"Nestling not far from Geneva's famous luxury hotels on the bay, the men's fashion boutique Basile contains some real little gems of classic sophistication and unbeatable quality. Discerning customers do not make mistakes. For more than 30 years they have been coming back again and again to take delight in decking themselves out at the hands of Antonino.
As soon as you step into Boutique Basile, you feel at home: wood-panelled decor, marble effects, leather sofas... The atmosphere is welcoming, light years away from the minimalist layout often provided by stores which want to be at the forefront of fashion.
Because fashion, at Boutique Basile, is timelessly chic and elegantly timeless. A refinement that has not always been a feature of the life of the brand's founder, Antonino Basile ("Nino" to his friends). Landing in Switzerland in 1959, he soon found work as a mason, an exhausting manual job like that of many other Italian immigrants of the time.
As luck would have it, he then worked for more than 10 years at a furrier's before unearthing a position at a Geneva fashion store. But Nino had a commercial vision quite different from that of his boss, Italian like him, and the two men were rather hotheaded... Repeated heated discussions would push Nino to spread his own wings: in 1973 he opened, on the corner of Rue des Pâquis and Rue Dr-Alfred-Vincent, his own men's fashion store which he christened Linea Boy.
It stocked superbly made suits and shirts, but the deisre for quality on the part of customers from the neighbouring luxury hotels drove Nino to indulge in the very top of the range: "Often, my international customers examined the fabric of the items in stock and muttered in broken English: 'Hm... no good enough, no good!' They wanted even better quality fabrics, no matter what the price!" Nino listened carefully to his customers' wishes, changed suppliers, built up a great reputation, and thanks to a good relationship with his accountants, a little later, in 1978, even moved location to an even more desirable address: Place des Alpes, two steps away from Jardin Brunswick.
"We select stock according to our personal taste and taking into account our principal customer base, which for the most part is men over 40 years of age, who have very demanding jobs and who are looking above all for quality, mixed in with formality and distinctiveness," Nino explains. He then quotes a whole series of politicians, sheikhs, busy businessmen, heads of state and royals who have at one time or another called on Boutique Basile. No name will ever be indentified: discretion is also part of the service. But how to maintain the loyalty of customers for whom Geneva is just somewhere to visit?
"Unlike other shops, we do not take our customers' postal or e-mail addresses to keep them up to date with what's new. We would find even that inappropriate! We are simply welcoming and close to our customers, completely available and flexible on their behalf, and we offer them items of a rare quality in our field. I assume that is what they are looking for, given the fact that we always see them again after their first visit!" opines Nino, the patriarch. Has he not himself made a same-day return trip from Geneva to Barcelona to deliver a tailor-made suit?
A service, often personalised, which has just added to footwear, shirts, ties, jackets and other accessories to the superbly tailored suits stocked by Boutique Basile, which never compromises on the quality of the fabrics, leather and furs chosen. "And each item must be entirely handmade!" pronounces Nino.
But the quality also needs a name to attract customers, especially when they have very high expectations. Having roamed with delight through the most wonderful silks, the latest elephant skins, the most beautiful fabrics and the most sought after sable furs, I lean over one last time towards the venerable Nino Basile to ask him exactly where his sunny accent comes from: "From Sicily, Miss, from Sicily!" I then depart thinking about the famous 1969 French film "The Sicilian Clan": Basile is like the actor trio of Gabin, Delon and Ventura - were they not always well turned out?"