A visit to Cilento, Naples.

 

The scene at Cilento.

Cilento is the oldest men’s store in Naples, possibly even all of Italy. Like many good things in Naples, it’s not something you’d easily come across unless you knew what you were looking for. It’s outside of the main shopping districts and close to some government buildings. Nonetheless, it’s quite well known to the locals and a real treat to visit.

The shop was founded in 1780, but it wasn’t until 1820 when it was moved to its present location on via Medina, where it’s currently spread across two buildings. The main shop holds a range of clothing, footwear, and accessories that would satisfy the taste of any businessman or outdoorsman. Here you see mannequins with waxed field jackets and floppy cotton hats. Fine leather bags decorate the tops of old wooden shelves, which in turn hold stacks of neatly stacked, soft, woolen knits. Casual trousers and surcingle belts hang from the same display rack, and next to them is a large, heavy wooden tray that holds a selection of handmade ties. Further back in the store, bolts of English wools are set alongside Italian cottons, both ready to be made into custom suits and shirts for incoming clients.

Well stocked.

There’s also a large selection of shoes. In keeping with the store’s classic taste, these include models by John Lobb, Edward Green, and Alden. There is an emphasis on brogues, chukkas, and derbies, and a surprising number of them are black, given Neapolitan men’s reputation for mainly wearing brown.

Exotic skin in loafers and laceups.

The secondary shop is just outside and a few steps away. This one is a renovated boutique dedicated primarily to ties. The room’s central display table holds a beautiful array of seven-folds, each handmade out of English silk. The designs are conservative and elegant, often using small flower or figured patterns not unlike those I found at Marinella. More ties are displayed in heavy wooden trays at the sides of the room, and under them are innumerable drawers holding sample fabrics for bespoke commissions. Prices start around 100 euros, which seemed typical of the high-end neckwear in this city.

Tie fabric from the 1930s.

To some degree, much of this description sounds like any high-quality classic men’s store in the world, but what really sets Cilento apart is the small studio above the tie shop. Go through the back, up the stairs, disappear through another set of doors and you suddenly feel like time has stopped. Spread through these five or six rooms is a complete private collection of objects from the company’s 232-year history. There are counters and shelves with old shoes and wool fabrics; beautiful early 20th century furniture, paintings, and prints; and original receipts from the family’s previous business in the shipping industry. There are also forgotten artifacts, such as an old trouser press and sample silk swatches for custom ties in the 1930s. In the other rooms, there are vintage women’s scarves, made for Fiat using some of their 1920s advertisement designs. The whole place is a veritable museum of Neapolitan sartorial history, narrated through the original tools, garments, and even cloths of their time. Ugo, the eighth generation Cilento behind the company, tells me they host many parties and social events here. You can watch video of last October’s and November’s events on YouTube.

Tailoring history everywhere you look.

A vintage scarf made for Fiat.

Before I left, Ugo was kind enough to give me a bottle of the company’s wine. Only 450 bottles are made per year, and they’re usually given to the company’s best clients. I went home that night, had a few glasses, and listened to the street noise as I thought about how satisfying the day was. It’s not every day you get to check out a men’s store as old as America itself.

M. Cilento e F.llo dal 1780
Via Medina 61 A-B
80132 Napoli
Italy

Tel. +39 081 5513363
Email: cilento1780@fontelnet.it

Superlative socks from Bresciani

Silk hosiery from Bresciani.

As Mike from Epaulet mentioned in his post on visiting Pitti Uomo as a buyer, the sheer number of vendors, from small batch manufacturers to industry giants, is enough to drive a blogger crazy. As a visitor rather than a buyer, I had even less incentive to stay focused, especially when it came to the detail pieces–small leather goods, neckwear, socks, and the like.

Chopsticks, anyone?

