Sartoria Partenopea at Pitti.

Coordinated elbow patches are the new pocket squares.

Sartoria Partenopea is one of the Italian tailored lines we’d like to see more of in the United States. The company has roots in the celebrated sartorial tradition of Naples and a reputation for quality, but with a lower profile than the Kitons and Attolinis of the world. Constructed in factory near Naples by a staff about 70 tailors, Partenopea jackets have all the features typical of current Neapolitan style tailoring (Partenopea translates, basically, as Naples)–soft, full-canvas construction, natural shoulders, and a close-to-the-body cut throughout that still allows for movement. You rarely see the label in the states, although Partenopea makes for some select stores.

The collection at Pitti seemed like it would be an immediate e-gent/#menswear smash. Colorful elbow patches on sportcoats and sweep-lapel, double-breasted suits are Sartorialist bait. Almost all of the jackets would complement denim, and in fact the Partenopea reps were dressed down as they eyed me suspiciously (42Rs aren’t encouraged to try on samples), although they were quite happy to demonstrate the freedom and comfort of a Partenopea jacket. We hope to bring you more on Sartoria Partenopea soon, but for now, enjoy a little jacket pr0n.

The “Italian Heisman”–it’s the next “Tebowing”

A beautifully soft, trip-patch jacket in gray herringbone.

Throwin bows.

 

Detail.

SP D to the B.

Nice shape on the breast pocket. (1) Trim thread, (2) insert camel driving gloves.

Street photography and street style–is it dead?

Tom Albo argues over at Esquire that what passes for street style these days is too self conscious and preening to mean anything. The case can be made that the current crop of street style camera jockeys are fashion photographers more than documentarians of “what’s really going on,” but the case that true street style is ever truly “effortlessly cool” is specious. But, as Heisenberg might wonder, were he a Styleforum member, can you observe street fashion without affecting it? Albo defines real street style thusly: “a tough bag, good sunglasses, and solid footwear that helps you dodge the various slow and crazy people in the way… as effortlessly cool as Debbie Harry in the morning.”

Really, this is an excuse to post interviews with two of New York’s most celebrated street photographers–Bruce Davidson (his Brooklyn Gang series documented a group of poor, shiftless teens who happen to look cool as hell) and Ricky Powell (a hobbyist who was in the right place at the right time to catch the rise of NY hip hop on film)–excerpted from Cheryl Dunn’s in-progress documentary, Everybody Street (how meta). There may be a chasm between what these guys (street photographers) do and what The Sartorialist or Bill Cunningham (street style photographers) do, but does that mean “street style” is dead?

Bruce Davidson.

Ricky Powell.

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.

ts(s) fall 2012.

The philosophy of ts(s) and designer Takuji Suzuki is… in between. Does he make military influenced sportswear? Sportswear influenced militaria? The answer is in between. For the 2012 collection, no piece is wholly in one world or another. A military jacket can flip down its collar and become a seemingly straightforward tailored sportcoat. A weighty navy wool fabric used in a fireman’s toggle coat is knit rather than woven, and has a surprising amount of give. A windowpane pattern has been “broken” to make it ts(s)’s own.

Shades of navy and khaki dominate ts(s) fall 2012, with flashes of blaze orange and pink (in shirts and accessories) to set it off. Many fabrics are exclusive or ts(s)-designed, while others have been treated by ts(s) in unusual ways–an Italian gray flannel, for example, is deceptively printed with a snow-like pattern that brings out either blue or olive drab tones.

At Pitti, we looked at a reversible down vest in a mottled olive herringbone wool/linen blend (phew) from Donegal, Ireland (reverse is olive polyester). The fabric is hairy but soft.  A raglan jacket incorporates the same fabric and down in the torso–the sleeves are not quilt lined. Another outerwear piece uses knotty-textured Austrian loden fabric in a staticky mottled green and blue. Brogue boots in two-tone fabric (lined in leather) drew a lot of attention–Suzuki wanted color in his shoes and chose a durable poly felt. The boots are storm welted and vibram soled, with a natural welt for contrast (and made in Japan).

Many of ts(s)’s pieces are normal, wearable cuts. But some are less traditional–a poncho in a tech fabric has a lot of volume, and the fireman’s jacket can be matched with aggressively cropped trousers in the same fabric,  and caps that play on military shapes but look vaguely Galactic Empire-era. Nearly 10 years in, Suzuki’s well-balanced work has certainly stepped out of the long shadow cast by his brother, Engineered Garments designer Daiki Suzuki.

 

Should I Use Sole Guards? Nick V. Weighs In

The debate—whether it’s advisable to add sole guards to your shoes—has been raised many times on the forum. I wanted to share my insight on the topic from years of experience. There are several angles to consider.

Carmina boots with sole guards and sunken metal toe plate.

