Articles in Fashion
Most men identify Brioni with the Penne, Italy-based company’s strong-shouldered power suits. But the Italian clothier—considered by many the most recognizable men's luxury brand in the world—is also credited with creating the modern travel jacket that now holds a place in every true gentleman’s wardrobe. Brioni has subsequently parlayed its original 18-pocket blazer, first introduced in 1973, into a total leisure-wear package that includes linen shirts, lamb-suede blouson jackets, silk trousers, and silk/wool car coats, among other wants, not necessarily needs, of the luxury consumer. Taking its motto “to be one of a kind” to heart, almost everything in the Brioni collection can be made to measure, including a new jeans program that allows you to choose the denim weight, wash, back pocket label, and embroidery design of your choice from a laundry list of options. This year the brand also introduced the customizable leather jacket, which is available as a blazer or blouson in your choice of leather (French napa or Oslo calf), color, stitching, lining, buttons, and other hardware. The collection is produced entirely in Italy and incorporates much of the handwork found on the brand’s tailor-made suits.
The influence of elite sports, especially polo, plays a big role in the sportswear creations at Brioni, which derives its name from the Croatian island of Brijuni, where polo was a favorite pastime until it was banned in 1947 by the late Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito up to his death in 1980. The company launched a signature polo collection in 2006 and now sponsors its own snow polo team, which regularly competes at the annual St. Moritz Cartier Polo World Cup. “Seeing the players dressed so tastefully in the pieces we designed is a pleasure that strengthens the label’s deep connection with this sport,” says Brioni chief executive Andrea Perrone.
The conventional blazer takes on a completely different connotation in the hands of Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli, whose easy, chic sportswear—from soft jackets, quilted outerwear, and ski sweaters to polo shirts and chinos—is all about the sportive life despite being made from cashmere and other fibers far too precious for physical activities. His products are known for such innovative details as embroideries under the collars of jackets, suede elbow patches on knitwear, and contrasting colors inside pant cuffs so they still look great when rolled. With the recent addition of sporty cotton knits, polo shirts, suede blouson jackets, nylon vests, and a new collection of denim, the brand is proving itself equally versatile beyond its cashmere roots.
Cucinelli, the son of a farmer, started selling brightly colored cashmere sweaters from his garage in Perugia, Italy. He has reinvested most of the profits from Cucinelli cashmere in restoring his wife’s hometown of Solomeo, where the company has its headquarters.
The French luxury house produces elegant ophthalmic creations from 18-karat gold and platinum, as well as exotic woods, like African bubinga, and organically farmed buffalo horn. The company modifies and produces a new collection every 18 months, and every frame is designed to complement the brand’s jewelry and watch collections.
By perpetually shrinking the armhole, tweaking the shoulders and lightening the construction on the quintessential Neapolitan-made suit invented by his father, Vincenzo, back in the 1930s, master tailor Cesare Attolini and his two sons, Giuseppe and Massimiliano, continue to show it’s possible to make a completely handmade garment fit like a second skin without sacrificing style or comfort in the process. Most recently the suit maker has been focused on double-faced cashmere sport jackets devoid of linings and shoulder pads that manage to retain their sartorial structure due to the proprietary tailoring technique used to create them.
The high-notch lapel is an Attolini signature and a good barometer of a handmade suit, since no machine can sew a notch this high and close to the circular curve of the collar. Be prepared to pay more and wait as long as six months for your initial order, since the small Naples-based factory is operated by true craftsmen more concerned with quality than quantity.
Many have tried to duplicate the intricacies involved in creating Dolcepunta designer Rolando Scapellato’s 11-fold neckties, a complex folding operation whereby two large panels of silk are sewn together and folded onto each other 11 times. Nevertheless, no other tie maker has achieved such perfection. Crucial to the design is the precise weight of the silk fabric—from 2.8 ounces to 4.4 ounces—to ensure that the excess folding doesn’t add to the weight of the tie. Furthermore, unlike a typical necktie made from three pieces of silk, Scapellato’s distinctive Soft Point ties are constructed from four pieces sewn strategically at the neck to prevent the tie from stretching.
