100 Hands Shirts Review

As soon as Fok saw me, he told me to turn around.
“Drop your bags off, we’ve got an appointment.”
A three-hour flight delay in San Francisco caused me to miss my connecting flight in London, forcing me to spend the night at a local generic Double Hilton Marri-Stay and take the next flight to Milan at 7am the next morning. From there I hopped on a train to Florence, and by the time I arrived at the StyleForum Maker Space, I had been traveling for over 24 hours. All I wanted was a cold drink and a warm bed, but as we were already late to our appointment, off we went.
“Did you bring a camera?” Fok asked as we wove through the cobblestone streets. “We should take pictures. I’m really excited about it. Is this the right street? I thought it was right around the corner…”. Around and around we went until we found ourselves in front of a modern-looking palazzo in a narrow alley. On the doorbell was the name 100 HANDS, written in fine cursive.
“You’re going to like Varvara,” Fok said as he pressed the doorbell. “She’s the sweetest person ever.” And then she opened the door, a petite young woman, with light brown hair parted to one side, greeting us with a kind smile. “Please come in.  We’ve been expecting you.”
Up to this point, I had only seen pictures of 100 Hands’ shirts online, accompanied with interesting, if unclear, descriptions of their construction: threadless and invisible stitching mechanics? What does that even mean?  
Once inside, Varvara introduced us to her husband Akshat, a tall young man from India with curly dark hair and gracious manners. “I’m so sorry,” he began as he shook my hand, “but I’m presently with another client. Please, have a coffee, and Varvara will show you one of our shirts.”
And what shirts they were.
Varvara pulled out what seemed to be an ordinary shirt with a box check pattern, but a closer inspection would reveal much. As an example, the box checks of the shirts line up practically everywhere – collar points, sleeves, shoulders, under the arm, and 360 degrees around the body. There is no way this can be done by a machine, and the result is a marvel to see. 
 
Pattern matching awesomeness (click below to start videos):

Another detail that sets their shirts apart is that instead of simply folding over the bottom of the shirt and running it through a sewing machine, the hem is hand rolled and stitched. The result is not unlike the edges of similarly crafted pocket squares, except the rolls are smaller and the stitching is more dense, making the stitching comparatively discreet; thus the term invisible stitching.
Indeed, the amount of hand stitching per inch is incredible – roughly 25 per inch, about three times than what you’d normally see on a shirt – but what is more striking is the way in which it’s done.  “When a thread breaks, we don’t simply tie a knot and continue,” Varvara explained.  “We pull it out and start all over. This is what we mean when we say threadless stitching. It’s just a single thread along a seam. That way, when you wash your shirt over and over, there is less chance of the shirt coming apart.”
Over a later email conversation, Varvara admitted the market speech can muddy the method. “But we feel the most important aspect of our work is the patience and precision of it.  We do use machines for some steps, but the majority of the undertaking is done by hand, and doing so takes time.” The time-intensive shirtmaking process passes through no less than 50 pairs of hands (thus the name). Simon Crompton of A Permanent Style has written extensively of the superb craftsmanship and exceptional working conditions of the over 100 people who work there. Although the atelier has existed for over 20 years and had made shirts for Savile Row tailors and haute couture maisons in France, the brand itself was established in 2014 and has enjoyed quite a bit of success since then, outgrowing the factory in the city of Amritsar and relocating to the neighboring countryside.
Photos courtesy of 100 Hands

