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The Gazette

Giovanni suits Mounties
No plain clothes made by the St. Laurent Blvd. tailor


Alison MacGREGOR
The Gazette

Giovanni Vacca's St. Laurent Blvd. shop is the only maker of the RCMP's icon uniform.
To get to the master tailor's atelier, you are instructed to go up a flight of stairs in a nondescript building on St. Laurent Blvd. You push past a reception desk and enter a paneled workshop filled with long wooden tables and bolts of textiles. Giovanni Vacca appears and offers you an espresso - perhaps with a bracing shot of Punch Abruzzese liquor - and leads you over to a bar flanked with black leather stools. Welcome to the inner sanctum of Giovanni Clothes Inc. - where sports stars shop for fine duds and where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police get outfitted for dress occasions.
"A guy who walks up the stairs, he comes to buy," said Vacca, 66, the company president and chief executive. "We have customers who buy 10 suits, 12 suits. We have customers for 25 to 30 years.

'They Leave a Ball'

He has dressed baseball and hockey greats, including Wayne Gretzky. In a room off to the side, the walls are hung with autographed pictures of athletes - ranging from N.Y. Yankees manager Joe Torre, Chicago Blackhawks forward Eddie Olczyk and San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker. A glass cabinet is crammed with autographed baseballs - including some used in the World Series - and a pair of dusty hockey skates. "The guys come in, and they leave a ball," said Vacca. "We give them a good value for the price," noted Domenico Vacca, 35, Giovanni's son and head of the company's sales and purchasing division.

Now, the venerable Montreal firm has won a $553,000 contract to supply the RCMP with 3,025 scarlet tunics. Most of them are standard S, M, L and XL sizes, but 250 are made to order for hard-to-fit officers.
Standard tunics will be delivered by Jan. 31, with the others following during the year. The company has added five people to its staff of 45 to complete the order.

Although the family-run business has been supplying the RCMP with tunics for the past 15 years, this is the biggest order yet, Vacca said. "That's about 6,000 metres of red serge," said Domenico Vacca, adding that the red cloth is bought from the RCMP.
The RCMP is trying to cut costs by standardizing the red tunic and farming out the tailoring, Inspector Reginald Woods, officer in charge of the force's uniform-and-equipment program, said in a phone interview from Ottawa.

Since 1873, the RCMP has had different styles of tunics for non-commissioned and commissioned officers. Woods said adopting a standardized version of the commissioned officer's tunic for use by all officers will make alterations easier.

Maker of Formal Wear

Born in San Pietro Infine, in southern Italy, Giovanni Vacca moved to Canada in 1948. After working for several Montreal clothing companies he started up his own business in 1965. The bulk of the company's business comes from making formal wear, he said, adding that the Syd Silver chain of tuxedo-rental stores has been the company's biggest buyer for 22 years. "We do about 40 per cent of formal wear made all over Canada," he said. Daughter Marisa Vacca, 40, and her husband Joe Maiorano, run the Da Vinci Pants division across the street, which was spun off several years ago. Daughter Paulina Vacca, 38, works in the office at Giovanni. Although he wouldn't disclose financial results for the private company, Giovanni Vacca anticipates revenue of more than $2.5 million in 2000.

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