Matteo Perin helped make the actor into one of the most notorious, and well dressed, gangsters in New York history.
John Travolta understands the power behind the phrase, “dressing the part.”
Each became part of film lore.
Now, Travolta puts his fashion trust in Italian designer Matteo Perin. The two collaborate both on screen and off, ensuring the star’s appearance is one of a kind. Recently, Perin teamed with Travolta for the upcoming film “The Life & Death of John Gotti.” The film, which co-stars Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston, captures a gangster known for his barbaric rule as well as his impeccable fashion sense.
HiT checked in with Perin to learn what it’s like to team with a superstar talent to get those looks just right.
HiT: You’ve been working with John Travolta on a few projects now … does your work typically involve prolonged assignments like that, or does it more often find you working on a freelance basis with clients?
Perin: I’d say both. I have been working with John Travolta on his personal outfits for some years now, and for him on his film wardrobe for the last two projects, “The Life and Death of John Gotti” and “Cigarette.” It’s exciting for me whether it’s for a film production or his personal collection. But most of the time I work with clients, it’s based on their personal needs.
HiT: When you first work with someone like Mr. Travolta how do you get a sense of what he’s hoping to achieve? Can you share how those initial discussions shape your overall plans? Are there similar themes you explore during that stage?
Perin: Each one of my clients is very different. I like to get to know them, spend time with them, observe them in the context of their environment. This gives me the best perspective from which I can then start to plan the looks and details of each item.
Of course, a lot of time is spent asking the client questions. I also really like to listen and let the person talk. I find that when I let someone speak freely, they inadvertently give me clues about themselves, their lifestyle, what they like, dislike and their feelings in general.
HiT: What kind of research goes into a new client? What factors do you consider when starting to collaborate with them?
Perin: Most clients come to me by word of mouth. Because of the type of clientele I work with, and the level of discretion involved, it’s best if they pass my name along to a friend or colleague. This way there’s already a bit of trust on both sides.
What I consider the most is the fact that the person has an appreciation for the kind of service they are going to receive from me. And I’m not talking about the box that the clothing will be delivered in. I give a very unique, one-on-one service, with many years of experience and expertise in skilled design.
Every piece I create is unique. So for me it is important that the person coming to me understands that the path we are going to walk on is a unique one, above any luxury brand.
HiT: Mr. Travolta has been a star for decades, and the best actors have a good sense of both their abilities and image. Does that help you during the collaborative process? How would you describe his aesthetic sense?
Perin: John has a high aesthetic sense. He likes to play with looks, and he knows how to pair things from different eras, which I find very intriguing. I feel this helps in our collaboration. We’ve designed this way a few times together – and I use all of his input.
HiT: Can you give an example of some of the feedback Mr. Travolta shared with you while working together on “The Life and Death of John Gotti?”
Perin: He very much liked the outfits I made for the film, the fabrics I used, and the colors. We made a double-breasted suit for the film, and he later decided he would like to have a couple for his personal wardrobe as well, which I was very happy with (since it was something I was pushing for).
HiT: You recently began working on Hollywood productions … are you eager to do similar work in the future? Has the behind the scenes process surprised you in any way?
Perin: It’s been very exciting and I am quite grateful. I would love to do more. I would especially love to be able to design wardrobe for an entire film production, given the correct amount of time of course. What I’ve observed so far is that the filming process can be a very quick one, from the decision of the outfits to when they are needed. It’s been a challenge, but thankfully I’ve always delivered on time.