Fortunately Fok and I were tipped off to check out the hosiery from Italy’s Bresciani, and we made a point to drop by the booth and talk with Massimiliano Bresciani and Will Boehlke, a fan and stockist. Like many vendors at Pitti (and any other tradeshow), Bresciani had some eye-catching if gimmicky merch out front, but the piano-key and fair isle socks belie the solid quality and subtle designs that are the brand’s backbone. Massimiliano explained that about half of the 360,000 pairs Bresciani makes each year in Spirano Bergamo, Italy, are seasonal designs, and the other half are essentially the same season to season–navy and black haven’t lost their appeal since the company was founded in 1970 by Massimiliano’s father. The wilder patterns and thematic socks are bigger sellers in the U.S. than in the other 42 countries to which Bresciani ships (Russians apparently prefer black, black, and black). The New York Times recently noted a trend for showy socks  among tech entrepreneurs–wonder how many are besocked with Bresciani?

Will, Fok, and Massimiliano talk tips for a suitable sock drawer.

What Bresciani offers to those of use with less whimsical sock drawers is tremendous quality; socks in specific sizes; fine fabrics like silk, cashmere, vicuna, and alpaca; and a variety of designs in the less common but quite practical over-the-calf cut–a true rarity in the United States. Bresciani also has a high level of attention to detail: a 12-step production process that includes hand linked toes (Bresciani pointed out that “hand-linked” is something of a misnomer; the work is too fine to be done entirely by hand, but the sock must be manipulated by hand on the linking machine).

Like tiny fair isle sweaters for your calves.

Sitting and discussing the minutiae of sock construction, we checked out Bresciani’s contrast rib socks in straightforward cotton, pure silk dress socks, and an endless variety of pattern. Massimiliano said they carry 85 to 90 designs each season. I inquired about recommended care for socks, as I’ve had several pairs of (non-Bresciani) hose in cashmere or silk blends disintegrate quickly. M. Bresciani recommends cold washing and hang drying. Avoid the dryer, he said, and their socks can last indefinitely.

Cashmere.

After our visit, Massimiliano sent me a few pairs of over-the-calf socks to try out (no piano keys, fortunately), and a more complete review of how they’re holding up is to come.

A visit to Rubinacci, Naples.

Mention Rubinacci to any tailor in Italy and proper deference is paid, which is impressive given how much petty sniping there can be in the trade. Gennaro Rubinacci founded the company in 1932. “It actually began as a joke,” Mariano Rubinacci told me on my recent visit to Naples. “But of course, we take our business very seriously nowadays.”

Rubinacci’s space in Naples.

The Rubinacci family made their fortunes in the silk trade, which they entered in the 18th century. They imported silks from India and sold them to tailors, dressmakers, and upholsterers in Naples. The family built such a dynasty that Gennaro—Mariano’s father—never had to take on a professional career. Like other men in his family, Gennaro led a life of leisure and elegance. He socialized with royal families, lived in villas, and built a world-class collection of Capodimonte porcelains. He was an aesthete, a courtier, and a leading dandy in his day.

He was also an arbiter elegantiarum. The Neapolitan gentry was heavily interested in tailored clothing at the time, and many of the men would ask Gennaro to accompany them to the tailors so that they could get his opinion on various cloths and cuts. His presence at these fittings became such a ritual that he decided to start his own tailoring house, but more as a side hobby than a real business. It was called London House, since London at the time was considered the standard bearer for men’s style, and Gennaro wanted to represent that style in Naples. At its start, the firm was more like a social club for gentlemen. Well-to-do men went there to socialize, ask Gennaro for advice, and order suits.

Silk is a theme.

Many, many suits. Orders for 30, 40, and even 50 suits at a time were not uncommon and some men would even come in for five or six fittings before they allowed the tailor to finish the buttonholes. To be sure, this was partly because they were demanding customers, but it was also a way for them to gather and socialize with their peers. Tailoring at the time was not just about the products and craft, but also the social activities that went along with them.

Over the years, some of Naples’s most important tailors have worked for Rubinacci. Vincenzo Attolini, for example, invented the softly constructed Neapolitan jacket while he was a cutter here. The legendary Antonio Panico, who replaced Attolini, took this a bit further when he made a safari jacket out of a seven-ounce wool gabardine. “At the time, the lightest summer jackets were made out of a 9-ounce cloth,” Mariano said. “In fact, this cloth was mainly used for priests’ robes, but we used it for jackets.”

Pattern, texture, shape.

