Lorenzo Cifonelli made me this beautiful suit at the beginning of the year, and I’ve meaning to write about it ever since.
He has cut two jackets for me in the past, a pale-grey cashmere DB and a green tweed SB. I gave details about both of them at the time, and you can see them at those links. However, I thought it was worth going into a little more detail here, particularly given reaction from some of my favourite tailors to this 11oz three-piece.
In the words of one cutter, Cifonelli uses an extravagant amount of handwork in its suits. I think extravagance is the right word. I offer no justification for it from a practical point of view – it is pure aesthetics.
The waistcoat, for example, is handsewn and then top stitched around the collar and the armhole; even the bottom of the lining, where it joins the cloth, is handsewn, which is completely unnecessary. Indeed, it is harder to achieve the straight line required when sewing by hand – Cifonelli’s is, of course, straight, but it will have taken an hour or more to do that one seam. I will post more close-up photos of these aspects next week.
It is easy to focus too much on the construction, however, for the fit and styling are also superb. No flat-fronted pair of trousers I have fits so cleanly down the fronts. The waistcoat uses two darts in the front – one only under the pocket – to shape it into the front of those trousers. As a result it sits clean and flat against the trousers where others often stand away.
Among style points, the roping of the shoulder and broader lapel give a great plunging-V to the jacket, without resorting to the drape or heavier canvas of English tailors. The buttons are a chunky brown horn – probably the only showy thing about the suit – that I love. I always find it funny when English tailors tell you the horn buttons they have are the only ones on the market. They haven’t spent any time looking.
At over €5000, this is an extravagant suit in many ways. But it is also one of the most beautiful things I have ever worn and many other tailors could learn from the style points as well as the construction.
More photos next week.
Photos: Luke Carby
Those of you with long memories will have fond recollections of the annual scrum that was the Drake’s Christmas sale at the old factory. After a brief stay at the Music Rooms, the sale is now being held at the new factory on Haberdasher Street, and there is a much wider range of stock available, from knitwear and throws to shirts and Mackintoshes.
The sale goes on for the next three days, but there were already people queuing at 9am today, so get there today if you can. Discounts mostly 60%-70%, with ties down from £115 to £35.
One of the new makers I met in Naples last month was D’Avino, a small shirtmaker run by Fiorenzo Auricchio (above). Fiorenzo trained as a boy under his father, who worked for Gino Borelli – so a pretty decent education – and then set up his own company.
As regular readers will know, I regularly use Satriano Cinque to make my shirts, and I have been more than happy with them. Given the people I have met at the Satriano visits over the past few months, others are clearly happy with them too.
But while Satriano delivers that lovely soft Neapolitan construction, and the most important, functional handwork (collar attachment, sleeve insertion), it is not the ultimate of what Naples can offer. That is reflected in the price: Satriano starts at €180, where Kiton and others are up towards €300. (More on Kiton, run by another Borelli, the lovely Sebastiano, here.)
D’Avino is the ultimate. Everything on the shirt except the long side seams and the edging of collar and cuffs is done by hand. As with Kiton, the side seams are also turned and then stitched by hand again, to give the seam pliancy.
Indeed, in a few small ways D’Avino goes further than Kiton. The placket on the sleeve is entirely constructed and attached by hand; the seam along the back of the yoke is done by hand; the cuff is attached to the sleeve by hand. Fiorenzo puts it at 25 hand operations, where Kiton is 17. I haven’t counted my shirts, but I’ll take his word for it.
These are all tiny, unnecessary details. They make no functional difference to the shirt. Perhaps attaching the cuff by hand gives it natural curve, as with the collar, but it’s tenuous. As with many aspects of a Cifonelli suit (of which more later in the week), the value is in the pure aesthetics, the pleasure of craft for its own sake.
D’Avino shirts run from €250 to €400. The photo at top is of the fitting in Naples – I will post more when I have the final shirt to assess. In the meantime, click on the images below to see close-ups of Fiorenzo’s work. The yellow stitches are basting.
I adore the A/W photo shoot for Drake’s, shown here. Such vivid colour combinations.
It reminds me of a post I wrote almost four years ago now about my favourite early photos on The Sartorialist, called ‘Casual and formal wear are closer than you think‘.
There are some things I would change about the post now (like the man with the green scarf) but the point remains about inspiration drawn from both casual and formal wear. Sometimes fans of sartorial clothing can get stuck in minutiae and historical references. It does us good to spread our gaze a little wider.
Below, my favourite ever Sartorialist photo, for just that reason.
Michael is developing an online service that specialises in cleaning and pressing for bespoke clothing. He has 25 years’ experience in the industry and a small staff with similar experience. Any dry cleaning is done one piece at a time – unlike most dry cleaners, who pile everything into one drum – and on a manual programme rather than automatic. This means there is less agitation of the garments and they can be watched carefully, to make sure they handle the process ok. A pure filtered solution is also used each time.
Spot cleaning (the ‘sponge’ in sponge and press) is done by hand using steam and water-spotting guns, as well as a spotting chemical and brushes. Generally this is all that is needed for a suit unless it is heavily soiled – or the marks are oil-based. Perhaps most importantly, pressing is done expertly by hand.
I tried the service a couple of weeks ago, to assess how ‘expertly’ it could be done, and the results were impressive. The small marks on my Graham Browne suit (pictured) came out nicely and the pressing was very well done – a lot better than my recent experiment with Jeeves. The lapel roll was retained and the trouser crease was perfect.
Michael’s dry-cleaning service costs £40 for a suit, £21 for a jacket; spot cleaning is £30 and £16. That’s less than Jeeves. Of course, unless you’re going to south London, the pieces will have to be picked up – which costs £25. But if you do a few suits at a time, the cost is reasonable.
Unless there are particular emergencies with stains, I tend to have my suits cleaned every two years, but pressed every year when they come out of summer or winter storage. I therefore plan to shift to a system where Michael picks up my clothes that have just come out of storage, cleans perhaps half of them, presses all of them, and makes any small repairs that are needed. For a wardrobe of expensive bespoke suits, it is not a large annual cost.
Michael can be contacted on: email@example.com
Background: For those that haven’t followed previous posts about sponge-and-press services, you can read the review of Jeeves here, and of a similar service to Press2Dress that also does high-end valet services here.
In general, suits do not have to be cleaned very often, and should’t be. Regular dry cleaning will damage the fibres and drastically shorten the life of the suit. Often all it needs is a good press – the steam pressing that any bespoke tailor will do to a suit before giving it to you. Steam does great things for wool, and the press will give the suit back its crisp finish. Any small stains can normally be done with some spot cleaning – hence the ‘sponge and press’ service that many tailors offer on their own suits.
They won’t do this for others’ suits, however, so that has driven my search over the past few years to find a good, independent sponge-and-press service. Press2Dress seems like the best solution so far.
For those that were interested in the Chittleborough & Morgan suit I wrote about last week, here are some more images.
The photography was done by new online luxury magazine Essence, for whom I wrote a short piece on Anderson & Sheppard recently. Fortuitously, I happened to be wearing the C&M suit that day. You can read the article here.
Above, outside the Anderson & Sheppard shop and, below, shots in the cutting and fitting rooms with Ollie Trenchard. As per usual, I think almost nothing can be read into the photos about how the suit fits. But they are certainly illustrative of the style.
Shirt: Satriano Cinque. Charcoal cashmere tie: Panta Clothing. Wool/silk tie: Drake’s. Alligator shoes: Lodger.
(All images should enlarge if clicked on, to just under the size of your window.)