Scapellato spent more than 17 years making neckwear for Brioni before launching his own collection in 2002. For a sure sign of a well-made tie, he suggests flipping over any Dolcepunta patterned necktie to see how the design kisses precisely down the center seam.
Ermenegildo Zegna Suits
Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2010, Ermenegildo Zegna started out as a cloth maker and began making ready-made tailored clothing from its own proprietary fabrics in the 1960s. When Zegna opened its own stores in the 1970s it became the first vertically integrated Italian clothing brand, meaning the company controlled every aspect of the production process from securing the raw materials and weaving its own cloth to manufacturing and selling its signature clothing. The majority of Zegna suits are industrially made in family-owned factories in Switzerland and Italy, while the company’s more exclusive couture suits, all made in Padova, Italy, are nearly 50 percent finished by hand, including such sartorial details as working buttonholes, boutonniere stays under lapels, inside armholes, lapel stitching, and pant cuffs. Inside Information Zegna is known for introducing menswear to the concept of made-to-measure, a hybrid style of tailored clothing in which a gentleman tries on an existing suit jacket and is given a laundry list of options to customize the garment—from having it made in his choice of fabric and tweaking the shape to his liking to personalized details such as working sleeve buttons, alternative pocket shapes, personalized linings, cashmere under the collar, and even the number of pleats in his trousers.
Ermenegildo Zegna RTW
Zegna is one of Italy’s best-selling fashion exports primarily because the family-owned company has been able to leverage its name beyond suits to include everything from jeans, knitwear, and outerwear to sport shirts, footwear, and small leather goods, among other sportswear essentials. Unfairly criticized for producing a growing percentage of its sportswear outside Italy, the family actually invests heavily in modern technology and manufacturing wherever it operates factories to ensure everything bearing the Zegna names lives up to its stringent quality standards. A pioneer in smart fabric technologies, the brand’s latest innovations include Cool Effect, a next-generation fabric treatment that allows dark-color clothing to refract nearly 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays, and Elements, the first temperature-regulating fabric to integrate nature-like pores that open in warm weather to release perspiration and close when it's cold to lock in warmth.
Ermenegildo Zegna teamed with British-owned Eleksen, makers of technically advanced “smart” fabrics, to create the company’s innovative iJacket, a lightweight windbreaker featuring a built-in touch control panel at the cuff that allows you to interface with your iPod without ever removing it from your inside chest pocket.
Finamore, established in 1925, is the second-oldest shirtmaker in Naples, but this fourth-generation family-owned company keeps its ditributions very exclusive. While other Italian shirt brands promise superfine fabrics and hand sewing on seams, armholes and buttonholes, Finamore offers all that plus a number of exclusive design details of its own, including a hand-stitched and pleated shoulder insert that gives the shirt unsurpassed freedom of movement. It also offers one of the largest selections of collar and cuff designs, updated seasonally and available to made-to-measure clients. This year Finamore, which recently moved its production into a smaller factory near the heart of Naples so it could concentrate on its made-to-measure product, introduced a new line of dress shirts constructed from superfine cotton woven on silk looms, in addition to a trimmer, sportier Black Lapel collection aimed at the more fashion-forward shirt buyer.
Finamore is one of the few shirtmakers skilled at attaching a one-piece collar, a casual style that requires no stiff inside band between the shirt and the collar to affix it in place.
The craftsmen who labor at Industrie Confezioni Tessili, the Venice-based factory that has been making Incotex trousers since 1951, look on every pair of trousers as a piece of architecture, to be worked and reworked until the fit and all the details—finished inside pockets, full skirt construction, extended inside fly flap—are just right. Similarly, the brand is typically on the cutting edge of new fabric technology, including its more recent introductions of ice gabardine and ice twill, two lightweight, breathable cotton pants fabrics made with high-twist yarns that provide comfort, coolness, and fluidity. The company is also innovative in terms of pants models, conceiving more than 30 different variations on the classic cotton slacks—from five-pocket jeans (sold under the Incotex Cinquetasche label) in vintage washes with decorative ribbon-trimmed waistbands and side seams, to more novelty trouser styles (sold under the Incotex Red label) in a variety of casual cotton fabrics and wash treatments.