In addition to being lightly constructed, Rubinacci’s jackets are built with lapped seams that run along the shoulder. These give the jacket a bit of strength and structure, which is useful for when Mariano violently pulls down on the jacket during the first fitting, so that the garment can take the wearer’s form. The seams end at the big, full sleeveheads, which are fed into small armholes. This construction gives the sleevehead little pleats and puckers, which are not only beautiful artisanal details, but also subtly show off the jacket’s Neapolitan, hand-tailored provenance.

Then there are the other details. Two patch pockets at the hips, and the barchetta (i.e., shaped like a boat) or pignata pocket (shaped like a brandy snifter) at the breast. In addition, there is decorative double stitching at the lapels, some drape at the swelled chest, and an extended front seam that goes down to the hem, which helps the tailor put in more shape at the waist.

Coats at Rubinacci.

These are merely the mechanical, production aspects of Rubinacci’s bespoke tailoring, however. As many Rubinacci customers have said, part of what you’re paying for is the tailoring, and part of it is the service. Gennaro, after all, was largely an advisor, and Mariano plays the same role today. Clients come in with some sort of idea of what they want, and Mariano helps them translate it into an elegant look. There are some details, however, to which he’ll always politely say “no.” A two-button jacket? Always a polite no. Center vent? Also a polite no. In my limited experience working with tailors, I’ve come to really value this kind of pushback, as it shows that the person has an opinion and is willing to assert their expertise.

In addition to their bespoke tailoring services, Rubinacci also offers ready-to-wear collections. At their flagship store, ready-to-wear is housed on the entry level, which sits just above the womenswear floor. The menswear level is decorated with mounted stag antlers and antique ships, as well as silk scarves with paintings printed on them, each of which celebrate some aspect of Neapolitan culture.

A tailcoat and bolts at Rubinacci.

The first room on that level houses ties and pocket squares, the second has sweaters and a dressing room (which is separated, by the way, by a beautiful and substantial silk curtain), and the third has ready-to-wear odd trousers and sport coats. The most amazing, however, has to be the last room, which is almost like a treasure vault. Here you can sit on tan leather couches and admire various display mannequins with old, bespoke tailcoats and morning coats. Two of the walls also hold bolts of cloth, including some from the early 20th century, and next to the couches are the company’s original order books. Flipping through those order books and handling the fabrics brought the Golden Age of the 1930s back to life.

Slubly neckwear.

A book of orders.

Mariano took me on a tour of the laboratorio upstairs, where bespoke garments are made and some of the business administration offices are kept. Thirty tailors and four cutters work there, and they’re spread across five or six rooms. The floor is very quiet, almost like a library, since almost everything is done by hand. The only thing you hear is the tailors’ almost in-unison “hello” as Mariano walks into the room. Otherwise, everyone is heavily concentrating on his or her work, though the sunlight and sea breeze coming in through the open windows makes the room feel pleasant and relaxed.

As we walked back to the main floor, Mariano told me he plans to expand into another building, located very close to the flagship. The new space will house a conference room, an additional workspace for tailors, and a museum to showcase some of the company’s bespoke tailoring from the 1930s through 1950s. I was most excited to learn that this will include some of the garments made for Vittorio de Sica, such as the evening tailcoat he wore in Il Signor Max.

Before I left, I asked Mariano what he thought of the future of his firm and Neapolitan tailoring in general. He’s decidedly optimistic. Many of his tailors are in their 30s and in the last decade, he has seen more and more young men come into the shop as customers. (I imagine much of this is due to his son often being featured on websites such as The Sartorialist). Contrast this to other tailors, who often struggle to find new workers and customers. Rubinacci, with their unfailing commitment to craft and tradition, an international presence, and a very visible public face, seems to have none of these problems. The future of Naples’ biggest bespoke tailoring house seems bright.


Discuss Rubinacci on the official Styleforum thread

A visit to E. Marinella, Naples.

The E. Marinella shop is quite small. It looks out across the park towards the waterfront and its entrance is framed with imported English wood and Calabrian green marble. As soon as you walk in, there is a wrought-iron Liberty-style chandelier that hangs above your head and wooden display tables in front of you that hold an array of beautiful ties. Rep stripes and Macclesfield prints, all made in a rainbow of colors, are showcased alongside a small selection of watches, colognes, ashtrays, and leather goods. Everything here is essentially the same as it was in 1914, before the two world wars and three political regimes that Marinella has seen Italy go through.

