La Famiglia: Introducing the Canadian brand Libero

Based out of Toronto, Canada, Libero is a relatively new label that has already carved out a distinctive niche. It stands out prominently amongst other brands due to its seamless fusion of European and American styling, all while placing an unwavering emphasis on quality over quantity. Libero is about expertise and passion coming together in unity. 

At the heart of Libero is Adam Appugliesi, the brand's co-founder and designer, whose journey with Libero is more than just a professional endeavor - it’s a deeply personal project shaped more by experience than a traditional background in design or fashion. For Adam, Libero is about embodying the convergence of European and North American culture in a way that is timeless. The brand prides itself on paying tribute to history and creating items that will become new classics.

Besides embracing his Italian roots, Adam dedicated his late teens to playing soccer in Italy, cultivating a deeper connection with his family's heritage. Upon returning to Canada, he found himself immersed in the Toronto retail scene, viewing it with fresh eyes and developing a newfound passion for quality men’s clothing. After his time in Italy, Adam was able to appreciate the beauty of the European way of life and wanted to bring an old-world subtlety to the clothing and style he admired. 

It was during this time that Adam's path crossed with the late Kadeem Johnson, a friend whose constant encouragement ignited the spark to channel his passion for clothing into a more tangible venture. In 2018, the pair embarked on the journey together, founding the brand Libero (the Italian word for ‘free’ pronounced LEE-beh-roh) and debuting with a piece that has become one of their most successful and sought-after pieces: the Le Mans jacket.

The Le Mans jacket was an instant hit, and continues to be so. It’s easy to see why: Softly constructed, the jacket is a 70s-inspired collared bomber-style jacket hand-crafted from wool. It’s distinguished by a single embroidered leather stripe that runs vertically along the body. This design element is directly inspired by the racing uniform worn by Steve McQueen in the 1972 film of the same name. 

Much like a classic denim trucker or a timeless varsity jacket, the Le Mans jacket effortlessly strikes a balance between being inherently cool and universally wearable - a surprisingly hard combination to achieve. 

After the devastating loss of Johnson a little over a year after the brand’s inception, Appugliesi and Libero had to find their feet again. But the brand has managed this and more; they are now well in their stride, creating pieces that continually reflect their core understanding of what it is to be a consumer. Above all, the brand strives to sell a story one can fall in love with and Appugliesi wants these stories to come from ‘a place of truth, passion or beliefs.’

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the Le Mans jacket serves as the perfect symbol of Libero's ethos and style. Meticulously crafted, stylish, and drawing inspiration from a variety of influences, it exemplifies the brand's commitment to creating pieces that resonate with a broad audience and tell a story that goes beyond just clothing. Appugliesi calls the jacket a ‘hero-piece’ and remarks that it is his favorite item the brand have created. Revealing that ‘[i]t’s become sort of a Members-only jacket - you know that's a Libero piece from a mile away’ highlights the distinctive look Libero have carved out, despite the youth of the label. 

For Adam, the connection between lifestyle and product is at the core of his design philosophy. This approach significantly influences the curation of products in Libero's relatively small collections. The brand's unique identity is not confined to fashion alone; it's an amalgamation of personal experiences, cultural influences, and a genuine passion for creating a story. 

This has been evident in Adam’s previous collections, which have drawn inspiration from a range of sources but most notably, family. Adam’s dad, Mario Appugliesi, has not only been the inspiration for previous collections, but featured in multiple lookbooks for the brand.

For this reason, trying to categorize Libero is difficult. The Italian influence is clear, apparent in the elegant fabrics and expertly tailored silhouettes accompanied by large, accentuated collars. Yet the products somehow also speak of the migrant story of so many Italians in North America. There is a strong workwear influence which gives a proud nod to Appugliesi’s working-class heritage and the fact that his father, Mario, worked in the construction industry for over four decades. Libero drew on this inspiration for a previous collection, Steel Toes, mixing function with style across a range of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and chore coats.

Beyond style, one of the most distinguishing features of Libero is that their entire collections are crafted in Canada - something the brand shouts about proudly. What makes this even more remarkable is that the entire process is undertaken by just one person.

A seasoned seamstress in her 70s, Michelina is a long-time family friend of Appugliesi. With over five decades of expertise in crafting garments, Michelina, who was primarily engaged in creating wedding dresses for friends and family, readily agreed to collaborate with Appugliesi and Johnson when they first approached her. Even in their creation of items, Libero seek to honor and marry old traditions with new designs to create something truly unique.

 This hands-on approach - a rarity in the fashion world - allows Adam to personally ensure the construction and quality of each product with an unparalleled level of attention to detail. While many brands dream of having such control and involvement in their production process, Libero turns this dream into reality, setting a new standard for the industry and paving the way for others to hopefully follow in their wake.  

Above all, what Libero represents is a profound commitment and a poignant reminder of life's most cherished values: family and friendship. Libero serves as a heartfelt love letter, paying homage to Adam’s heritage, his family, the skilled seamstress Michelina, and the memory of his dear friend, Kadeem. It just so happens that this love letter is an incredibly stylish one you can wear for years to come.