When all around us are signs of casual dress slippery-sloping its way into a yawning abyss, what would make a Millennial launch his own custom-suit business catering to that tiny slice of the men’s wear pie that can afford $5,000 suits?
Precociousness combined with a touch of insanity, most likely. But that's exactly what Paolo Martorano did last October at the tender age of 25. After five years in the made-to-measure department at Paul Stuart, then one year at Dunhill as head of bespoke and MTM for North America (which, he jokes, consisted of one store), what's the sense in postponing your dream when you already know what it is? "There are just too many obstacles at a large corporation," he says, "and I wanted to be in control."
There was also more logic to it than lark, Martorano says. He doesn't see any growth on the horizon among established retailers. "The high-end consumer wants to work with the person making the product," he says, "and the lower-end wants more bang for the buck, and I'd like to think that I'm in between and can work with both." Also, big spenders respect independent entrepreneurs. "I get more referrals than I did working for the bigger brands, because clients enjoy helping and working with someone who's on their own. So far things are going well, better than expected."
Martorano rented an office in a fine Midtown Manhattan high-rise that can comfortably squeeze in three people so long as no one's had lunch yet. But the modest accommodations mean the customer isn't paying a real-estate surcharge as he does with luxury retailers. "I'm able to give people a much more competitive price," he says.
Raised on Long Island and descended from three generations of Neopolitan tailors, Martorano is oddly enough not a fan of Naples style, finding it a bit too casual for New York, where customers of custom clothing want something more formal. His house suit style features a natural shoulder and slightly roped sleeve with an "extremely high" armhole. There's no drape in the chest and there's a lot of shape, "but it isn't overly designed and complicated," he says. "I want to represent something, but I don't want to alienate people. There are a lot of guys trying to copy the Neopolitan fad and it's just ridiculous." And like a true bespoke tailor, Martorano believes that the client's physique should dictate the most flattering cut options.
Available fabrics come primarily from English firms. As for manufacturing, everything is made in New York City, spread among several contractors, one of whom, a hobbyist with a day job, does great work though a suit takes six months. Martorano uses a different tailoring shop for quicker-turnaround orders.
And thanks to a web presence (paolostyle.com) and solid following on Instagram, those orders are starting to come in from all over. Martorano says he's getting inquiries from rich guys in places such as Russia and Kazakhstan asking if he's willing to travel for house calls. "I did the math and launching the business seemed sustainable for me and something I could grow, with a lot of opportunities to take it to the next level over the next few years."
The next step of the next level is to start offering a bespoke raincoat program with Loro Piana fabrics and a special tailoring shop he found. The price of staying dry in style will run $3,000, he says, which is not so expensive as to rain on the parade of his upscale clientele.
Man About Town is an ongoing series of dispatches from New York-based men’s wear writer Christian Chensvold. A longtime Apparel contributor, Chensvold is the founder of Ivy-Style.com, a contributor to The Rake, The Wall Street Journal and Ralph Lauren Magazine, and is the author of "The Stylish Life: Golf."
Inspired by a very English aesthetic but also using some of New York’s most esteemed artisans to tailor his garments, Paolo Martorano looks to bridge the stylistic generations in the Big Apple
Article by Al Castiel III
If you were to see Paolo Martorano walking through midtown to his office one afternoon, you’d probably think he worked for a hedge fund or a brokerage house. However, Paolo is in a very different line of work. He is the owner of Manhattan-based Paolo Style, a bespoke tailoring firm. Just steps from the Peninsula and St. Regis Hotels, his atelier is tucked away on the 2nd floor of a large, glass office tower. He selected the spot to cater to his clients that work in the same building or in neighboring ones. Aptly situated on Manhattan’s West 55th Street, Paolo’s space is surrounded by New York’s finest hotels, as well as where many of his clients reside–whether it is 15 Central Park West or 1 Central Park South.