The finest in soporificity.

 

E. Marinella has remained here since its opening, even though the company has far outgrown it. There’s simply not enough room here for its inventory or operation. Thus, behind the shop—outside and up the stairs—is a showroom for not only its full collection of neckties, but also all the accessories that the company offers.

Scarves and squares.

 

Timepieces at Marinella.

 

For example, there are the watches that Maurizio (the third generation Marinella man behind the company) has put into production. These actually began with a funny story. It’s often advised that you should leave your Rolex at home when visiting Naples, given the city’s reputation for crime and disorder. As such, Maurizio decided to give his clients plastic watches, which they could wear in place of their more expensive pieces while they were in town. These plastic watches, however, soon became collectors items and clients held on to them for their value. After seeing their unintended success, Maurizio decided to produce a small collection of watches that reflected his passion for timepieces and the company’s sense of style. Today, these watches are made with steel cases and Swiss movements and classic designs.

Neapolitan history in ceramic.

 

They also have incredible ashtrays with paintings of the city’s history, allowing a customer to leave not just with something that reminds them of Marinella, but also of Naples. Near the ashtrays are fine leather belts in a range of brown tones and colorful Kilim scarves.

Loredana, the woman who assisted me at the store, was also kind enough to show me Marinella’s assortment of cufflinks and charms, some of which were made out of precious red coral. Red coral has an elevated place in Neapolitan culture. The origin of the material is believed to be explained in a Greek myth about Perseus. Having just petrified Cetus, a sea monster threatening Andromeda, Perseus placed Medusa’s head on the riverbank while he washed his hands. When he recovered the head, he noticed that Medusa’s blood turned the seaweed into red coral. The material is now believed to protect people from danger and disease, and cure women of sterility. For this reason, a pair of red coral cufflinks would be very special, though also not very cheap.

Links and charms at Marinella.

 

More affordable items in the store include a handsome selection of Italian leather wallets. The simpler card cases start around $125, and they’re excellently made. The leather is finely stitched and the edges are better finished than I’ve seen on most handmade wallets stateside. There are also colognes and perfumes, starting at $110. The red-bottled 286 smells of lavender, sage, and tobacco, with amber and musk at the base. The unnamed blue bottle has a citrusy, almond scent with hints of marine and musk. One of the upsides to these scents is that they’re hard to find outside of Naples (I know only of De Corato carrying them), which means you’re unlikely to risk smelling like another man.

Perhaps most affordable of all were the bath slippers, which came in either a simple ivory or baby blue, with discreet “E. Marinella” embroidery at the top. At about $60 for a pair, should you not be able to leave with anything else, you can probably at least leave with these.

 

Derek Guy also writes at Die! Workwear and Put This On.

E. Marinella
Riviera di Chiaia, 287
Naples, Italy
Ph. +39 081 245 11 82
marinella@marinellanapoli.it


To read more of Derek’s visits to Neapolitan stores, click here

Robert Geller Fall 2012 – Interview and Collection

Styleforum’s Marc Bain brings you a Robert Geller interview and a discussion of the New York-based designer’s Fall 2012 collection.


For his fall 2012 collection, the eleventh for his namesake label, Robert Geller looked to England for inspiration. Models layered with sturdy wools, rain-repellent waxed cottons, and that most British of fabrics, tweed, walked a dirt runway that seemed to lead from an English garden. Gray, brown, and olive dominated the palette, while a few bright notes of marigold and fiery orange sparked amid all the sobriety.  ’80s British post-punk influenced the collection (The Sound’s “Where the Love Is” provided the show’s soundtrack), and a sense of brooding disquiet infused the clothes. Maybe more notable was their debt to English tailoring, with sharply cut blazers and coats, and, in place of Geller’s popular jeans, wool trousers.

Robert Geller’s secret garden.

