In Paris this week, seeing all the Cs – Cifonelli, Camps de Luca, Corthay, Charvet, plus a few new faces. Look out for an exclusive peep behind the doors of the Arnys tailoring atelier too, now of course owned by Berluti.
On a beautifully sunny winter’s day, above are grey flannels from Anderson & Sheppard, worn with old Lodger alligator shoes and – just peeking through – my favourite Palatino green socks.
A colleague recently asked me for advice on buying a suit – probably navy, certainly single-breasted, possibly three-button. It’s the kind of everyday question that I get asked a lot, and probably concerns far more people than ‘Which French tailor has the best finishing?’
So here’s a guide through the posts on Permanent Style that should help answer that question. Even with the new categorisation system, I realise it’s not always easy to find the exact post you want.
General advice on both buying and wearing suits. A good place to start.
What to look for in a ready-to-wear suit, from canvas to stitching, in one of my columns for How to Spend It, the Financial Times magazine
3 – Style and colour
A much broader area this, and one that has never been covered in a single post for that reason. I recommend looking through the Reader Question and How to Wear It sections, however, as that covers most of the points.
If you’re going for ready-to-wear, you should have the suit altered, at least somewhere. This post has become a reference tool for such alterations, with 37 comments since it was first posted five years ago. Remember to glance at the comments on all posts – often the follow-up question you had will be answered there.
If you decide to go for bespoke, read this post. Given my colleague is in Hong Kong, bespoke is a very real possibility. But you need to know what you want, and be firm with it.
I hope that’s helpful. I do notice there’s no post that deals with style basics such as 2 vs 3-button however, or navy vs grey. I’ll put that on the list. And if anyone wants a lot more people, there is also of course my book.
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.