy for me.”
Not surprisingly, Finocchiaro’s “road not taken” might have been sports television production. “I was a communications major at San Francisco State, and worked on the college station. Now when I watch games on TV, I pay a lot of attention to camera angles and cuts.”