Although not a departure from his previous work, this was Geller’s most mature show. Some traits were recognizable from past seasons: mesh underlayers and skinny leather pants; sweatshirts, including Geller’s well-known dip-dyed version; ballooning lounge pants. Footwear—suede chelsea boots; balmorals in black, or brown with a black toe—came from the designer’s ongoing collaboration with Common Projects. He also continued his experimentation with the silhouette, balancing slim and voluminous, cropped and elongated shapes. Geller took some of his most successful ideas of the past few years and integrated them into the wardrobe of his slightly older, more sophisticated English muse.

After his show at New York Fashion Week, a smiling Geller spoke with Styleforum contributor Marc Bain about his new collection, English style, and why he really wants his own line of socks.

Dip dye and layers (and non-Men’s-Clothing-approved buttoning) at Robert Geller fall 2012.

Marc Bain: English tailoring and style had a big influence on this collection. What makes English style so great?

Robert Geller: Since I’ve been of an age to recognize style, when I go to London I like the way that the boys dress. There’s a little bit of a dandy-ness to it, but it’s still very masculine. That goes very well with the way I like to dress. There’s still a little sensitivity, a little romance, but I still want it to be masculine. So that really drew me to it, but also the music. I really wanted to look into what it is about English culture that I like so much.

MB: When you think about this collection in the street, do you have a particular scene in mind?

RG: We always design the collection for the street. In the end it’s a business, of course, and I always think about the street. With men, you have your things you obviously need to have: a trenchcoat, you need to have your duffle coat. You need to have all these elements. It’s spinning it in a way that works with what you’re thinking about and where you want to go. So the way it is on the runway, with the bowler hat, isn’t the way people are going to wear it. But definitely some of the layering and the way it’s put together, I would love to see people wearing that on the street.

MB: I imagine it can be frustrating when you make a cool piece that doesn’t get produced. Are there any items this season that you really want to see on the racks in stores?

RG: Yeah, the blazers this season, especially the soft-wool yellow one with the gray trim. I love that jacket. People do buy that from me, but it’s not the main thing people come to me for, like the stronger outerwear, and people want the denim and the shirts. But I’d really like people to get some of the more eccentric pieces.

“I just throw some light / On your cold floors” — The Sound

MB: Are there any fabrics or fabric treatments you relied on a lot in this collection?

RG: Yeah. We actually did a lot of research about the English fabrics, and we ended up using Harris tweed in the collection. We did a lot of coated, waxed cotton, and things that are very British.

MB: For a rainy day, that sort of thing?

RG: For a rainy day, yeah. We have a Mackintosh. All of those things are very directly influenced by England.

MB: You’ve come a long way since Cloak, a line people still talk about. Collectors buy and sell it online and it’s highly sought after. What do you think made it such a popular label?

RG: I think the timing. There wasn’t so much menswear coming out of New York, and I think it surprised people. I look back at it and I think it was cool. I think it was fresh at the time, that look, much fresher than it is today I mean. My development since then has been changing. I’m getting older. That was something I did with Alexandre [Plokhov] and it was a great partnership, but now I’m doing my own thing.

Chunky knits at Robert Geller fall 2012.

MB: You mentioned really liking the tailored pieces from this collection. Do you see yourself heading more in that direction as you mature as a designer?

RG: Yeah, but also I like the mixture. I like to take sportswear and to mix it with tailoring. I think they go together really well. If you’re smart about the styling, I think it can look beautiful. I don’t think it has to be either-or. There are definitely looks where it’s just tailoring and it’s really beautiful, but I like the mixture: the soft and the hard, a little bit playful but refined. You can wear it all day.

MB: Can you talk to me about the collaborations you did for the collection? You’re still working with Common Projects, of course, and now you’re collaborating on socks with Etiquette Clothiers. Why did you want to do socks?

RG: I met this guy, Benjamin [Vergnion], who does this sock brand called Etiquette. We got to talking and I said I always wanted to have Robert Geller socks, and he was like, “Let’s do it.” He makes the finest quality socks in Italy, really amazing, and we knew that we had a lot of these shorter pants—jodhpurs, rolled-up pants—and there were going to be a lot of socks. So rather than buying black socks, because that’s boring, being able to make these really beautiful socks with Etiquette seemed like a great option.