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Another peculiar adornment found on each shirt are what Varvara calls their “one-of-a-kind” buttonholes. Put simply, they are not sewn, but embroidered: fine silk thread is worked around and up to the slice. In contrast, traditionally a slice is made in the fabric and then thread is brought around the cut edges to form a buttonhole. 100 Hands’ decorative method, which takes about 45 minutes per buttonhole, is borrowed from India’s own textile culture. Compared to other makers, the results are much cleaner and far less bulky. Here’s a few pics, plus a link to a 100MB picture Varvara sent me that you can zoom in on for full menswear geek gawking:
Besides being able to choose the collar, fabric, and finishes for a shirt, some may benefit from a custom shirt for a better fit.  For example, most OTR shirts are cut with higher, square shoulders; doing so can accommodate more body types.  The downside to this “democratic fit” is when you have more sloped shoulders, as the excess fabric can bunch in sloppy folds around the chest. Customization and fittings can adjust the pattern for these and other individual peculiarities for a cleaner fit while still being comfortable.
Speaking of customization: in addition to seasonal offerings, 100 Hands has access to nearly 400 fabrics from Italy and Japan, such as Canclini, Monti, Loro Piana, SicTess, Albiata and Albini. There are five different interlinings options for the collar, 12 different types of buttons, and the embroidery initials – sewn by hand – can be done in three different fonts.  Moreover, there are two levels of handwork, the Black and Gold Line. Both have the pattern drawn and cut by hand, handfusing and pattern matching, but the Gold Line contains far more: hand-embroidered buttonholes, handsewn side and bottom seams, shoulder, and sleeve placket.
After describing the work involved in making a shirt, Akshat fit Fok and me for a shirt each. I chose a plain white oxford cloth to go with light tans and blues that I’ll be wearing come warmer weather. Fok chose a denim shirt to wear, I assume, in the rough factory environment of his home office.
After taking our measurements, Akshat brought out prototypes for casual outerwear they have in store for the future, including a field and shirt jacket in slubby navy linen. No word on when these will be available, but I’m excited for the shirt jacket in particular – with a barchetta breast pocket, flapped patch hip pockets, and buttoned sleeves, it makes for a compelling choice when a sport coat might be considered too dressy. Meaning, I’ll probably be wearing it everywhere in California.
L’ora di aperitivo was upon us, so we said our goodbyes to Akshat and Varvara to meet up with Arianna at the StyleForum Makers’ Space. While making a wrong turn or two, Fok reflected on our visit with 100 Hands.
“I never wear dress shirts,” he mused. “I mean, look at me. I’m wearing beat up 18oz denim, a  worn in leather Type 3 jacket over a dirty tee shirt, and old sneakers.”  He paused for a beat, then chuckled to himself. “Those are some amazing shirts. I’m going to find an occasion to wear that shirt,” he vowed.
“Does that mean we’re coming to Pitti next year?” I asked. Fok stopped. “You never take pictures; how are you going to prove you ever wore the shirt?”  
“You make a valid point,” Fok conceded as he began walking again. “I could just buy a camera, but I’d miss the cobblestones and pasta. And cheese. And salame. And…I keep getting lost. Just wait till you see your apartment, it overlooks the Arno. Is this our street? I need a glass of wine…”
Later on, in San Francisco, the shirt arrived neatly packed in a box within a green canvas “suitcase” with a wooden button. I chose a Capri collar, unique in that both the collar and points are constructed in one piece so that it can be worn either buttoned with a tie or casually open. The result is not only one of the best fitting shirts I own (despite all the cannoli and gelato I’d been eating) but also one of the most versatile. For all those times you go from meetings to dining or vice versa, the collar handles both with ease and looks great doing so.  
Unboxing video: 

So much handwork does come at a price – $350 and up – but you’ll be getting more than similarly priced options from better known brands, such as Kiton and Charvet. All three do have a measure of hand stitching, but the sheer amount of intricate, precise handwork of a 100 Hands shirt frankly dwarfs most others and is one of, if not the defining characteristic, something Varvara and Akshat are very proud of. And then there’s longevity.
Mark Boutilier of San Francisco, who wears dress shirts far more often than I do, has had his shirts from 100 Hands for over a year. “I have shirts from various high-end makers,” he says, “and the Black Line not only has finer stitching and finishing, but has held up better after wearing and washing. Others have had stitching come loose, buttons unravelling, but not 100 Hands. I’m really impressed, and would highly recommend anyone to give them a try.” He did lament, however, the lack of availability for their MTM program in the US, which wasn’t available at the time. But that has recently changed.
“People have been requesting our MTM service via Instagram and email,” Varvara relates, “So we decided to begin to tap the US market that way.” My friend Tom was one of the first.
“I contacted Akshat, and he was very accommodating,” he began. “He offered for me to simply send in a good fitting shirt, but I decided that would be too much hassle, and sent him measurements instead. I also sent him photographs, and he was able to diagnose my biggest fit issues stemming from a forward posture.”
And the results? “Quite good for a first attempt,” Tom reports. “They hit the measurement specs perfectly and adjusted for my stance. My guess is that with one more iteration, we’ll be golden.”
Maiden voyage of Tom’s shirt from 100 Hands

Maiden voyage of Tom’s shirt from 100 Hands

While my own shirt seemed fine by my eye, Varvara was able to detect a few problems. “The upper front placket under the collar could use some attention,” she noted. Otherwise, maybe the biceps need slimming? I guess my guns are more like pea shooters.
Currently their showroom is in Amsterdam and while they do trunk shows in various cities (London, Hannover, and Stockholm, to name a few) and their shirts can be found in several shops online and in-store (the Rake and Linnégatan in Sweden, for example), there is presently just one place to see 100 Hands shirts in person in the US, and that is at Carroll & Co in Beverly Hills. Tom and others have had success with the remote MTM program, but since Ill be going back to Florence for Pitti next January, I think I’ll make an appointment to see them in person to catch up. Maybe get another shirt or two.
To contact 100 Hands, email them at info@100hands.nl or varvara@100hands.nl

This is not a sponsored article; to read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.