Technology and tradition converge in the Isaia factory, located in the Casalnuovo region of Naples, where the brand’s tailored clothing is mostly made in an industrial manner using the latest in modern machinery and later finished entirely by hand. Once known for producing suits for some of the biggest brands in menswear, Isaia’s own signature silhouette is cut in the classic Neapolitan manner—soft shoulders, trim-cut waist, high-cut armholes—but with a more youthful, contemporary expression than other Naples-based tailoring giants. Isaia is also well-known for continuously tweaking the mold of the classic sport coat. For spring there are no less than eight new models in the collection, including the soft-shouldered Gregory produced from the brand’s proprietary water- resistant Aquacashmere, and a shapely new version of the contemporary shirt jacket.
When the company was founded in 1957, brothers Enrico and Corrado Isaia made their mark by creating machine-made, private-label suits for Italian shops. Enrico’s son, Gianluca, forged the firm’s new luxury identity by targeting a younger American audience with more affordably priced handmade suits under its own label.
Pushing the limits of luxury suit making is critical to the success of Naples, Italy-based Kiton, a company that continuously introduces new tailored-clothing shapes cut from microscopically thin wool, cashmere, vicuna, and other rare fibers. The company’s owner, Ciro Paone, fittingly refers to Kiton’s signature suits as “conforme al corpo,” or second skins, because they are constructed as close to the body as technically possible. Although such a close fit may appear restrictive, the cut is surprisingly more elegant and comfortable than the seemingly roomier designs of other suit makers. Moreover, the hours that the company’s tailors spend on a single garment—often as many as 50—show in the suit’s details, which include hand-stitched buttonholes, boutonniere stays under the lapel, and sleeves attached by hand to give the shoulders their distinctive Neapolitan-style shearing. In a nod to the brand’s heritage, this spring Kiton began testing a new model called Cipa (after founder Ciro Paone) that draws inspiration from a 1960s design found in the company’s archives. The suit has a more structured shoulder than Kiton’s typical soft-shouldered designs and is made from lightweight lamb's wool, Harris tweed, English worsted wool, and other retro-inspired fabrics.
Owner Ciro Paone’s ancestors were cloth merchants who sold fine fabrics to custom tailors as far back as the late 1800s. Today Kiton is the only clothing manufacturer that works with fabric mills in Italy and England to develop 90 percent of its own exclusive fabrics, including such rare blends as cashmere/linen and cashmere/silk.
First and foremost a suit maker, Kiton proved its ability to maneuver outside the world of tailored clothing when, nearly a decade ago, the company introduced sumptuous cashmere topcoats and refined, rather than rugged, leather outerwear into its collection. Since then the brand has greatly retooled its Naples, Italy-based factory to accommodate production of shirts, casual slacks, and footwear, while buying other prestige companies to allow for expansion into denim jeans and knitwear. Nevertheless, even when it comes to casual wear, everything bearing the Kiton name keeps in mind the sartorial demands of the truly elegant gentleman. Sport shirts, for instance, are works of art made from Irish linen or featherweight cotton that incorporate expensive details like handkerchief-rolled edges and natural mother-of-pearl buttons. Slacks are cut in fine wool, cotton, or cashmere/cotton blends and softly dyed in colors exclusive to the label. Meanwhile, hand-tailored jackets and other lightweight toppers continue to be a specialty. Of note this year are the company’s new fully unconstructed leather blousons in a multitude of colors that Kiton president Antonio de Matteis calls “a cross between a sport shirt and a blazer.”
Kiton's owner, Ciro Paone, was one of the pioneers in the development of Naples as a epicenter of handmade clothing. Working with Attolini founder Cesare Attolini and Isaia founder Enrico Isaia, the three originally were partners whose creative differences drove them each to start his own respective fashion businesses.
