It has taken Stefano Riznyk time for his mere idea of creating handcrafted, luxury ties to become a full-fledged fashion house. In fact, it nearly took 20 years from his original idea until the first stitches were sown. But it has been an adventure of hard work that he wouldn’t have any other way. Riznyk has taken the art of the necktie to new heights with his Antonio Stefano brand. With teams hard at work on two continents to make Antonio Stefano a worldwide fashion powerhouse, Riznyk is ready to unleash new ideas onto the public. It is those creative ideas that really separate Antonio Stefano from others in the fashion world.
Fuelled by two of his favorite addictions, working out and coffee, Riznyk has built his clothing brand while still working at his law firm. But Antonio Stefano isn’t just a hobby Riznyk keeps on the side. It is a passion, a love and desire to create exquisite art that men and women wear that drives him to design clothing.
Crafted in Italy, Antonio Stefano has brought back the true essence of the necktie. No longer is the piece of clothing passe or an afterthought. It is once again an article of clothing sought out by men. But Riznyk is changing the world’s preconceived notions of other items as well. Before long, Riznyk and Antonio Stefano clothing will be redefining a number of clothing items that were considered out of fashion for men and women.
Stefano, the last time we spoke, you were around three months away from releasing a new women’s bathrobe series. How is that line going currently and what has been the initial reactions by customers?
Well, as with anything new, there is always a risk. We had created a sample before production and it did not meet our standards. They tried a second one, and it had the first problems repaired, but presented new ones. We switched companies and the third sample did not survive our 48-hour washing machine test. We are now on our fourth, with a third company, and it is splendid in every way. The ladies who have seen it have ordered it even before production! We intend to keep this level of product quality with every single creation that leaves here with our name on it. We are now confident of our product and hope it does well, because one thing we know for sure… it will last!
Not only is clothing a passion for Riznyk, but he is also a dog lover. His idea is to provide a hospital with cutting-edge medicine and surgeons who can provide medical care for abused canines. Riznyk hopes his AntonioStefano brand can raise money for his dream medical center.
What led you to start Antonio Stefano?
Having hosted a number of events and fashion shows to raise money for abused dogs, I realized that if I didn’t have a department that called on people with the big checks on a regular basis, we would never make as much money as we require. The average medical bill for one abused dog hovers in the $5000 range. I needed something that would be self-sustaining and capable of driving more revenue, and sadly, continuous revenue as the abuse of dogs is a larger problem than most people know.
Antonio Stefano became part one of a two-part strategy in designing a project that would last longer than I would, continuing the vision. The clothing brand will fund a hospital for dogs that will be diagnostic and dental intensive. The hospital will be ‘for’ profit and for the public. All / Should be 49% (the maximum allowed by the IRS) of the profits will be placed in a trust account and when an abused or abandoned dog exists at a shelter or found at some other locale, It will have access to the money. Our hospital will fund all of the diagnostics, dentistry, surgery and we will even groom the dog before release.
The hospital, with MRIs, CTs, and other diagnostic tools will be a draw to the best vets in the country. In turn, the fact that we will care for abused dogs means that the expense will not be an issue and there is no one to say no to a $50,000 procedure, for example. As our doctors work on salary, we get them at much less than retail cost of course. We will be able to test new procedures that have not been tried due to monetary concerns. Once we have developed a system for a new procedure, the cost will drop exponentially, and we can share what we learn with vets worldwide.
As I have a degree in biochemistry and experimental genetics, science interests me and I would like to have two progressive doctors on staff who work on humans: a trauma surgeon and an ER surgeon. We can use their knowledge to advance veterinary medicine. At this point, we can also become a teaching facility and qualify for grants. Most importantly, we can raise the knowledge base of veterinary medicine because we will be in a very unique position to do so, and that may save countless lives for dogs I believe are more deserving of a chance at life, having seen the worst of it. Regrettably, they are usually the first to get euthanized, especially where medical costs are factored in.
How is your project for the raising of money for an abused dog hospital going? Are you nearer your goal in funding and what is still needed for this project to become a reality?
Until we are a globally recognized brand, raising millions of dollars will take time, unless we somehow get lucky and find some people who want to work with us in supporting what we do. I have had some serious discussions with my team and am considering the fact that it may be strategically sounder to support an existing high-level veterinary facility rather than building our own from scratch. This would take a lot of my time away from Antonio Stefano.
On the other hand, if we are a multi-million dollar client of a veterinary facility, they may be happy to implement some of our ideas such as a trauma and ER surgeon who is on the cutting edge of surgery for humans in order to advance veterinary medicine. The idea of a dozen cameras in the OR that would allow us to freely share our surgical ideas with any vet worldwide in order to save dogs is another idea I don’t want to lose. Time will tell.
Let’s go back to the beginning of your company, Antonio Stefano. You spoke about ties setting you apart from others in meetings. How did you get Antonio Stefano from an idea into a full-fledged company that makes world-class ties?
Building a company of this caliber is not about me, it’s about the team I have surrounded myself with, both in San Diego and in Lake Como, by Milan.
The first step, finding a designer was part hard work – walking every single aisle of theMagic Apparel conferencein Las Vegas – and part luck – finding the right person. From there, flying regularly to Milan and Lake Como, as fun as it sounds, was a lot of hard work and pouring over literally thousands of ideas in order to create a tie from a blank piece of paper. The next steps were all as a result of my fabulous team: Emily Butler, Francesco Gangemi, PierpaoloTandura, Kirk Evans, the models, the photographers, videographers, graphic artists, and the many others who in their own way contributed to the many, many moving parts involved in this complex structure we now proudly call our fashion house.