First, many people refer to sole guards as “Topys.” Topy is a brand that makes sole guards and has done a great job marketing their name, attaching it to a product until it became the accepted generic. In the same way, people refer to galoshes as Totes. Galoshes are a product. Totes is a brand name. Many brands, patterns, thicknesses, and colors of sole guard are available on the market today.

Next, shoe manufacturers are very protective of whats become a secondary market for them. That is, the ability to re-sole their own brand. This helps them in three ways: sales, customer loyalty, and profits. I have heard salespeople are instructed to advise against sole guards. They are trained to explain that it prevents the sole from breathing.

Clearly, rubber soled offerings are becoming more popular on the high-grades these days. On a Goodyear-welted shoe, the construction on a rubber soled shoe vs. leather is largely the same. The only difference is, on a leather-soled shoe, the sole is stitched to the welt. With a shoe finished with a factory rubber sole, a midsole is stitched to the welt, and the rubber sole is cemented to the mid-sole. The cork footbed is made of the same mixture of rubber cement and cork. Both elements are flexible, but barely breathable.

So, if the claim is made that a thin sole guard prevents a leather soled shoe from breathing, why are they offering rubber soled high-grades?

Some also claim that sole guards make the shoe less flexible. In 35 years, I never heard one complaint from a customer regarding inflexibility of shoes with sole guards. So, I can’t give this argument any merit.

Some might say sole guards throw the shoe off balance. Most sole guards are slightly thicker than a credit card. The leather sole needs to be roughed before applying the sole guard, likewise the under-skin of the sole guard. The net difference of a shoe with a sole guard vs. one without is very close to the thickness of a credit card. So, you can test it yourself. Before you decide on sole guards, put on your new shoes, with one, step on a credit card (under the ball of your foot), the other on the bare floor. If you feel an uncomfortable significance in the balance, opt out on the sole guards.

I have also heard concerns that when a sole guard is being applied its necessary to sand down the new sole, potentially damaging the sole stitching. My comments are based on using a reputable cobbler. Yes, there are butchers; but I’m talking skilled cobblers here. Most high-grades are stitched with in a channeled sole—that means the stitching lies below the surface of the sole. No cobbler worth his salt will hit the stitching while prepping for sole guards. Further, Goodyear-welted shoes are stitched with a lock-stitch. That means each stitch is independent of itself. Even if one or two stitches are accidentally nipped (very unlikely) the stitching won’t unravel.

Now, to the pros of sole guards. Aside from traction and waterproof, the biggest benefit of using sole guards is their value.  A thin sole guard will generally twice outlast a leather sole, in many cases, more. Say, for example, a leather sole lasts you a year and it costs $100 to replace; in two years you will have spent $200. Replacing a sole guard costs $30 to $40. Plus, with a sole guard replacement, you can get your shoes back in a day or so.

I have also heard comments like “If you are spending hundreds of dollars for a high-grade shoe with a leather sole why would you want to cover it with rubber?” As an example, we recently added guards to two pairs of J.M. Weston 180s in croc. Two different customers, both wanted sole guards, for shoes that retail at over $3500 per pair. For those that just like the feel of walking on leather, I have no debate for you. For everyone else, there are other things to consider.

J.M. Weston 180 in croc.

Lastly, a word of caution… the purpose of sole guards is to prevent leather from wearing out, they are waterproof, nonskid, and can present value over time. If your existing shoes have soles that feel spongy or are severely worn, DO NOT put sole guards on them. Even if your cobbler tries to talk you into it. They are intended to be preventive maintenance, not a cure for damage.

Want les Essentiels de la Vie.

Want les Essentiels de la Vie wants you to travel in comfort and style. Their accessories are neither over nor underdesigned, with helpful details where you want them but without utilitarian excesses. Want chooses to be excessive instead with luxury materials and construction.  At Pitti, Dexter Peart showed me what Want has planned for their imagined customer, a long-distance commuter with a penchant for technology, travel, and design.

Their current leitmotif is duality. Many of their standard models are mixing fabrications, and their recurring design touch is in their zips, which are half silver toned and half gold.  The O’Hare tote, an evergreen model, is in Italian waxed cotton with trim in their organic cotton.  Other bags use suede as the context for a calf leather, as in pocket that’s a perfect fit for an iPad–not a rare feature in bags these days, but thoughtfully integrated here rather than tacked on. Elsewhere, caviar leather (stingray) shows up in small leather goods. A fully reversible bag has been made with a double-faced wool blend: one side is gray, one is blue. Want has also made a slipper ideal for air travel: it collapses nearly flat and zips closed. Gray wool matches with cognac leather, and black with black.

At the show all the samples were displayed on collapsible displays of honeycombed kraft paper, topped with sweatshirt gray felt discs. Want is a Canadian operation, and Dexter explained it was some Canadian camaraderie that led them to use furniture from Vancouver’s Molo Design. One stool held a special made-in-Japan executive set, another held their new made-in-Naples gloves in cashmere-lined suede and leather, again with a Want gold/silver zip, and bracelets from a make near Milan. Their manufacturing is diverse–leather bags are made in Italy, some smaller goods in China, and some in Japan. That’s not surprising given the global scale of Want’s reach.

