In an age when menswear rarely changed, Francesco Smalto injected new life into the standard forms. After years of studying design and tailoring in Paris at respected fashion houses such as Christiani and Camps, as well as in the United States with Harris, the tailor of President John F. Kennedy, Smalto opened his fashion house in 1962 in Paris.
Enamored with the Far East, Smalto developed a style focused on pure lines and balance. His designs incorporated luxurious fabrics, including cashmere, sable, silk, velvet and a variety of exotic leathers. By the 1970s, Smalto adapted with changing tastes, creating casual, looser designs that maintained the original balance. Although clean, elegant tailoring was the norm, Smalto also toyed with unexpected design and fabric combinations, including the flagship astronaut thigh-boot and the world's lightest dinner jacket made with textured black crpe de chine.
The house dressed numerous stage and screen actors, as well as political figures, creating a loyal international following. His first women's collection, released in 1985, played on masculine suit lines while enhancing the feminine form. In 1987, Smalto expanded into accessories and fragrances, releasing his signature cologne Francesco Smalto pour Homme.
In 1991, Smalto took Franck Boclet under his wing, appointing him creative director. Boclet became artistic director in 1998 and took over the house when Smalto retired in 2001. As of 2014, the house of Smalto remains true to its tradition of balanced elegance, combining the designs of the past with the demands of the present.