Gentlemen with a longing to look their best this holiday season need seek no more. Nestled along borgo San Jacopo, a flick of a blade away from the Ponte Vecchio, and manned by Luca Muratore, Mondial 1908 is a restful barber’s shop that is frequented by discerning members of the city’s international community. From handcrafted brushes to refined shaving sets, the store also prides itself on selling its own products, which have been fuelled by craftsmanship for over a century. Luca speaks to The Florentine about the ins and outs of running the luxury barber’s shop belonging to a historic Florentine brand.
How did you become a barber?
I started eight years ago. For me, it’s a family job since my grandfather was also a barber. He loved it and I also decided that it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The art of barbering is a trade that you can only really learn on the job; you learn it solely by working. Yes, there are schools in Italy, but most of them focus on women’s hairdressing. Since barbers change according to the customer, the hair or beard type, it makes sense to learn the profession in the field.
When a customer comes in, what’s your initial approach?
It’s important to make the customer feel at home and that they’re always relaxed. It goes without saying that forming a relationship and building trust between you and the customer is crucial, as it allows you to talk about anything with ease. If they feel at home, are relaxed and pampered, then I’m happy. I always like to make small talk, offer a bit of coffee or perhaps a dram of whisky, asking how their week’s going, etc. Whether it’s an established customer who I’ve known for years or someone I’ve never met before, I always like to make them feel welcome and comfortable.
Are international customers looking for something in particular?
Our international clients are looking for something exclusive, something that can only be found in Italy and, most importantly, Florence. Above all, they are craving some time to unwind as well as a unique service that maybe they can’t find in their own city.
Is there a difference between the products that Italian and international customers ask for?
International customers like our Mondial 1908 travel sets, particularly those for shaving and beard care. The sets are produced in an artisanal, non-industrial way because, for us, craftsmanship is important, and they appreciate it a lot. These items are increasingly hard to find in other parts of the world since almost everything is now mass-produced. However, Florence is a place where there is still so much craftsmanship. Our American and non-Italian consumers are therefore perhaps less accustomed to browsing our shelves, which are lined with products made here in Tuscany.
The needs of regular customers must be easier to tend to, but how do you know what treatments one-off clients are craving?
One of the hardest parts of the job is to really understand a request. A lot of people show photos of what they’d like, but sometimes it’s just not that simple. So, it’s key that the words you say to the customer are very clear, so that they can understand the limitations and what can be done.
What would you recommend to clients in the winter now that Christmas is nearly here?
The salon gets especially busy in the two weeks building up to Christmas as our clients start preening for the holidays! When it’s cold, we use heavier cosmetic products, such as beard shampoos and conditioners, rather than in the summer when it’s scorching hot and you just sweat it all off!
What’s the camaraderie like among barbers in Florence?
I always have huge respect for those who do the same job as me. In recent years though, I’ve noticed that many barbers compete with each other. Personally, I believe a profession should unite rather than divide because, in the end, we share the same passion.
It strikes me that being a barber is a bit like being a confidant or a therapist. Have there ever been any juicy conversations between you and a customer?
Occasionally, it happens. Maybe because, after a few years, regular customers become like old friends. They confide in you and tell stories about particular times in their lives to the point where you actually find yourself fulfilling the role of a therapist, it’s true!
What the gentlemen said after their Mondial 1908 experience
“Luca’s so meticulous, he just takes his time. He spent 45 minutes on a simple haircut, but he kept making it just right. I love the whole atmosphere and the vibe. You have the whisky, you have the view over the Arno, you have the coffee, all the classic barber stuff that is so masculine. It’s like a male day spa. But the precision! There’s a spray and then there’s a mister, and then there’s a towel and another lotion, then another hot towel and you wait a minute. Then Luca lathers you up the old-school way and really gets it in there. He does a full straight razor shave (the whole thing), then another liquid, mist and towel. Then he does it again! He does another layer of the shaving cream and does a straight razor all over again. The second time! It’s just amazing. I’m going to go back there all the time.”
My wife had noticed the shop (which is located close to where we live) when it opened, so I was possibly one of the first customers. I have always liked the atmosphere and the sense of calm as well as Luca’s precision in cutting and everything is in place. His attention to detail is evident in the design and layout of the shop and its products, and carries through to his talent as a barber.
The advertising in this article has been generously gifted to businesses by The Florentine readers David Bach and Alatia Bradley Bach.
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