A Review of Lanieri: Su Misura Suiting

Note: for a limited time, Styleforum members can take 200$ off a new Lanieri suit by using code STYLEFORUM200 at checkout! This offer is only good from 5/19/2017 – 5/28/2017. Visit Lanieri to make your order.


Although I buy a lot of stuff online, with clothing I’m usually hesitant unless the place has a good return policy or I know how it will fit. I especially don’t want to deal with the difficulties of returning clothes internationally. So I usually just go with makers that I know – probably like most of you do as well. However, sometimes I have placed online orders through online Made-to-Measure manufacturers in pursuit of a specific style, fabric or pattern.

I had often seen Lanieri online, and had also spent some time browsing through their thread on Styleforum, in which Riccardo Schiavotto – one of the founders of Lanieri – showcases the expanding range of options that their company offers. Browsing their website and the thread, they make clear that they manufacture 100% Made-in-Italy garments. They use fabrics from prestigious fabric mills and merchants, including Reda and Vitale Barberis Canonico (both of which are investors in Lanieri), which provide choices for a wide range of tastes and budgets. They use a well-established Italian tailoring house to make their garments in northern Italy, and the cutting, stitching and finishing of the garment is done entirely with Italian labor. More or less, Lanieri is trying to remind their customers that – like food – Italians still take style and quality in manufacturing seriously.

Their attention to detail extends to customer service and marketing. On Styleforum, Riccardo listens to the concerns and feedback from the community, answering questions about the manufacturing or materials, while also working to incorporate more customization. For instance, Riccardo has pointed out that their pants feature horsehair canvas in the waistband, or that they offer a selection of horn or mother of pearl buttons. He has taken the time to listen to the community, and soon Lanieri will offer full-canvas suiting, sometime by the end of summer (currently their structured jackets feature a true half-canvas).

So when Fok, Styleforum’s owner and administrator, asked me if I’d like to write a review of Lanieri in exchange for a suit, I jumped on-board and said yes. Please note that I am under no obligation to review them in any specific way. My only compensation was a suit of my choice from a selection of their fabric offerings. You can read Styleforum’s Review Policy here.

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Designing a Garment

Lanieri has a number of options that allow you to create your own garment so that it meets your sense of style. Personally, I appreciated the online visualization of the garment, which updates to show the various options you’ve chosen as you design your garment. You receive a feel for the overall look of the garment you’re creating. Of course, you are not able to see or feel the real end product, with all its nuances, until it is in natural light in your hands–but for what it is worth, the visualization gives you a sense of whether you are designing an abomination or your dream suit.

Their buyers vary their selection of fabrics each season, and offer a range of staples in addition to more exciting and more nuanced options. The fabrics have descriptions that showcase a wide range of weights, Super numbers, and weaves. The more interesting fabrics currently include some linen mohair blends, tonal Prince of Wales checks, or wool-silk blends. If all else fails or you need a staple, there is always a range of essential wool suiting.

review of lanieri lanieri su misura lanieri review styleforumLanieri provides peak, notch and shawl collar options, both in more “modern” slimmer lapel widths and wider configurations. Their buttons include a range of polyester, horn, mother of pearl and/or pearlized choices.  I’m a sucker for horn buttons, and would rather get a suit that already has them on it, considering that many ready-to-wear makers do not use them. Of course, you get to choose the interior qualities, including lining style, color, contrast stitching, et cetera.

You can also include any notes you want them to see prior to making the garment. I had opted, after speaking with Riccardo, to go with spalla a camicia instead of their standard suit option, spalla con rollino. If you want spalla a camicia, just put it into the notes. Riccardo has stated that one of the reasons it is only available to those that ask is because most of their clientele don’t seem to like spalla a camicia on account of the extra fabric in the sleeve head. I ended up finding that they sew it with less fabric than what you would see in a spalla mappina.

Ultimately, I opted for a half-lined Solaro suit in a nine-ounce fabric by Drago (you can read about why you want a Solaro suit here) with dark horn buttons, a mélange melton collar and beige lining. The final cost for the garment as made was $920.

After designing the garment, you fill out your measurements, guided by a somewhat campy (but not in a bad way) video featuring instructions on how to measure yourself (or rather, how to have someone else do it for you). Included in the measurements process are qualitative visualizations in order to help them understand your shoulder shape, gut and posture.

Of course, my wife had difficulty measuring, and so we had to repeat several measurements. Lanieri actually reached out to me, stating that some measurements were strange, and to please confirm them. After confirming them (good thing I did…) they sent it off to begin cutting, and the suit’s fate was sealed.

Inspecting the Result

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Working cuffs, horn buttons.