Although Kiton made its name producing completely handmade suits in an old-world Neapolitan manner, when the company expanded into dress and sport shirts more than a decade ago it did so without losing sight of its sartorial reputation. Each of these ultrafine shirts, all made from the finest thread-count cottons, requires six hours of labor and more than 100 sewing operations, including 17 distinctive hand-sewing applications. “Notice how there is no lining in the shirt placket, only folded fabric,” explains Kiton’s shirt manager Sebastiano Borrelli, a cousin of Fabio Borrelli, whose family has, until recently, been making shirts in Naples for nearly a century under its own name. Borrelli’s paternal grandmother, Anna Borrelli, is considered the inventor of the three-sided crow’s foot stitch that every Neapolitan shirtmaker, including Kiton, has since adopted as its own. The distinctive stitch is one of many defining details that characterize a shirt as handmade, since no machine can crisscross a button. Among the other hand-sewn details on a typical Kiton shirt, which is made in the company’s own factory adjacent to its suit-making operation, are embroidered buttonholes and handkerchief-rolled and stitched edges. The collar on the shirt is also particularly noteworthy for its inside panel of oxford cotton to prevent neck irritation and shrinkage. One more stylistic flourish: Kiton always leaves one centimeter of thread behind the button so when it begins to disappear, hopefully after years of wear, the shirt’s owner can tell when his button is about to fall off.
Kiton uses only undyed mother-of-pearl buttons as a signature of its handmade shirts, which also feature the Neapolitan clothier’s distinctive sheered sleeve where the sleeve meets the shoulder.
Luxuriator by Franco
Franco Vahe Eyramian’s diamond-studded, 18-karat white gold Luxuriator frames originated as a one-of-a-kind special order from a celebrity client and evolved into a showy collection of fashion eyewear. Each pair is handmade with a jeweler’s precision using fine materials such as French buffalo horn, diamonds, and South American crocodile.
Inside Information Under the Franco Titanium label, Eyramian creates a modern collection of colored titanium frames using electric-voltage technology.
American shoemaker Martin Dingman launched his signature footwear collection two decades ago with the idea that he could produce the same high-quality, high-style, and hand-finished footwear that most of his customers have turned to Italy for in the past. Although he is well-known for his use of fine calfskin and alligator, over the years the Diamond City, Arkansas-based designer has expanded his offering in exotics to include original Egyptian Nile river crocodile, full- quill ostrich, wild Russian boar, Java lizard, American deerskin and mink, Asian antelope chamois, Italian lamb, English calf, and German and Norwegian glove leathers. Most of Dingman’s dress footwear features Goodyear welted soles so they can be easily restored, while casual loafers, moccasins, and drivers feature Poron insoles, a technically superior comfort system that molds to the shape of your foot and helps retain the original shape of the shoes.
Martin Dingman was once the creative director at Cole Haan and left the brand in the late 1980s, when it was bought by Nike, to start his own signature shoe label.
If images of your father and grandfather wearing beautifully tailored but slightly old-fashioned suits from this Chicago-based company is the only lasting memory you have of the 94-year-old brand, it’s time to take a second look. The new Oxxford suit, one of the few still made entirely by hand in the United States, features lighter super wool and cashmere fabrics, softer construction, and a sexier shape that consists of smaller lapels, higher armholes and leaner, flat-front slacks. In other words, all the elements of contemporary suit making that the best English and Italian clothiers have been stressing for years. To spotlight its position as the quintessential American suit maker, this year Oxxford Clothes introduced Oxxford 1220, a new tailored-clothing collection that focuses on iconic American menswear style. To that end, all of the suits and sport coats bearing the Oxxford 1220 label are modern reinterpretations of those from America’s early-20th-century fashion heyday, when men’s clothing was defined by its full sculpted chest, trim-cut waist, softer shoulders, and bold expressive lapels.
