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Dressed for the Occasion

David Zivan | September 18, 2018 | Feature Features

Local menswear icon Rino Burdi is marking his company's 50th anniversary. Stop in next month and you're likely to find some prosecco waiting.
Rino Burdi, getting inspiration on a trip to Florence

A half-century is a long time for any business.
Everybody is worried about the bottom line but I've always been one of those guys who always want to give more. I'm very into the sartorial part. It's not a label driven thing for me—it’s always been about quality. With my Dad and my grandfather being master tailors for me it's very important to keep the tradition going.

So when did it all start?
My dad started this business. My grandfather was a tailor and my dad was a tailor as well. When my dad was three years old, he was putting the thread through the needle for his father and stuff like that. That’s kind of what my dad did to me. I kind of didn't even realize I was getting groomed.

Where was that?
Here in Chicago. Dad had his shop over on Broadway for a few years and then started working at a second floor tailor shop that was next to Bigsby and Caruthers. They were using him basically as their tailor, and eventually he thought he would give the retail thing a try. Things were much different then. $150 for a suit. My dad would handmake a garment for very little. When he came here basically you could find a tailor on every corner.

When did we lose that Old World way of doing things?
I am not quite sure because it's never really left for me.

Where in Italy did your family come from?
My Dad came from Bari, and my grandfather—the heel of the boot. My dad actually made it over here not speaking any English, owing my aunts money. Just a tailor and he didn't make a lot of money but he had three jobs and it was really hard. He instilled that in all of us. I've got three other brothers and we’re all the same way. We all are hard workers.

How long have you been in your current location ?
A little over 30 years. I started with my dad in 1983—we were just a couple doors down—and we were there for maybe 15 years. We were able to purchase the building and that was the best thing my dad ever did. He wanted something to keep the tradition, that just keeps on going. Now, having two sons of my own I understand where he was coming from. You start to feel that connection.

What do the next 50 years look like?
I've got one who’s really into clothing and then the other one’s really into styling so I don't know which one will pick it up. But right now I've got a pretty good chance that somebody will go with it.

Whats been the biggest challenge?
The key is to provide people something they can’t find anywhere else. I think that's the key— keep them coming back for something special. We have a lot of clients who just don't want to wear a tie anymore but still like wearing a jacket. A jacket and jeans. We carry hand-tailored jeans now. Your money is not on the label, it's in the quality.

Luxury lives on.
We do talk about value. OK: Is it really worth it to have something sewn by hand? At the end of the day if it puts a smile on your face then it's worth it.

58 E Walton St, 312.642.9166, burdiclothing.com



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