After a little more than three weeks (my order coincided with a lot of holidays in Italy – Easter, Pasquetta, and Liberation Day, among others) my order was shipped via FedEx International Priority. Two days after shipping, it arrived at 10 AM in sunny California placed in a giant cardboard suit box; they arranged the suit folded on a wooden hanger inside a canvas garment bag. Included were spare buttons, and some information on how to care for your garment, reminding you of the importance of proper maintenance to ensure the quality and integrity of your garment. Personally, it always serves as a nice reminder to treat your clothes well.

Overall, the final product was nicer than I expected; the Solaro fabric by Drago has a wonderful hand, drape and overall color. Living in Southern California, I feared that it would be a bit too hot, but it has a surprisingly open weave. The cupro bemberg (another plus) half-lining helps keep it breathable. The buttons are solid, well shaped natural horn, and the garment has even and durable machine stitching throughout.

Because my jacket and pants are half lined, I opened them up to take a peek. Sure enough, they are using light horsehair canvas throughout the waistband (a split waistband, as the Italians like to use), and in upper half of the jacket. The shoulders have some light padding to assist in drape, and the fusing (running the bottom half of the front of the jacket) is much higher quality than what you would see in most RTW makers. I was impressed with the softness and the quality of the half canvassed garment, providing an extremely nice balance between soft and stiff construction.

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You can see the lapel roll and the “Spalla Camicia”.

With regards to fit, the jacket fits well out of the box. The shoulders hang well with a fairly good sleeve pitch. I think the sleeve length is spot on (and they have to be, since they include working cuffs). I have narrow shoulders, so oftentimes I end up rejecting off-the-rack tailoring that is either too tight in the chest or too big in the shoulders. The only thing that I would note for a future order is that I prefer my jackets to be cut longer, with most of my jackets averaging about two centimeters longer than what Lanieri chose to provide. Additionally, if they offer higher armholes, I’d prefer that too (the armhole is on par with many of RTW Italian makers) Having lived in Italy, I know the Italians do like jackets to be shorter. And I find this to be acceptable, especially with an informal fabric like Solaro. At least the jacket appears to be covering my ass.

The pants are another matter for me. While they fit in length, the waist was larger than I would prefer (especially with a split waistband since I prefer the waist snug), and the seat could be brought in slightly in order to help it drape better. Additionally, I have a forward leaning stance, so I feel they need to be be cut wider in order for the pants to drape better, since the fabric accumulates on my calves when wearing OTC socks. With shorter socks or no show socks, I don’t have that issue with these pants. I’ve since taken it to my alterations specialist to correct this.

I will note that the garment had a couple loose threads in the seams and that they did forget to include the two rear suspender buttons in the trousers. Both of these are difficult to correct, but it is a minor annoyance.

The good news is that Lanieri wants to ensure that you have a perfect fitting jacket, so they will take into consideration these alterations (you submit a form with the alterations to them in order to get a refund) for future orders, or they will remake your garments if they are deemed uncorrectable. Like any online MTM program, I wouldn’t anticipate getting perfection on the first try, but because Lanieri is invested in keeping you as a customer and making you happy, I think the opportunity here is to build a relationship between client and company.

Price, Quality and Final Thoughts

Lanieri isn’t bargain basement dirt-cheap, but for the price ($920 as ordered), you get quality fabrics, good construction, the ability to design your garment in your style, and Italian manufacturing. Within the range of fabrics that Lanieri offers, they have cheaper and more expensive options (all of which are good fabrics from prestigious Italian fabric mills); this allows you to cover your wardrobe requirements with cheaper work suits or more expensive suiting for special occasions. I think that within the market segment, they offer a product that is certainly capable of meeting your needs, and which also provides you with the opportunity to – eventually – order well-fitting garments in your own style without the hassle of alterations.

Lanieri has a wide range of sales, including ones timed to holidays. These sales provide you the opportunity to get what you may need without breaking the bank. Outside of the sales, Lanieri is worth the price, considering that staple suits from quality makers are hardly ever found in a decent sale. For a reasonable price you can get a good garment that will last you quite some time and suit your needs.

Soon, Lanieri will expand by opening an atelier in New York, providing customers the opportunity to be measured in person and see the quality of sample garments prior to purchase. In addition, with the launch of a new full-canvas option, Lanieri will be placed extremely well as an accessible option within the market for quality made-to-measure menswear.

Note: the Solaro fabric shown in the review – named Riviera on Lanieri’s website – will be back in stock on their website in the middle of June.

 


  • This is not sponsored content, however, Lanieri is an affiliate of Styleforum. To read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.
  • If you’re interested in browsing Lanieri’s options, you can do so here.
  • To read Lanieri’s Affiliate Thread, please click here.