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.

Pitti Uomo: A Buyer’s Perspective

Mr. Kuhle goes to Firenze.

 

At this point you guys have probably read a hundred Pitti Uomo recaps. But I figured that I’m chime in with somewhat a different perspective: what it’s like to visit as a buyer, and a first-time Pitti attendant at that.

It’s huge.

Good lord. I’ve been to plenty of trade shows in my time, but never on this scale. Pitti Uomo is held in Florence’s Fortezza da Basso, a sprawling fortress complex that dates back to 1534. Without stopping, it would probably take at least 40 minutes just to walk the perimeter of the show. I’ve been to men’s shows before in NYC, Vegas, Germany, and Spain, but this one dwarfs them all.

The old main drag at Pitti.

You need to stay focused.

Trade shows are all about meeting people and putting names to faces. Most of my time is taken up with appointments for brands I already carry–for example, an Alden buy might take 2 hours, Southwick might take 90 minutes, etc. If you’re investing the time and money to fly to Italy, then you really need to make that investment worth it. That means getting there at the opening bell, keeping things tight and focused, and really trying to balance time spent in meetings with time spent looking for new brands and product. Pitti was the most difficult time-management in buying that I’ve ever dealt with.

The hardest items to buy, focuswise? Ties. Buying ties and scarves is hard as hell. There’s hundreds of fabrics and hundreds of designs in several colors apiece. Best to grab a strong-ass coffee and some water to stay well hydrated for those tie appointments.

Add a fresh bunch of Italian paisley... Scarf swatches.

Buying and attending are different experiences.

Before I went to Pitti, I had a cool idea. I would bring along my 1950s Leica M3 and shoot dazzling photos. Oh yeah; I got the lens cleaned and adjusted beforehand. I would make an entire photo gallery of 35mm pics of the “Pitti scene.” I’d have dozens of photographs of incredibly dapper Japanese guys and an overview of all my rounds there.

Wrong.

I had two and a half days at the show. The first day I spent 9 straight hours in the basement of one building, just moving from vendor to vendor. I didn’t get outside until dark and didn’t shoot a single photo with the Leica. Believe me, I was pretty envious of the #menswear Tumblr crew and the many pictures of them hanging out in the main square. When you’re buying at Pitti, you never really have time to appreciate all of the peacockery and happenings going on there. You obsessively look at product and slam a panini for lunch. Not that I’m complaining. An entire day of looking at shoes and sportcoats is a pretty damn good day for me. But buyers never really get to shoot street style photos and ogle the Brunello Cucinelli booth (unless you carry his line in your store).

Check ch-check check check check it out. Shirt swatches.

Pitti is a great resource for manufacturing.

There’s nothing better than talking with people who make things. There’s no BS, no showroom hustling, and no guy-who-just-got-the-account-6-days-ago-and-knows-jack-shit-about-what-he’s-selling. Meeting with manufacturers is a joy for me and it’s one of the best parts of my job. And Pitti is absolutely filled with small-scale manufacturers. I’m talking incredible artisan companies that you’d never find outside of Europe. There’s a robust domestic market in Europe in general and Italy in particular, so Pitti is dotted with small firms that just serve local shops and designers. You’d never know about them unless you go there, and you won’t find them there unless you really put the work into it. But I found a bunch of great stuff, and hopefully all of these contacts will bear some serious fruit come fall 2012.

Mike and team Carmina.

Knit samples.

Florence is pretty ace.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Florence a few times before, and it’s a gorgeous city. In terms of trade show cities, it’s pretty close to the top of the heap. I love Cirque du Soleil shows and dinner buffets as much as the next man (editor’s note: Mike’s opinion on Cirque du Soleil is his own and does not reflect ours), but Florence has it all over Las Vegas. And the Fortezza da Basso will put a serious hurting on the Jacob Javits Center. It’s an inspiring place to visit, and touring the excellent menswear shops in the city will definitely put you in the right frame of mind. Of course, I don’t even have to mention how great the food, wine, and coffee is. It’s a small city, so you’ll run into friends and contacts easily. Overall, I had a wonderful time, and I’d whole-heartedly recommend Pitti Uomo to any other menswear buyers interested in expanding their assortment with some really unique collections and pieces.

The Arno.

Photos courtesy Mike Kuhle.

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?

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.