Polka dots and billowy trousers from Geller.

MB: And what about Common Projects? Anything new going on there?

RG: New shoes. I love working with those guys. I think their collection is amazing. We sit together, we think about what we want to do, and season after season we can deliver such a beautiful product.

MB: How has your Robert Geller Seconds line been received since its launch?

RG: It’s good. It’s a way for me to make the things I want to wear when I’m either playing sports or just going out and being casual. You can also integrate it: most of my undershirts are Seconds and the sweatshirt that I have. It’s just a way to make it a little more approachable.

MB: I can see that you’re still playing around with the silhouette in your looks, something you started doing more of in your last collection. Can you talk a little about that?

RG: It started with Raf [Simons], but then definitely with Dior when Hedi [Slimane] was there, it became so slender. I loved it when I first saw them doing it. It was great. But it’s time for a change. It’s not saying, “Now it’s ’80s big, huge shoulders,” but like pushing and pulling the silhouette, mixing it up, and just seeing ways that feel right. I guess I’m figuring out where I feel like it should go as I’m doing it.

MB: I noticed some pieces from previous collections, the mesh for example. Why did you bring it back?

RG: It’s a great styling element, even for me just wearing it in my wardrobe. Instead of just wearing an A-shirt, you have a little bit more texture and you can play around with colors. It’s part of continuing the styling and vision of the past season into this new one. I like that idea.

Liverano and Liverano, Florence.

Thank the lord of #menswear that Pitti Uomo isn’t held at a godforsaken hotel conference center somewhere in the vastness of middle America. As hip as it’s become to whine about the strutting dandies and trade show circus at Pitti, it’s still an event crammed with eye candy and the low hum of new things happening in menswear–and it’s in fucking Florence. Which means simultaneous access to Tuscan steak, wine,  good Italian coffee, and tailoring tradition.

A window into Liverano’s atelier.

Such as you will find at the atelier of Antonio Liverano, who has been making suits since the 1940s, when he started his business with his brother. I spent some time at Liverano’s atelier in Via Dei Fossi, talking with manager Takahiro Osaki and Signore Liverano about Liverano’s history, cut, and character. Taka and Sig. Liverano (with Taka translating) showed off the hallmarks of Florentine style jackets. Takahiro said the cut is rooted all the way back in 18th century Florence. There’s some English influence in the styling, remnants of when Domenico Caraceni fused Savile Row tailoring with Italian traditions in the early 20th. A Liverano jacket is balanced and flattering on most men–it has natural shoulders (but no spalla camiccia), some room in the chest, a single dart on each side of the body angling inward from the arm, and open quarters. Shorter in length than some others, the Florentine cut, said Taki, is distinguishable from Roman and Neapolitan cuts–Roman having more structure (think Brioni) and Neapolitan being softer, more casual, and often closer to the body. On a Liverano jacket, the shoulder seam angles back from the collar to the shoulder. The default pocket style is jetted (no flaps), and, naturally, jackets have double vents. Of course, details are details, and can potentially be aped by other makers; the cut, though, there’s a nuance to it that’s unique to Liverano.

Signore Liverano.

Although I spent the most time there on a chilly January evening, I visited the atelier several times during our time in Florence, as I was in the neighborhood often and the shop was busy with customers, many of whom were in town for Pitti. The gentlemen from the Armoury stopped in–both Ethan and Mark have had garments made by Liverano. Fortunately I could chat with those guys or browse Liverano’s selection of ready-to-wear tailoring, as well as shirts, ties, pocket squares, socks, hats, scarves, and gloves. Sig. Liverano spoke with customers, wearing a pinstripe suit, purple knit tie, and Alden chukkas. I said it was good to see renowned tailors breaking some established rules. Taka assured me that they were playing with rules; but recommended not playing with the rules too much.

Ties, soporific and otherwise.