Paolo is of Argentinian, Dutch, and Italian descent, with family roots in bespoke tailoring. Whilst not a tailor himself, but an arbiter of fine taste in his own right, Paolo spent the better part of the past decade cutting his teeth at Alan Flusser (who brought the drape style of clothing over to America) and Paul Stuart Custom, under the tutelage of Mark Rykken. When at Paul Stuart (known as the first ready-to-wear brand to utilize English cloth for Italian-silhouette suits), Paolo launched their bespoke shirting program and subsequently taught the other sales associates how to measure clients for custom shirts as well. Following his time at Paul Stuart, Paolo had a brief stint with Alfred Dunhill, after which he launched the company whose label bears his own name. Paolo’s years of working with bespoke tailors, in addition to his luxury retail experience, is a quality that sets him apart from other tastemakers in the New York bespoke tailoring business today.
Inspired by the tailoring houses of Savile Row, Paolo has no qualms about showcasing his Anglo-centric tastes in his product. “While my family roots are in Neapolitan tailoring, my aesthetic is definitely more English than anything; 99 per cent of my garment is English down to the trimmings and materials used internally. I have all the components that make up the suit imported from London. What sets [my house style] apart from traditional Savile Row tailoring is that the garment is not as stiff as most of their suits.” Moreover, Paolo’s house style is not about having an extreme look that sets it apart from that of other firms as much as it is about making a garment that flatters the customer. He prefers a more restrained, yet elegant approach to his tailoring, injected with a healthy dose of styling, if so desired. Inspired by the sleek, Art Deco style of the 1930s amalgamated with modern sensibilities and fit, Paolo loves mixing the traditional with the new, like a suit or sport coat in a modern silhouette paired with a Simonnot Godard pocket square (in his own “signature” fold) and Albert Thurston gut-end braces. Yet, even in the fully customizable world of bespoke tailoring, there are still several constants within all of Paolo’s garments. There is always minimal padding in the shoulder, and his jackets feature a very high armhole that is wider than it is deep for added flexibility. The chest is clean, and the button sits at the natural waistline—the jacket’s button stance is purposefully lower than most ready-to-wear garments.
Paolo also offers a bespoke shirting program in addition to his other garments. The program has two distinct lines, aptly named “bespoke” and “custom”. Both use the same amount of measurements and are made in New York, but custom uses only in-stock cloth. Yet, the custom line boasts a mere two to three week turnaround time. The other line utilizes a paper pattern and every detail of the shirt is designed for the client. Options for collar and cuff styles, as well as any other shirting detail the client requires, are limitless.
Furthermore, Paolo wants to adhere to the traditional roots of the New York tailoring scene by utilizing some of the same tailors for his own business. “I want to maintain New York’s tradition of being a bridge between English and Italian tailoring. I have been able to know some of New York’s best tailors, and my business is able to give work to some of the men and women they mentored. I am honored to have tailors they have trained working for me.” All of the tailors who work on Paolo’s clothes have worked for legendary New York City bespoke tailors like Cheo, Bill Fioravanti, Bruno Cosentino and Vincent Nicolosi. He also feels that as a millennial himself, he can form a connection with a younger clientele that may be elusive to others. In addition to a lack of intimidation due to a similar age between himself and the younger customer, Paolo is also in the unique position of being a tailoring destination for multiple generations, as he has initially worked with older clients, many whom were mentors to his younger clients in their professional fields. “I have met a lot of young guys when they were very junior at their companies, and now these guys are in their late 30s and are in positions of greater seniority. They have come to me and said ‘I now need to dress in a way that gets me taken more seriously’.” With his ability to service a wide variety of tailoring needs for a broad age spectrum (from the slimmer cuts for the younger customer to the more traditional silhouettes for the older clients), Paolo’s customers are ensured that they have a tailor for life.
As he is relatively early on in his bespoke venture, Paolo has no plan of slowing down anytime soon. In the coming months he plans to spice things up a bit in his business with potential collaborations and events, but he isn’t giving anything away just yet. While he travels to Miami Beach, Florida for trunk shows to escape the brutal New York winters, he plans on expanding to other cities in the near future as well. For Paolo Martorano, things are looking up, and this is just the beginning—especially for the new generation in the world of bespoke tailoring.
