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Casual formal outfit


Following a request on last week’s Finagon post – the cardigan we created with John Smedley – here are some details on the rest of the outfit, above.

One reader drew attention to the shirt collar, a button-down made by Satriano Cinque, the Neapolitan maker I use for most of my shirts. I think I’ve mentioned before that this is a design I created with the cutter, Luca, which involved moving the buttons that secure the collar a couple of millimetres higher. This gives the collar more roll, forcing it to curve outwards as its reach down the shirt is reduced.

The biggest advantage of the design is that this roll remains when the shirt is worn with a tie. All too often a button-down lies flat when fastened under a tie, creating an unattractive, short point. This collar is also slightly higher than most RTW buttondowns.

The shirt could be blue or white, but white is smarter and helps to create contrast. Elsewhere, we’re working with pretty standard menswear colours. Navy is the most versatile colour for knitwear and suiting (indeed almost anything apart from shoes, shirts and hats). And tan is among the most versatile for casual trousers.

A reader requested more suggestions for outfits like this, that are formal enough for the office but fall between suit/tie and T-shirt/jeans. For me, the most important things here are fit and colour. Stick with a simple palette and pay attention to fit – a suit is flattering and formal because of the way it fits, as well as its worsted surface.

The trousers are not actually Incotex, as mentioned on that earlier post (apologies) but a substantial cotton-twill from Panta Clothing. I haven’t written about Panta for a few years, but they’re worth considering for RTW trousers with an eye to bespoke detail. I particularly like these for the side tab sitting on the seam, not the waistband. The heavier cloth also makes them easier to wear with casual clothing.

The shoes are unlined Edward Green loafers.

For anyone who missed the Finagon posts, you can see more details on our perfect cardigan here. The model is not limited, but Permanent Style readers get free shipping for another three weeks. And midnight (worn above) is still available in all sizes!

Photo: Luke Carby

Musella Dembech tailor
While in Milan earlier in the year I had a chance to catch up with Gianfrancesco Musella-Dembech, whose family run a small bespoke operation in Milan.

Mother, father and son all work in the same room, which is also part of their appartment. Although they also use an external trouser maker, this is the hub of activity. Patterns are being cut on one table by Gianfrancesco (the son), while mother and father work on a jacket behind him. 

The three are wonderfully welcoming and have a good number of yarns to tell, given that the father, Francesco Musella (above) has been intertwined with several aspects of the story of north Italian tailoring.

Musella Dembech bespoke

Let’s unwind a little of that story. Francesco worked as a cutter for the tailoring houses of Baratta, Giuseppe Colovito and Donnini e Caraceni. In this case that Caraceni is Augusto, and although we know his name, Francesco reminds us that Mario Donnini was just as important in the Donnini e Caraceni partnership. Indeed for Francesco, Donnini was the master: perhaps the most important cutter in the whole north-Italian tradition. Gianni Agnelli was a Donnini customer on San Babila, and Francesco is particularly proud of his work for Agnelli while he was there.

As for Giuseppe Colovito, he ran a separate atelier in Milan, and was an heir to Cesare Tosi – again, one of the most important and often forgotten names in Milanese tailoring. Baratta, meanwhile, was a key influence and a name that was bought out by the Campagna family along with Domenico Caraceni.

Musella Dembech2 Musella Dembech

The Musella family’s style today is rooted in the north-Italian cut of all these names, with a few idiosyncratic details such as two broad rows of stitching across the top of patched chest pockets. The structure is lighter than other Milanese tailors, but the style is not Neapolitan, despite suggestions elsewhere. Other things that distinguish it are: a carefully worked shoulder, that sits close all round and is slightly forward of most cuts; a full sleeve with an egg-shaped crown; unflapped pockets on suits; high-waisted trousers with two pleats; 5cm turn-ups; and curved rear trouser pockets.

Francesco has been key in the development of his son as a cutter, helping him develop his first patterns and still supervising all his work today. Gianfrancesco, on the other hand, has been very effective at spreading the name of the family firm. They have a popular website-cum-blog with regular updates on work, and have received a lot of attention online (particularly for polo-collared sweaters developed by the aunt).

If you like the style, they’re certainly worth visiting in Milan. Two-piece suits start at €3500.

Musella Dembech milan

linen safari jacket Budd

This safari jacket, made by London shirtmakers Budd, was born out of a desire for a soft, unstructured layer I could wear over a shirt or T-shirt in the summer. Often such things are referred to as shirt-jackets. They have no structure whatever, like a shirt, but have external pockets to perform some of the practical duties of a jacket. 

The problem with safari jackets is that they often look rather colonial, and middle-aged. That is partly down to colour, which is usually sand for authenticity. Another, perhaps more important reason is the fit. Presumably in the belief that such jackets must be ‘easy’ fitting in order to remain cool, they rarely have any suppression in the waist and large, blooming sleeves.

The way to avoid this is to go bespoke. With tailoring that’s a rather expensive choice, but with a shirt-jacket it’s not. My jacket from Budd cost £395. Still a lot of money, but a lot less than a £3000 suit and not much more than a £225 Budd shirt.

linen safari jacket Budd measuring

Darren Tiernan, the head cutter at Budd, was clearly interested in my suggestion of a safari jacket, but also understandably wary. Few bespoke craftsmen like stepping outside their comfort zone, usually because the refinement of their craft is concerned with perfecting an established process.

We started off big. A test shirt was made in cheap, navy linen, with Darren cutting most of the measurements a size bigger than a normal shirt. At the first fitting we then cut a lot of things down: the shoulders, by a quarter of an inch, the chest and waist, by around a half, and the length, by a whopping two inches.