Oxxford’s expertise is in its superior construction, including the lightest horsehair canvas inner linings and sleeves applied using a distinctive chain-link stitch, instead of the stiff, unyielding tape method preferred by most suit makers, which allows for complete ease of movement the minute you slip on the jacket.
When Yvan Benbanaste assumed the role of fashion coordinator at Pal Zileri in 2007, he took on the near-impossible task of getting the Italian clothier’s multiple licensees to produce outerwear, knitwear, and other sportswear with the same consistency and level of quality the parent company achieved years earlier with its handmade Sartoriale suits. The young stylist achieved his goal of giving Pal Zileri a singular identity by coordinating clothing and sportswear with a uniform color scheme, by elevating the quality of its fabrics, and by streamlining its production methods between factories. Overall, the entire sportswear offering is more tactile—what Bebanaste calls “the emotional side of luxury”—thanks to the incorporation of more opulent fabrics, including double-faced cashmere and wool/cashmere blends for jackets, superfine cotton for shirts, and cashmere for outerwear.
Since 1970 the family-owned company, headed by Aronne Miola, has operated out of a 200-year-old farmhouse that once served as a monastery. A tunnel underneath the building connects the production facility to the brand’s warehouse.
Above all else, Italian bespoke footwear maker Silvano Lattanzi is known for his incredible imagination and inability to recognize the words “it can’t be done” when conceiving a pair of shoes. Such progressive thinking has allowed the Sant’Elpidio a Mare, Italy-based shoemaker to create some of the footwear industry’s most heralded designs, including a new collection of hand-painted loafers and lace-ups as well as last season’s “entombed shoes,” in which his favorite designs were buried to achieve a rough-hewn patina no factory finishing process can duplicate. Lattanzi weaves his newest creations out of a combination of leather and toquila straw, the same material used to fashion the finest Montecristi hats. For the bespoke purist, Lattanzi creates genuine cordovan lace-ups and calf- and exotic-skin dress brogues entirely by hand. At the same time he now offers a collection of handmade sport looks, including perforated leather golf shoes that he gladly adorns with your initials as well as boat sneakers that can be customized with your yacht's logo.
Several years ago Silvano Lattanzi did the unthinkable when he created a crocodile loafer that is actually reversible, the first such shoe of its kind.
Stefano Ricci Cufflinks
The Florentine designer’s cuff links are intricate and opulent. Made of 18-karat gold, each pair comes embedded with diamonds, sapphires, and other precious gems. In lieu of precious stones, Ricci sometimes incorporates crocodile links.
All of Ricci’s cuff links have a personal connection to the designer. He conceived a pair of hedgehog links because the word Ricci in English means hedgehog. Other favorites are birds of prey (falcon or bald eagle), because they are majestic and one of the few animals Ricci, an avid hunter, refuses to shoot.
Stefano Ricci RTW
Stefano Ricci launched his signature label in 1971 with a collection of silk neckties printed with some of the doodles he had made while a student at the University of Pisa. He still designs every tie pattern himself and spends considerable time with silk printers to achieve the perfect color and clarity. His seemingly simple designs often incorporate as many as 14 different shades even if the eyes only register five or six because the additional colors are used as shading around stripes and other designs to give texture or a three-dimensional effect. Likewise, many of Ricci’s small neat prints appear remarkably clear and precise, even under a microscope, because the designer insists that the silk screens used to print them be thoroughly cleaned after every six meters of cloth. Once resistant to woven neckwear because he couldn’t get the microscopic clarity of his colorful prints, Ricci recently discovered a way to perfect the sharpness by employing high-twist silk organzine thread in the warp of the cloth and slowing down the machinery to a snail’s pace to achieve just the right balance between design detail and fabric softness.
Ricci made headlines in 1997 when a patchwork pleated tie made from 280 squares of multicolored silk came with a $1,000 price tag. Four years later he teamed with Moxon, one of England’s most prestigious textile mills, to create his Solo Una collection of limited-edition neckties made of super 210 wool and cashmere that were also signed, numbered, and packaged in their own custom wood box inlayed with genuine crocodile.