Is it the navy pinstripe suit with a light blue dress shirt or the grey windowpane jacket with a vest underneath? Do the dress pants need pleats? How should the Villanova basketball team prepare for its next Big East game? Jay Wright could roll off an easy answer for that last question. He has made handling Big East opposition a habit more than a challenge over the past decade. Those other two questions he entrusted to his tailor, Gabriele “Gabe” D’Annunzio. From the violet tie adorning the coach in the 2016 national championship game to the clean, blue look in Villanova’s 2018 championship, Gabe, as he is affectionately known, masterminded Wright’s rise to the most fashionable man in college hoops. The D’Annunzio family and his practice D&B Tailors announced last week that Gabe had passed away at the age of 76, and he was recognized on the Fox broadcast of Villanova’s basketball game last weekend.
Born in a region of Italy east of Rome, D’Annunzio grew up surrounded by the clothing industry. His father was a master tailor, and his mom worked as a seamstress. Before the family immigrated to Philadelphia when Gabe was age 11, the D’Annunzio children raised silkworms to sell to locals who would use them to spin silk. Upon moving to the United States, D’Annunzio quickly realized he was born to follow in his father’s footsteps. He opened his first shop in 1966 after working as an apprentice, and his success would lead to the expansion of the business. D’Annunzio’s hard work and dedication would draw celebrity clients, such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Kalas.
D&B Tailors stressed D’Annunzio’s meticulous attention to detail, combining “superlative craftsmanship with undeniable style” according to their website. Each outfit is a personalized work of art, conforming to the style and body of each individual. D’Annunzio brought expertise in every style as he guided each customer through the design process. From the color of the suit to the pattern on the jacket, the master tailor ensured an unmatchable elegance. Each client returned to the tailor for multiple measurements, which allowed D’Annunzio to build relationships upon each visit. In a quote he gave to the Delco News Network following the reception of a lifetime achievement award, D’Annunzio declared, “I aim for perfection in my garments or as close to perfection as is humanly possible.”
It is this commitment that attracted clientele from around the country, who journeyed to the store’s location on Chapel Road time and time again. It is what has made Wright the “best-dressed man in college basketball,” according to former President Barack Obama.
Beyond the suits, D’Annunzio possessed a friendly disposition evident to all who met him. Jerry and Sandy Canavan reminisced about their friend, saying he made everyone feel special. He treated others like they were “the most important person in the world.” Wright knows this well, describing his tailor as “a faithful servant” and with “a life lived for others.”
D’Annunzio enjoyed spending time with his wife Carol, whom he was married to for over 45 years. The couple enjoyed fine dining and traveling together throughout their time living in eastern Pennsylvania. D’Annunzio was committed to his work, but his love for Carol never left him. During an interview in 2016, he admitted he did not want to retire because he found too much satisfaction in his work. There were two activities he savored outside of custom suits: gardening and dining with his wife.
Everyone who knew Gabriele D’Annunzio will never forget him. He was a close friend to many, and his legacy will live on through his family and his business.