“I came to New York in 1994 for business and for love. I was working for Italian Condé Nast and already coming to New York a lot for shoots. David Maupin, the father of my twin girls, got a job in New York, so I talked to Franca Sozzani, the editorial director of Condé Nast, and we opened the Condé Nast International office here.
I had always wanted to work in magazines. I started my first magazine in Italy when I was a teenager with a friend of mine. We wrote it, found the money to finance it, sold ads to our friends and family, designed the ads, and published it. By 21, I had started a serious magazine, and that is how I really got into journalism and fashion in particular. It was the '80s—fashion was the place to be.
I got involved with Condé Nast starting at L'Uomo Vogue and Self, then went on to creative direct J.Crew, and made my way back to magazines with GQ and Esquire. Then, out of the blue, Adam Moss asked me to become the style editor of The New York Times style magazine. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, especially as someone who is interested in journalism— The New York Times is the holy grail. So, with the art director of the Sunday magazine, we made this project that eventually became T magazine. We started with eight issues and ended up with 15. It was a huge financial success and a wonderful adventure. Mr. [Si] Newhouse called me a few times about different magazine opportunities, but I was very happy where I was. Then one day, he made an offer for W magazine, which was really interesting. If you work in fashion, photography, or contemporary art, it is a fantastic place to be. Because, sure, it's fashion, but it's never just about clothes. It is much more about contemporary culture.
I tried to bring a lot of contemporary culture into what already was a very interesting publication. I like to give a lot of freedom to my team; they’re very smart, which is why we picked them. They come up with things that are not what I would have planned, but are often even better. I see their stories and think, ‘Oh my God. What is this?’ But they're so much in the spirit or the mood of the times, with a certain kind of edge. And artists—I call a lot of our fashion photographers 'artists'—transform what is happening in the world and put it in the magazine. They're very good at coming up with and giving you what you didn’t even know you wanted.
I am not so quick to try new things in my beauty routine, however. I get a lot of great things that I try to use, but I'm kind of lazy when it comes to that kind of care; I really don't do anything for skincare. I am lucky that I was born with a really nice complexion and tough skin—I never get sunburned. My family has been tough-skinned for generations. When I think about it, no one from my family has married anyone from a different part of Italy. We’re 'Super Tuscans.' [Laughs] I’ve never done a peel or had a facial. I just wash my face with water, no soap.
I brush my teeth with Marvis Classic Strong Mint toothpaste, and every other morning, I shave. I don’t look good in a beard, and I find them to be too itchy. I use the classic drugstore shaving cream that comes in a red can— Barbasol—and throw-away Bic razors. I find the razors to be incredibly comfortable, and convenient. You use them once, then throw them away! Recently I’ve been using Baxter of California After-Shave Balm, and I really love it. It’s a cream, rather than an alcohol-based aftershave, so it’s very good on the skin. Plus, it smells lemon-y. I like that.
In the shower, I use this wonderful Martial Vivot shampoo. I get my hair cut at his men’s salon on 54th Street, across from the Museum of Modern Art, by Losi. It’s not one of those old, stuffy places—there’s a garden in the back. I feel very comfortable there. Losi has been my hairstylist for over 20 years. She started cutting my hair on shoots when I was at Esquire, and she was so good I decided that she was going to be the only person I would let do it. A good haircut is so important. I’ve followed her through every salon, and let her do a lot of crazy things to my hair; I trust her. She knows me and doesn’t try to do something just because she thinks it’s trendy.
I did grow my hair out once, but it was too uncomfortable. I don’t know how women deal with it; it’s so much work. My hair has a lot of volume, so I had to slick it back using so much gel. I still use a lot of gel—I go through a bottle of Kiehl’s gel every two weeks. [Laughs] And I usually use it twice a day because I go out a lot, so I end up taking a second shower. If I didn’t put gel in it I would look like some kind of crazy old lady with puffy hair. They discontinued the gel briefly and I was like, ‘Why are you doing this?!' It was my favorite thing. I even wrote about it in The New York Times. [Laughs]
For fragrance, I wear Frédéric Malle Bigarade Concentree a lot, especially in the summer. But at night, when I go out, I wear Halston Z-14, which I buy online because it's hard to find. It was the first fragrance in history without a logo; it’s a divine, beautiful object. I scent my home with Frédéric Malle Perfume Guns in Jurassic Flower. They’re very funny. I love them, and they don’t burn like a candle, so they never end.
My style is a little like my skincare, by which I mean I don’t give it too much thought. In the morning, yes, I have a lot of clothing—I shop every season—so I have choices, but I don’t think, ‘OK, I’m going to dress like this or put this with that.’ I’m consistent and classic, but not conservative. I follow trends, because I believe in fashion more than style, but I never pick something that screams a label. I like suits, and classics with a twist—things that fit my personality. I’m not the guy who has handmade shoes, or goes to the same tailor for his entire life.
Designer-wise, I buy a lot of Prada because I like the brand and I like the experience. Brunello Cucinelli and Berluti are great designers for me. They fit me perfectly. When Stefano Pilati was at Yves Saint Laurent, I wore a lot of his clothing. He thought like I think. But I really buy from everywhere, depending on the season.
I think for men, it’s all about detail and proportions. In a man’s wardrobe there are a few elements that can really change a lot—a jacket, a pair of pants, a shirt, and a tie or no tie. Take a jacket, for example: you can look at the shape of the shoulders and the shape of the armhole; you can go single-breasted or double-breasted. And then there's the evolution of technology that's very important. Right now, I’m wearing a jacket that is completely unlined, I mean completely. This wasn’t even possible ten years ago.
I love new technology. Without it, my children never would have been possible. They’re here thanks to research and new legislation. Gay couples having children twenty years ago was not even physically possible. And now it has been made affordable and available almost everywhere. It’s a very new experience.”
—as told to ITG
Stefano Tonchi photographed by Emily Weiss in New York on September 12, 2013.