An Interview with the designer who turned John Travolta into a mob boss for the film “Gotti”

Matteo Perin is an Italian designer and stylist; he’s been working with John Travolta for over 4 years, curating his red carpet looks, and he recently worked with the actor to bring to life the wardrobe of mobster John Gotti in the movie Gotti, which premiered at the Cannes Movie Festival last week.

We had a chat, translated here from Italian, with Matteo to understand his work in designing the movie costumes.

Styleforum: Matteo, tell us about John Gotti’s style; what did you find out during your research for the movie costumes?

Matteo Perin: I tried to gather as much material about John Gotti as possible from the archives: photographs, video clips, newspapers, etc. Like most people, his style evolved throughout the years; he started off a little “unrefined” in terms of taste and the fit of his clothes was not perfect (for instance, his jackets looked to be a touch big). Later on, his style evolved to be more tasteful and peculiar in relation to his persona, as his wealth and position allowed him to approach better quality garments and understand their fit. Think of your first taste of Burger King when you were a kid; it probably tasted delicious to your unrefined palate, but today, as an adult who has tried different types of food, you realize how limited your views were.

However, it was immediately clear to me that John Gotti was a man of style who was ahead of time in terms of trends and taste in clothes. His style looks rather modern even today: he used to wear shorter jackets than what was the norm in the 80s, and he had a flair for turtlenecks worn under jackets, something that is not unusual to see today.

gotti movie suits costumes designer travolta

SF: Is there anything peculiar about John Gotti’s style?

MP: Definitely his attitude: he looked impeccable without trying too hard, if that makes sense. He was the cool dude that didn’t have to do much to look cool, because he wore everything with nonchalance and confidence. In Italian, we call it sprezzatura. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the term.

SF: Most of our readers are familiar with the term.

MP: He didn’t have to think too much about his outfits, and if he did, you wouldn’t notice. He looked at ease in his clothes and pulled off every flair, every extravagant accessory. His ability to look effortless even in clothes that stood out for the time is probably the most evident trait when talking about his style.

SF: Speaking of accessories, we noticed quite a few extravagant ones in the movie; for instance, some of Gotti’s ties feature rather unique patterns.

MP: Gotti had Southern Italian roots, where wealth and social position were reflected in one’s choice of accessories. Gotti’s Italian roots show in his choice of ostentatious accessories, such as unusual ties and big and flashy rings. Additionally, his style is reflective of a flamboyant personality.

SF: Did you create the pattern for his ties in the film?

MP: We were lucky enough to have access to some of Gotti’s personal accessories, as the family loaned them to us for the movie; the ties, as well as the big ring, were among them.

john gotti style ties suits designer matteo perin

SF: What about the suits? Who is the tailor that created them for John Travolta?

MP: I have been using a tailor from Veneto, my birth region, for many years. He created all the suits for the movie Gotti.

SF: Tell us about the fabrics: are they Italian as well?

MP: For the movie Gotti I chose exclusively Italian fabrics. However, for the suits I design for John outside of the set, I pick fabrics from the best mills in the world, depending on what we need. Many English fabrics are exceptional.

SF: Did John Travolta pull off Gotti’s style?

MP: He absolutely did. John did an excellent job impersonating Gotti, and I think the clothes helped him tap into his character. He wanted me to work on the film costumes because he needed the clothes to be on point in order to complete the portrait of the mobster: John Gotti is known as the Dapper Don, and his style plays a crucial part in depicting his personality.

SF: What does John Travolta’s style look like outside of the set?

MP: John came to me because he wanted to work with a designer and not just a stylist; a stylist is limited in the choice of clothing, because he or she usually works with what designers and PR firms pass to them. John wanted to develop a personal, well-curated style that was his own and no-one else’s. We discuss each outfit and take inspiration from different things, even though we don’t do much planning about what he’s going to wear where. For instance, last week in Cannes, he wore the suit that we originally created for Gotti’s American premiere in NYC, on June 14th. It was a last minute decision, and like I said, we don’t really have a schedule for what he wears on social occasions. 

john travolta red carpet cannes gotti

Actor John Travolta poses for photographers during a photo call for the film ‘Gotti’ at the 71st international film festival, Cannes, southern France.
Photo: AP

SF: One last question about the costumes: what’s your personal favorite look from the movie Gotti?

MP: Ah, that’s a tough one. You know, I can’t really pick one. Can I tell you my two favorite outfits?

SF: Sure.

MP: One has certainly gotta be the grey double-breasted pinstripe suit; John wears it in the scene in court, and the resemblance with the original suit worn by Gotti is striking. I chose a slightly different pinstripe for John Travolta’s suit, since I found it more flattering on him, but if you look at the two pictures next to each other, it is really impressive how similar the two look.

john travolta gotti movie

SF: And the second look?

MP: It’s from the scene when Gotti is acquitted in court; he’s wearing a pair of dark brown pants, a grey turtleneck, and a blue jacket from the 70s. I just love the combination of colors – in fact, I really love blue and brown paired together, I think it’s a very aesthetically pleasing combination.

SF: What’s next on your and John Travolta’s schedule?

MP: I’m headed to LA next, then NYC to attend the premiere (on June 14th) and then we have a few events related to another movie that’s coming out soon, for which I also curated the costumes.

SF: Then we might speak again soon. Thank you and in bocca al lupo (break a leg) for the premiere!

MP: Grazie, ciao!

Gotti will be in theaters in the United States on June 15th. 

Matteo Perin’s official website:

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