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On our House Style

One of the most common questions I hear from prospective bespoke clients who are considering coming to us for the first time is what, exactly, is our house style?

The answer to that is really part and parcel of how I came to establish my own business.

From the very beginning, I was determined to really listen to my clients. Their feedback, in terms of specific requests, expectations, and concerns regarding the handmade garments they commissioned, materially informed my approach to customer service, and as significantly, the development of our own design philosophy.

Early in my career, my experiences at retail businesses, factories, and workshops in New York and various cities across the United States (as well as in the UK, Italy, and Canada) revealed that most of these establishments had one key element in common: much of the tailored clothing — be it bespoke or made-to-measure — they produced featured what could be referred to as “soft construction.”

Not a surprise, given the dominance of Italian tailoring over the past several decades. Softer, lighter fabrics and more malleable construction produced tailored clothing that avoided the rigid infrastructure traditionally found in British tailoring, but could veer into too little discipline in the foundation.

However, this wasn't always the case: many of the bespoke tailors who established their business in the United States largely immigrated from Italy in the early to mid-twentieth Century, naturally enough bringing along the traditions of their own youthful training. At that time, this Italian-ette school of tailoring was crafted utilizing old blocks and patterns which favored a boxier, broader, more aggressive silhouette (heavier shoulder pads, anyone?), with shoulder cross points that were also extended excessively imparting “a look” but which failed to create any actual functionality.

This all came to define the American school of handmade tailored clothing.

Today of course, the surviving adherents to this tradition have attempted to pivot to a more contemporary garment, crafting soft tailored clothing with today’s far more fluid Italian sensibility. However, their original traditions in terms of pattern development were never really focused on providing the wearer the comfort and ease suggested by this new style. More to the point, many of these heavily padded, rounded (to appear softer) shoulders have been coupled with a lower armhole (to create a faux fullness in the chest) instead resulting in restricting the garment’s ability to move with the wearer.

I believed that modern American bespoke tailoring needed to reflect an entirely new sensibility; one which drew on the best of the traditions found in both Italian and British tailoring. This necessitated the development of something I believe we have largely crafted from the ground up… a fresh approach and design philosophy that I can best sum up as “New York Refined.”

I think of our showroom and workshops as a proving ground, where disparate elements come together to reflect the energy and innovation of the city where we are based and make much of our product. Among other things, this means using a 1/8” thick shoulder pad for most clients, (unless they have a characteristic that contraindicates its use). We also employ various types of canvases which are hand-selected to support the structure of the cloth. Most garments are made using cotton domette in the chest, but for our customers in warmer climates we skip the domette and pad the chest directly on to the horse hair, attaching it to the body canvas.

As mentioned earlier, our house bespoke style is the result of an ongoing dialog with our customers, which we then share with our cutters and tailors. We have found that many clients enjoy wearing light and soft garments from high end Neapolitan brands, especially in their RTW and made to measure iterations. Clients visiting our showroom for the first time have encountered a broad range of experiences while acquiring their tailored clothing. Those who are familiar with Savile Row have likely benefitted from the rigor of traditional bespoke English tailoring, in terms of structure — if nothing else. Those clients who have suits made by tailors — both good and bad — from Naples to Hong Kong and beyond, or may have never have had a suit made for them, have a different perspective.

This method is common in warm and sunny southern Italy but not in the UK (and why would it be?). Still, all our trimmings come from the UK, so they are substantial and give our handmade garment an English look outside, but a Continental feel inside. Our lapels have a slightly rounded belly as the English do. Rather than copy made to measure Italianate details meant to inexpensively telegraph “la dolce vita” (shirt sleeve shoulders, straight lapels with no expression, tiny pocket flaps, etc.) we build the best garment for the person who will be wearing it, we do not just follow a template or chase a trend.

Again, all this comes together to form what I think of as refined New York style; it’s at the very core of my approach to dressing men who take clothing seriously.

Lead image: "Paolo with Grammy Award winning guitar virtuoso vocalist John Pizzarelli", by Jaci Berkopec

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