January 1, 2018
Interview with Amy Marietta
While I was in Miami this past December, I was able to hang out with one of my best friends, Paolo Martorano, and shoot some behind the scenes photos for his bespoke menswear company - Paolo Style. Not only is Paolo one of the very few people I would trust with anything, but he also has the most impeccable taste when it comes to men's fashion. His previous experience and client roster is unmatched for anyone his age, and his new bespoke venture is unrivaled. Congratulations on your rapid success and I wish you only the absolute best this year!
Tell us about how you got started in the menswear business? When and where was the “ah-ha!” moment?
At a book store I saw “Dressing the Man” By Alan Flusser, which at the time was not that old of a book and I really was drawn to it. I think back then I had to spend $70 for it. I researched Alan Flusser and was very interested in his opinions about fashion. I contacted Mark Rykken, who at the time owned his bespoke shop in NYC. By June of 2010, Mark hired me to work there. I was there until October 2010 when he joined Paul Stuart. I was his right hand man for the next 6+ years. We developed a bespoke business there and did millions in sales, some years sales tripled. We had a great success together until the company’s sale took effect and I left.
What about menswear first interested you?
I realized in high school that I was very interested in formal clothing. Tailored jackets and trousers, the sportswear did not really interest me. I was drawn to the cloth and the workmanship. As boring as it may seem to people not interested in menswear, it is much more complex and interesting than casual clothing. By the time I was 17 I knew that I really liked tailored clothing and wanted to learn more about it.
You have created your own, strong, aesthetic and style – what has inspired you along the way? Any words of wisdom for men and women who are still finding their own style?
Well, my aesthetic is really as simple as it gets. Everything I wear is based on the rules of color and proportion. Wearing colors that enrich my complexion and flatter my body. Most of this I have learned from working with Alan Flusser, and seeing him demonstrate his teachings with clients. I have been able to meet many well dressed men who I often look to for inspiration. Of course I look to people like Fred Astaire for inspiration but also recent men in history like Philip B. Miller, and Edmund Moy have style that I cannot get enough of and always find photos of them informative on dressing. The big factor in learning about style is similar to painting and cooking. You need to learn about light and perspective as a painter and any chef will tell you that making a perfect omelet is a mandatory skill. When you learn about what colors and proportions are correct for you- how to wearing a dark suit, white shirt, solid tie and handkerchief, perfectly for you—you know 85% of what it means to be well dressed. The style icons for men and women knew this about themselves and it is why their style stood out. Well dressed people show consistency more than anything else.
Unlike other people in my business I am not going to say, “I don’t talk about our clients” and then list their names. All I’ll say is, it is rewarding to turn on the TV and be able to see my shirts and suits on many men. Mostly on CNBC and Bloomberg.
Any movies, books or people that have inspired you?
We certainly know all of Alan Flusser’s books are going to be important to me. Frankly, I am biased to his writing because I appreciate the luxury factor. I very well know that his writing style turn off many people because they see it as too arrogant. Maybe one day I can bring these great lessons to a wider audience. Wall Street is one of the greatest clothing movies of all time. The Band Wagon in 1953 with Fred Astaire is one of the most inspirational clothing movies. He had a few outfits that gave designers inspiration for years.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received from a mentor or colleague?
I think many who know me can agree. Everything Mark Rykken said to me. He got me into this business when I was 17 and I learned everything from him.
-What’s the first thing you do every morning?
I wish I could say something inspirational, but it is checking my work email because I have a lot of emails from Europe that need to be answered ASAP.
Dream or next travel destination? Previous favorite?
London certainly changed my life. Staying in Mayfair, around the corner from Savile Row and actually getting to work there for a week (when I was with Richemont) was an experience I will cherish forever. I went to a lot of places in 2017, a lot of time in northern Italy, I would like to go to southern Italy next.