How do you balance your time – and energy – with running a successful clothing company and the charity work you do?
As I don’t have children, I have a lot more time than parents do. I use my working hours at my law firm to earn money to pay for team members to work on Antonio Stefano and then I use my off hours to create and develop the company. As to energy… two ingredients: daily workouts with a trainer, and coffee; and not just any coffee, but great coffee. Being part Italian, I can’t help, but have a strong personal relationship with that most wonderful beverage that has kept me working long past the time I should have gone to bed!
Riznyk is very straightforward with his suggestions for pairing Antonio Stefano ties with clothes. If it fits, go with it! His ideas and designs make each Antonio Stefano tie easily paired with any man’s wardrobe. In his opinion, Riznyk believes a tie should tell the world just who you are as a person.
What are your suggestions and ideas for matching and pairing ties with suits?
At the end of the day, put it on and feel the fit. You will know if it works. I constantly experiment with my wardrobe and am surprised by what works. The ties we designed were created in such a way that they can be used with a number of colors and combinations, even with or without suits.
Unless you require a black tie, which at some times is necessary, I would recommend to stay away from single colors. Choose a tie that speaks to you, one that tells others who you are or even how you feel that day.
I wear my ties according to my mood or to the tasks at hand. I enjoy choosing a tie every day. I do not only wear my own, but of course Versace’s, Boss, and other [brands], there are a few great choices out there and they speak volumes. Enjoy the process, it will change your outlook of the day…. your choice of tie is much more powerful than many people realize.
During Total Prestige Magazine’s interview with Riznyk, we asked him to put his expert tie designing skills to work. His task was to pair the perfect Antonio Stefano tie with a person. It gave even more great insight into one of the up and coming fashion designers today. From professional athletes to politicians, Riznyk gave his thoughts on the perfect ensemble for these powerful men.
Let’s finish with a little game. I want you to pair an Antonio Stefano tie with a person or job.
US President Donald Trump?
Our president seems to like ties that do not distract too much and usually of one color, red. He is a fan of a dark suit, I would pair him with A Posto, the one with the gold touches and red uniform color running vertically. He enjoys the color of gold, likes black, and a sense of power and control should be his; this tie would suit Mr Trump perfectly.
You sure are picking winners here. I can’t think of a better tie than Successo for LeBron. The reason is not that the name translates to Success, it is a good coincidence, but the pure sophistication of the design is who LeBron is when playing. He is a visionary. He creates play. He makes it complicated for the opponent, yet easy for his teammates. All of those qualities are embodied in our first and most sophisticated tie ever designed, taking three people almost three months. And yes, we have it in his size, he need simply ask and we will get it to him!
George Clooney is very international and classy. I think that it would be safe to pair him with Il Medaglione, the tie with the medallion at the bottom and a robin egg blue background. Although he is rarely seen with a tie, and when he has one, it’s black, this tie speaks George Clooney to me. It can travel the world and fit in wherever it finds itself, like George. He has a beautiful smile and this tie would soften the look of what he’s wearing to match that charm.
Justin seems to have an extraordinary sense of style; he can choose anything and make it look just right. I think he likes to wear something that is understated, but that fits in just perfectly. If I had to choose just one tie to fit this man it would, ironically, be ‘La Canzone’, ‘The Song’. I wanted to find something not too flashy, but with just enough flair to state, “I am not like everyone else, but you have to find out why”.
When I saw his name, I could only think of the tie ‘Finalmente’, with the first Roman coin as a medallion at its base. This tie says it all. He performs, he is about peak performance, he gets the job done, he gets the gold medal. Period.
Conor does like his blue wardrobe and I would pair him with Leopardo, the golden leopard in the blue background; I can see him wearing it. The Leopard is the smallest of the large cats, yet has the gusto to take on anything that crosses its path, and are not to be messed with…. need I state more?
After showing off his ability to pair athletes, celebrities, singers and even a president with the perfect tie, Riznyk spoke about his future plans for Antonio Stefano. His vision for the company is honest and grounded. Unlike many entrepreneurs who want to reach the stars in a short time, Riznyk is building his brand one tie at a time. Having burst into the fashion world as a top necktie maker, Antonio Stefano is now focused on their women’s bathrobe line. But it doesn’t stop there. In 2018, Riznyk will unleash an Antonio Stefano fashion show, and he will be teaming up with some special friends to produce clothing for the event.
Are there any new fashions or events on the Antonio Stefano calendar everyone should know about?
We are planning a fashion show that is going to be beyond spectacular for next year in Los Angeles. As our next product line is Leggings, we are working very closely with the acro yoga and dance communities and are pairing them with our clothes to create a fashion show, the likes of which LA has yet to see. I love that city, it has so many talented people, and I will be gathering some of the brightest and the best.
We are working with Francesco Gangemi, an outstanding show producer who had volunteered his time in a number of fashion shows supporting dogs. He knows how to create a memorable production. Additionally, we are working with world-class acro dance performers and trainers – not to mention animal lovers – Becca Gutstadt and Megan Vaughan Giesbrecht to create a show you will probably never forget.
For nearly 20 years, Antonio Stefano was Riznyk’s baby, an idea he wanted to get out of his head. When he finally released the idea on to the masses, it took the fashion industry by storm. Of course, Antonio Stefano has a long way to go; but Riznyk is confidently producing extraordinary products with his team. Perhaps the best part about Antonio Stefano is the product line, and the fact that the items the group continues to design are wardrobe pieces ignored by others in the industry. Yet, these are fashion pieces that we wear every single day.
By Drew Farmer