Antonio Pio Mele is a young Milanese shoemaker with an interesting background. His family owned a shoemaking factory in the south of Italy, but rather than go into the family business when he grew up (as his brother did), Antonio decided to train as a bespoke maker. This gives him a different perspective to most shoemakers and leads to interesting outlets – such as making trainers for some of his clients in his brother’s factory, on bespoke lasts.
Antonio is also one of the last shoemakers in Milan. With Messina and Gatto gone, there are almost none left. Nicoletta Caraceni was particularly interested in Antonio’s work when I mentioned it, as she would normally recommend clients to Messina.
Although he is still just starting out compared to some of these old names, Antonio has trained with several other makers – seven by his count, including D’Agata, Di Martino and Bentivegna. His ambitions are also pretty broad: he already makes bespoke men’s and women’s shoes, has a good line in leather goods with a few makers around Milan, and is aiming to open a shop or shared space in London (his business partner is already here, in Oxford).
I visited him in Milan last month after a couple of meetings in London, at his atelier off Piazza Duomo. The place has some lovely touches – like the initials above the buzzer (below) and crocodile-leather door handle. There was also an impressive display of shoes, though with a heavy leaning towards exotics. “I think of myself as a pizzeria,” he says. “The customer should not see a menu – he should be able to pick anything he wants, in any combination.”
Of course, this is all very well if you can maintain the quality across all those items. The leather items are good, though better on the aesthetics than the construction. I can’t speak to the shoes, but we’re having a pair made so I’ll report back on those later (prices start at €2100). We had an initial fitting using waste material while in Milan, and it was rather loose, particularly around the heel. Then again, this was with the expectation of a second fitting in London, so that will be more telling.
Given my fascination with the crossover between formal and casual wear, I was particularly interested in the bespoke trainers, though Antonio pointed out quite rightly that there is not that much difference in the fit. The sole is flat, there is already a good amount of heel support, and the construction overall is so soft that having a better-fitting heel cup (for example) is not that noticeable. The same goes for driving shoes made on a bespoke last – they stretch so much that there isn’t that much point.
Interestingly, I am separately having a pair of summer loafers made by Stefano Bemer on my last there. Given that such shoes are often cemented or Blake-stitched for lightness, you cut out a lot of the hand-sewing and therefore a lot of the cost. A bespoke fit for around €1000.
Both Antonio and Bemer have events coming up later in the year in London. Keep an eye out here.
The bespoke pea coat had many inspirations. Among its foremost influences were the personal creations of Davide (Taub, Gieves & Hawkes head cutter); the Gieves military and naval archive; and the embroidery designs of lovely Claire (Barrett) at Hawthorne & Heaney.
All three came together in the details shown here. We had our second fitting on the coat last week – having missed the last Winter by some margin, the project had been taken up again last month, to have it ready for October. The fit of the big, structured coat over a suit is wonderful, but I’ll post more on that at another stage. For the moment, here are the details.
Above, the quilting in the chest of the jacket. Quilting doesn’t necessarily require any filling, as a reader questioned in the first instalment. Rather, it is the sewing of regular lines in order to create greater structure in a chest, without any more canvas or other lining.
The pattern worked by the Gieves tailors here is a sunburst, radiating from the armhole. Under the new creative management Gieves is finally making all its bespoke in-house (no outworkers) creating a greater cohesion and stronger direction. It’s something Davide has always wanted, and it’s great to see it in action.
Next, the embroidery. Davide and I went through the Gieves archive looking for examples of designs we liked on the cuffs and backs of naval coats. There was a lot, and most of it far more intricate than the designs here. Frogging like this was nearly always used to finish off the cuffs of jackets, creating decoration and hiding the transition from cuff to sleeve. It would usually reflect work elsewhere, such as on the cuff, epaulettes or back.
In the end we picked two simple designs that we liked – one for the cuff (below) and one for the back of the neck (above). By rendering them in black the effect is much more subtle than any of this coat’s naval antecedents, but also more modern. The frogging is made up of Russia braid (the two shiny lines) and an additional line of black silk. The latter was added to increase the contrast in texture between the lines as well as against the coat itself.
Actually, it’s wrong to say we picked the designs. We gave Claire some rough ideas and pictures, and she came up with the designs herself based on Austrian knots. She deserves the lion’s share of the credit.
Hawthorne & Heaney now has new digs, by the way, sharing with Dugdale’s on Mill Street at the top of Savile Row. Claire is therefore around the area far more than she was (the workshop is up in Islington) and can take appointments for anyone that wants to discuss work on a bespoke item. As a guide, this work on my coat cost £210 and the beautiful gold leaves Claire did on my velvet jacket cost £93 (both inc. VAT).