 

Taka also showed me some details on their bespoke shirts. On a blue broadcloth shirt, there was no placket and no pocket–styling choices Liverano considers to add elegance. Gussets are set by hand. The collar and cuffs are not entirely soft–there’s some lining and stiffness. They recommend a decent amount of tiespace for the tie, as they prefer a larger knot. The language barrier became apparent as we tried to describe shirt components, although Taka’s English is good. Taka admitted that it was sometimes difficult getting certain expressions across, as many of their customers speak English only. But they manage. New bespoke customers who are local can expect a suit to be made in about a month and a half, with two fittings. Repeat customers can have a suit made with only one. Liverano keeps customers’ paper patterns in the atelier.

The shirts get the pleated shoulder treatment, not the jackets.

Liverano ready to wear as well–the balance tilts more toward the bespoke side these days. Most customers order full suits rather than odd jackets and many are local, at least to Italy. There are also a lot of Liverano fans in Japan, among the Yasuto Kamoshita, designer of the Camoshita line for United Arrows and a longtime Liverano customer. Liverano’s wares have been available for about 4 years at a shop-in-shop through United Arrows and their Sovereign House shop, where Liverano travels several times each year for trunk shows.

United Arrows preview!

For fabrics, every year, they buy from Zegna, Draper’s, and Dormeuil, among others. Taka said most customers trust them to choose.  “Some people say we’re particular–really, customers don’t choose the fabrics. We reach an understanding.” He picked up a bolt of fabric and tossed it over my shoulder. “This fabric, it’s too close to your skin. This one,” picking up another, “has more contrast.” Taka said at Liverano, they have an understanding of a customer’s face, shape, and coloring, and can choose fabrics that will lead to a more elegant result. “We know how to make a beautiful suit,” said Taks. “And we can explain that to our customers. They trust us. We will ask them, when they buy a suit, ‘Where will you go with this?'” Liverano will also help choose accessories. With certain fabrics, you’ll want a bright color shirt, a brilliant tie, to complement yourself and the suit. The accessories, they told me,  can help you wear the suit better.

I took a quick tour through the back rooms at the atelier. From the street Liverano looks like a small shop, but several busy workrooms, offices, storage, and even a garden are nestled neatly in the interior of the block. Like a Liverano suit, there’s hidden complexity, worth exploring, behind the elegant appearance.

Work in the atelier, steps from Liverano’s garden.

Liverano and Liverano
Via Dei Fossi, 43r.
50123 Florence Italy
055 239 6436
055 267 6435
info@liverano.com

Yuketen fall/winter 2012.

Yuki Matsuda and his team at Meg Company have carved themselves such a distinct niche with Yuketen that it’s impressive, season after season, to see how creative they can be while remaining within that niche. Like Willard Wigan, they’re designing on the head of a pin. Yuketen takes American-made classic shoe shapes and applies unusual materials and combinations that allude to culture and subculture, fashion and antifashion. When the shoes are beautiful, they’re be-yoo-ti-full, and when they’re ugly, they’re kind of beautiful, too.

Fall 2012 sees more examples of exotic skins, as well as standbys like calf, roughout, and shell cordovan. The exotics–like croc, hair-on-hide calf, and reptile leather–may not end up on many shelves but it’s pretty to think they might. The standbys are peerless in quality of build, and their finest work is in shoes that are the just-right blend of design distinction and skilled make.

Maine guide boots in exotic skins. Snakes in Arcadia, look out.

 

Suede boondocker style plaintoes on a natural welt and lug sole were my pick of the season.

 

Some other standouts for fall 2012 were captoe brogue boots on a commando sole, loafers on crepe, and a camo Maine guide that shares fabric panels with Monitaly’s fall ’12 collection. For fans of the classic white Vibram sole, it remains represented if not as strongly as it is from other bootmakers. They’re also using some new Vibram sole models to mix it up. Natural crepe is still likely the most comfortable, but it is an acquired taste for many.

The camo used in these Maine guides is echoed in the Monitaly clothing collection, and is based on a WWII era Marine Corp govt issue fabric.

Hair on hide calf boots.

Loafers with croc strap on crepe soles. All crepe sole everything!

 

Ripple sole plaintoes in calf.

The last few seasons have seen a crest of Americana-influenced men’s clothing, and some would argue that it’s time to start expecting a trough. Yuketen has been navigating the seas of American influence for a long time, and with fresh takes and designs stays on on even keel.