Reversible tote from Want.

Nicest gym bag I've ever seen.

Gym bag detail.

Silver/gold zip on a canvas bag.

Travel slipper in gray/cognac.

Japan-made executive suite.

Gloves and small leather goods.

O'Hare tote in slate green cotton.

 

 

 

Visiting Cheaney shoes at Pitti Uomo

All the English shoemakers at Pitti seemed to be putting their countriest feet forward–Edward Green and Crockett and Jones, associated with sculpted lasts and top drawer finishing, proved they could indeed make beefy, lug soled shoes.  However, I was perhaps more surprised by the elegance on hand at Cheaney shoes, which makes for many private labels and has been trying to grow its own-labeled line (see an interview Nick V. did with Cheaney co-owner William Church). The firm has a 125-year history in Northampton, and a complicated recent history that includes a separation from the Prada group. Cheaney’s reputation is more as a solid value than an aesthetic leader, but the models, materials, and construction on hand in Florence were impressive. Country boots, fiddle-waisted city shoes, and a dose of character in mixed-panel brogues all showed that Cheaney is an important option to consider when choosing your Goodyear-welted, Northampton poison.

Rollin on dubs. (no spinners)

 

Pains me to wear soles like these on pavement.

Bluchers in suede and calf on a reasonably sleek last–not too forward or too broad.

Loved this scotch grain captoe.

Detail on those caps.

Would seem at home with some Engineered Garments gear.

Some country boots with a padded collar in black scotch grain.

Also available in brown.

Takahiro Miyashita The SoloIst at IF

The exclusive collection of Takahiro Miyashita’s The SoloIst at New York’s IF boutique is an homage to wandering. “Keep Walking,” a phrase repeated on The SoloIst site and on Miyashita’s blog, neatly distills the essence of the pieces at IF. Jackets and shirts seem patched from whatever fabric happened to be on hand, and nearly every item is distressed, suggesting the wear of hard travel. On a few pieces, the outer layer of fabric is cut to reveal lining underneath, adding depth to the garment’s surface. Edges are left ragged to give the piece a deceptively unfinished quality. Slashed dramatically with exposed white cotton, a pair of navy linen pants exemplifies the technique.

The abundant detailing in Miyashita’s garments may imply a free and careless attitude, but the materials and craftsmanship leave no doubt that every aspect has been thoughtfully considered. If the clothes evoke a vagabond image, it is an urban vision with a preference for Japanese streetwear and luxe fabrics. An Edwardian brocade jacket of wool, tencel, rayon, alpaca, and cotton (priced at over $2,000), would be more at home in NY or Tokyo, where it can be seen and admired, than in the wilderness it plays on. Another standout, and one of the more accessible pieces, is an incredibly soft jacket in a rich, mocha-toned sheepskin suede (at about $3,000).

The SoloIst work represents a progression from what Miyashita created at the late, lamented Number (N)ine. Number (N)ine was heavy on rock ’n’roll and rebellion. The SoloIst finds Miyashita designing pieces that feel more relaxed; even mature. Long-time fans of Miyashita’s work will still find his signatures in these latest creations, however, and if they’ve mellowed a bit over the years and just want some clothes to wander the city in, they know where to look.

The SoloIst on the racks at IF Boutique.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Details abound on this charcoal double-breasted floral-print jacket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An incredibly soft sheepskin suede jacket.

The suede on the back is slashed along the seams.

A pair of relaxed navy linen pants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On many pieces, the surface fabric is cut to show the lining beneath.

One of IF’s friendly sales assistants shows off a 3/4 coat.

The shirts, like that pictured, feature mixed fabrics and patterns.

Accessories including hats and scarves round out the collection.

 

Finamore at Pitti Uomo

Finamore could rest on its old-world shirtmaker laurels (second oldest shirtmaker in Naples; more handsewing than Betsy Ross [more in the black labeled classica line than in sportier models]; renowned MTM program, fabric from top mills, etc., etc.) but at Pitti 81 chose instead to highlight its innovative side, with look-at-me fabrics and treatments, quilted snap-button shirts, and aggressive collars.  I was surprised to see jackets alongside Finamore’s famous shirts; don’t yet know too much about the tailored goods, but we’re checking into it!

Checks and an excellent out of focus roll on the collar. (Apologies for shallow focus on these–it was dark in the depths of Pitti.)

Fina-floral.

The jackets were lightly tailored and used exceedingly soft fabrics. Accessories–ties and scarves–were top drawer as well.

The Italian-only Finamore rep REALLY wanted me to see the washed (but mostly dirtied) treatments on these quilted shirts. Interesting stuff.