You can see some pictures of the coat in its current state on Davide’s blog.
Every year Edward Green does some kind of last-minute sale. In fact, just two weeks ago a reader asked when and where the next one would be. Well, it starts today – at the Old Truman Brewery just off Brick Lane.
The sale is in conjunction with Begg, makers of perhaps the finest scarves in the world, rather than Drake’s or Mackintosh (though remember Drake’s also now has its sale shop on Haberdasher St). Both Edward Green and Begg makers will be offering product with around 60% off.
The sale runs from today until Sunday, with the full address and timings being:
Wednesday-Saturday 12- 8pm
The Loading Bay, Dray Walk, The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane
See you there…
Last month there were three parties on Savile Row on the same night. Huntsman, Kilgour and Anderson & Sheppard all held events on the Monday of London Collections:Men, with very different atmospheres.
While they showed very different ideas of the best way to connect with customers, I would argue that the fundamentals of what each one was offering was the same. More than anything, they were lessons in the need for us – as actual or potential customers – to look past branding and celebrity-baiting.
Anderson & Sheppard held a holiday-themed evening with LimoLand, the beachwear brand founded by art-collector Jean Pigozzi. There were steel drums; there was an ice-cream van; Mark Ronson and Tommy Hilfiger pitched up. There were several very young people that the photographers fawned over and I didn’t recognize – always a sign of a celebrity event.
Huntsman held a far more sedate evening for customers and friends, to show off the clothes they made for Gregory Peck over a period of 50 years. It was nice, it was friendly; the average age was twice that of A&S.
And a little further down the street, two PR girls with clipboards were also standing outside Kilgour. Something else must be going on, I thought. Turned out it was a small but very chic evening to display some prototypes for Carlo Brandell’s new RTW collection, which will be in Kilgour later in the year. The whole shop had a dozen pieces of clothing in it. In the middle were the two massive, floating stone blocks that have been installed for Campbell and his assistant to cut on (below).
This was no English Gentleman this year – no event where Anda managed to wrangle all the Savile Row tailors into a single display for us. Instead, everyone had gone their own way. But despite the superficial differences, all of them had great clothing.
Anderson & Sheppard’s haberdashery continues to be one of (if not the) best menswear stores in London for my money. Huntsman, despite its troubles, has good-quality and now expanded RTW clothing, which I often recommend as a better bet than similarly priced suits on Bond Street – largely for the aftercare and adjustments in-house. And Carlo at Kilgour excites me just as much as he did the first time around. Simple palette, simple design and an original take on materials. One of the 12 pieces was a shearling jacket that was simply stunning.
The problems created by branding and marketing hit home last night, at the opening night for the new Dashing Tweeds store. I had just come from Gieves & Hawkes and seen the store re-fit – with its stone floors, wood panels and Roman-esque touches – for the first time. “They’ve become another fashion brand,” said one attendee. “They’ve sold out, I’m sure the quality will be terrible.”
In fact, the opposite is true. Jason Basmajian has radically raised the quality of Gieves RTW tailoring, offering a top-end line that actually befits 1 Savile Row. Of course, the prices of those new suits are double the standard range. The margins may even be bigger – but that’s a requirement if you want to sell a small number of higher-quality products.
Much of the Gieves décor is not to my taste. It’s a little too imperial, with all those ring pulls and gold nuggets. But I’m excited at having good clothing in Gieves, and frankly don’t care about the wallpaper and light fittings. I just hope everyone else can see all these tailors in the same way.
Orazio Luciano has an opportunity. It is expanding into the North American market at a time when Neapolitan tailoring is becoming increasingly popular, and other brands (most notably Kiton) are a fair bit more expensive.
Orazio Luciano does classic Neapolitan tailoring: soft construction, shirt shoulders, curved pockets and a flair for colour and pattern. Indeed, its desire to brand itself as such is obvious by its tag line: La Vera Sartoria Napolitana. Americans like comfortable clothing, and the market has become more casual more quickly than almost anywhere else. Soft suits could fit right in.
The make is extremely good. Hand finishing everywhere from the buttonholes to the double rows of edge stitching, plus parallel attention to detail inside. As you can see from the imagery here (taken at Pitti in June), the styles encompass a range from the conservative to the downright dandy. But like any collection many of the statement pieces – like the entirely unstructured white cotton suit shown below – are there to get people in to buy the navy suits.
A suit is €3500 and made to measure starts from €4500. There is bespoke as well, but it’s not an immediate part of the expansion plan. There are too many existing bespoke customers and it’s too hard to scale. At some point, Pino (the son, and now the driving force behind the company) wants to buy an atelier next to the current one, dedicated to bespoke. But until that happens, and he has more time to travel, bespoke will be limited.