Our Legacy fall/winter 2012.

With a handful of seasons now in the rear view, Our Legacy doesn’t need much of an intro. Since 2008, OL has put out eight collections of arty, northern European casual wear with diminishing hints of prep (nothing too cute or go-to-hell, more like chinos and button-down-collar shirts) and more and more use of unusual fabrics. In the last couple of seasons they’ve edged toward stronger texture and more refined raw materials, and some of the more interesting pieces have incorporated ethnic prints.

At Pitti, I talked through some of Our Legacy’s collection for 2012 with Jockum Hallin. Hallin told me their romanticized vision of the brand’s character is a guy, maybe a struggling artist, who manages a triumph–the sale of one of his finer creations. With the proceeds he decides to treat himself to a luxury: maybe a new coat, maybe a pair of English shoes. Then he incorporates that into the rest of his beat-up, work-worn starving artist’s wardrobe. It’s a new origin story for the high low mix Our Legacy does well–beautiful topcoats paired with less tailored pieces, for instance. Hallin said you’ll continue to see some of their perennial shapes: “great sweat” sweatshirts, similar shirt cuts, because returning customers demand them, but there are some new silhouettes, particularly in outerwear.

A dominant color in fall 2012 will be carmine red, and variations on it. OL had sweaters and shirts in variations on the tone, which was muddier than I expected, less the color of blood than of dried blood. Other pieces that jumped off the racks were more Northampton-made shoes, a shawl collar overcoat with closely spaced buttons in nubbly, water resistant wool, paisley shirt jackets (with pants to match, if you so choose), and a reversed star-print shirt. There’s a mix of spring and fall pieces in here, so keep an eye on ourlegacy.se because some will be available sooner than later.

Carmine red sweater

Camel topcoat in Casentino-ish wool.

The 3 roll 2 jacket gets a welt breast pocket rather than patch.

Detail.

Paisley shirt jac.

Ethnic print, washed shirt (no button collar on this one).

OL will continue their work with Ebbets Field Flannels.

Reverse star print fabric shirt.

Pane e Panno Casentino at Isaia

Standing around in Panno Casentino

One of the standout pieces for FW 2012 season was Isaia’s peaked lapel, camel topcoat in Panno Casentino fabric, the yarn of which, as was explained to me, is roughly brushed before looming, so that the dense woven fabric comes off the loom with a rough, pre-pilled, look.

The mark of Isaia

The Isaia crew had a great strategy.  When you are being plied wine and really great food, including some some of the best pickled mushrooms in olive oil I’ve eaten in a while, you are going to inspect every piece very carefully, especially when the alternative were overpriced Italian “toast” sandwiches, essentially a single, thin, slice of meat between two pieces of bread.  Even without all the help, I would still have noticed this piece, the texture of which immediately jumps out.

Isaia had the best spread in at Pitti Uomo on Tuesday, January 10, at around 11 a.m.

Later in the day, we saw the fabric again in a green coat with a much more conservative cut and turnback cuffs at Liverano&Liverano.  While Pete was busy talking to Taka in the back, Stephanie (the Styleforum sales rep) and I took a load off in some very comfortable chairs, and chatted with Mr. Liverano’s daughter, who had been working at the shop for 20 years.  “My father told me, either I go to school, or I work.  So I work.  20 years.”  I suppose that it’s as good a way as any to choose a career, especially when your father is one of the foremost tailors in Florence.

Liverano & Liverano #ogflorence #turnbackcuffs #pannocasentino

She told us that Panno Casentino was a very famous material from Florence.   It is known for its durability and natural water resistance.   Tuscany being one of the cooler, wetter, regions in Italy, it’s nice to not be soaked.  Very practical, and though Italy doesn’t really get winter except in the far north, I suppose that 50 degrees (F)  would be cold enough for me to enjoy the awesome Italian tradition of a coffee and pastry eaten at the bar, in the late afternoon, while wearing my Panno Casentino coat.

The next day, we saw the same fabric in a coat from Our Legacy, a brand from Sweden, where clothing that holds up against winter is actually necessary.  I suppose that this might be a microtrend in the making.

Firenze via Sweden in Firenze - Our Legacy