It was worth being conservative with the initial shirt for two reasons. One, because of the sheer uncertainty of how we both wanted it to fit. And second, because as with any shirt it is always a lot easier to reduce the size than to increase it.

linen safari jacket Budd fitting

At the second fitting, things looked a lot better. The length was more that of a jacket, rather than a shirt. The pockets had been moved up in proportion, and the hip pockets enlarged to be more similar to jacket patch-pockets. We also shortened the sleeves and took some of the fullness out of them.

The only thing we couldn’t change was the button placement, because the buttonholes had already been cut for the first fitting. That’s why their position looks rather odd.

I have to say that at this point I was very interested by the project, but a little uncertain as to whether I was going to like the final result. That all changed when we had the shirt made in the final material, a 265-gramme army-green Irish linen from John England. Suddenly, it all fell together. A little more slimming in the waist (two darts) some more out of the top of the back, and it was complete.

linen safari jacket Budd sleeve

We had trouble finding that linen. There are only a couple of bunches of decent-weight ones and neither offered a satisfying green. I credit Darren with finding the John England samples, which for me really made the garment. After a dozen wears so far (and one wash) it has softened nicely and feels extremely comfortably over either a T-shirt or shirt.

The key to wearing it seems to be undermining those colonial associations, by loving the wrinkles, leaving most of the pockets unbuttoned, and often leaving the cuffs loose. I’ll take some more photos to demonstrate in a week or two.

More back story in my How to Spend It column.


linen safari jacket Budd2


Photos: Luke Carby

the flannel suit

In response to requests in the recent post ‘Classics that never get used’ here are five essentials of a modern wardrobe. Obviously a man’s actual requirements will vary hugely by lifestyle and occupation, but hopefully there will be something here for everybody.

On reflection I decided to make this piece about jackets and tailoring. The rest can take up a future post. You will find examples of the pieces I describe at the various links below.

The navy worsted suit

Some say grey compliments more complexions. They are probably right; but navy is more versatile. No matter what you job or place in life, you will find a use for a great navy suit.

Get it in a mid-weight (around 13oz) so it can be worn most of the year. Get two pairs of trousers and consider adding a waistcoat: a waistcoat and trousers can be a very practical (not to mention stylish) option for day-to-day office wear. And look after it so it lasts.

The cashmere sports jacket

This should be soft, both in material and construction. For bespoke, this means Neapolitan: a shirt-shoulder, a shorter length, curvy patch pockets. To be really useful, it has to be equally at home with flannels and denim. And you don’t get that with any kind of structured shoulder or chest.

Mid-grey is the most versatile colour for a sports jacket, preferably with some texture (herringbone, Donegal). Until recently I had been making do with my Permanent Style Tweed model from Caliendo. Now I finally have a cashmere version in the works.

The flannel suit

Flannel is a wonderful cloth. Elegance and comfort are not combined to the same degree in any other material. And a mid-grey flannel suit will be a fantastic foil to that navy worsted. Not for all-year-round, but as a characterful but perfectly professional option in the mild or chilly months (see top image).

Buy two pairs of trousers, again. Perhaps even three: one to give the suit longevity, another to be worn on its own. No, hang that. The third should be in a paler grey. I do love pale-grey flannel. The tailored man’s denim.

The overcoat

You need an overcoat, so this is a rather obvious choice. But given that necessity, it is worth working to buy one that is at least equal to the rest of the wardrobe. And work hard on getting a fit that works with both suits and knitwear. Obviously easier if you go bespoke.

For style, I’d recommend navy, possibly double-breasted. There is much joy in the line and drape of a DB, and an overcoat is the easiest way to wear it.

The blouson

The classic casual jacket, a blouson sits on the hips and zips up the chin. Unlike a leather jacket, it often blooms at the waist, though does not have to. I have two favourites: unlined brown suede from Carlo Brandelli’s first run at Kilgour, and pale-grey cashmere from Loro Piana.

They are more prevalent in cotton, but search out one in wool or suede. To be worn at the weekend with those flannels and old brogues. Also great for travel.

john smedley perfect cardigan

Following Monday’s post on the cardigan we have developed with John Smedley – the Finagon – here is an update and answers to questions.

Almost three-quarters of orders so far have been for Racing Green, and as a result medium and large have already sold out. It’s great to have such a strong response, but I’m sorry for those that missed out.

The next delivery should be in five weeks. However, having spoken to Smedley, we have come up with a way to get you to the front of queue. Please email and ask to reserve a colour and size. That way we can guarantee a piece from the next release, and there’s no chance of missing out again. 

In the meantime, having seen all the colours in person, I also recommend indigo (a subtle, alternative shade of blue that looks great under navy) and soot (a nice yarn mix of grey and brown). 

Second, here are the measurements for the Finagon, in sizes from small to XXL:

Chest width: 48, 51, 54.5, 58.5, 61

Body length: 60.5, 62, 63.5, 65, 66.5

Width across top of ribbing (hips): 37.5, 40.5, 44, 48, 50.5

Shoulder width: 31, 33, 35, 37, 39

Armhole (seam to seam): 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

Lastly, a reminder that unlike some collaborations that require guaranteed orders, the normal John Smedley returns policy applies to Finagon orders. So feel free to order, try on and return if necessary. Particularly given the free shipping available to readers by using the code FINFREEPOST

Note: pre-orders are on a first-come first-served basis while stocks last, and are only available on Racing Green