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Quality of tailoring

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Over the past few years I've had in my possession suits from nearly every top tailor (bespoke and ready-to-wear) in the world although a few have evaded me (notably Gianni Campagna, Knize, and Caraceni.) I've formed some opinions through my examination of each suit and by comparing them to each other. However I can't exactly tear them apart and look inside. Nor have I had the privilege of visiting the Flagship stores and asking salesmen who know about the exact tailoring processes. So I'm wondering if Mr. Naturlaut, Mr. Thracozaag and anyone else who can be of assistance would be willing to offer their knowledge and opinions. How would you rate the following makers on the quality of their tailoring? I mean purely on the basis of the amount of handwork and the precision and aesthetics of the stitching - not taking into account the different philosophies of styling that each maker prescribes to. What makes one suit a "13 hour," another an "18 hour," another a "25 hour," etc? I know I am asking a lot but any details you may be able to recall would be very interesting.   Here's a short list: Zegna Belvest Zegna Napoli Couture Gianluca Isaia Enrico Isaia Saint Andrews Brioni Kiton Borrelli Sartoria Attolini Feel free to add any others if they come to mind.
post #2 of 6
Quote:
Over the past few years I've had in my possession suits from nearly every top tailor (bespoke and ready-to-wear) in the world although a few have evaded me (notably Gianni Campagna, Knize, and Caraceni.)
If memory serves correct, Campagna acquired the Domenico Caraceni label in I believe 1998. The one piece of Caraceni that I have (2nd hand) is a wonder of construction. A half-lined, medium weight wool, two button, side-vented sportscoat. The handstitching, is of course, extensive, even the seam joining the back of the jacket is handstitched. I especially like the shoulder line of Caraceni, natural yet somehow retaining a nice shape all its own without a trace of stiffness (there is more padding in the shoulder area than in a neapolitan suit, but not as much as in say, Brioni). The buttonholes (working buttons on the sleeves) are hand-sewn and very flexible. It's overall an exquisite piece, I think. I'll tackle some of the other names on your list as time permits, Mr. Joe G. I'm sure can very intelligently remark on the quality of Knize (which I hear is very high).
post #3 of 6
As I am not a tailor, my meager knowledge comes from close inspection of the suits and many hours of discussions with tailors of each house.  However, a basic knowledge in tailoring would be helpful, not to mention studies in textile (which is currently where my main interests lie) --- for example, look at how many different cashmere Kiton offers, even in the summer.  These two areas are generally quite easily accessible in printed media (books, journals, specialized periodicals and magazines). Your short list includes many, though you are forgetting some.  How about Oxxford, Battistoni (d'Avenza), Sartoria Castangia, and Luciano Barbera? --- (grinning) and I am sure Thracozaag can summon a few more houses of distinct style.   Firstly, I do not have a regular Zegna suit, neither am I planning to get one in the near future, thus I cannot comment on that.  As your list includes houses that contribute a large amount of handiwork into their products, I will abstain from commenting on Zegna for their mass machine production (same for Corneliani), with the exception of Saint Andrews. ~~~ ISAIA: Isaia chiefly uses fabrics from Italian mills (the names of which eluded me at this moment, but I can find out for you later), either for their ready-made or custom-made.  A Gianluca Isaia shoulder pad includes: (from bottom to top) a layer of linen, cotton felt and a small piece of linen for basic insulation, then another linen-cottonfelt-linen, topped with one last piece of linen.  Apparently more padding than Kiton, but the cotton felt pieces are very thin.  This pad is about half-inch wider than the suit fabric, and the arm is attached to that half-inch.  (I hope you could visualize from my poor English writing.  In another words, if you rip off the sleeve, half-inch of the shoulder pad will be showing.)  This is very important as some other shoulders are made differently.  This half-inch makes for a straighter drop from the shoulder to your elbow, but will create a slight bulge half-inch from the arm-hole seam.  Different house controls this half-inch differently (some more, some less).  The sleeves are "˜attached' instead of "˜tucked in' (as in Attolini's). The recent Gianluca Isaia suits feature high gorge, where the V points almost towards the shoulder. The main difference between Enrico and Gianluca is in the fabric and the waist band of the pants.  The Enrico line deals with more exclusive fabrics, and the waist band is handset.  The Gianluca line has less hand work in the waist band, though Isaia insists that it would not make any difference.  Well, only time will tell. From a marketing standpoint, Enrico Isaia did offer a higher level of hand work.  However, now they did away with the Enrico label and increase the level of the Gianluca line.  Also, Gianluca is the grandson of the founder, and he does personal fittings worldwide, chiefly designing many of the models you are wearing now; thus for the time being we are seeing the Gianluca label everywhere. ~~~ Before I go on with the huge list, please bare in mind that no one in actuality does 100% hand work on a suit.  Certain seams are bound to be done by machines (like the side seam of the pants, where it HAS to be straight).  A "13 hour" jacket and a "22 hour" jacket differs chiefly in the fabric --- actually, EVERYTHING comes down to the fabric.  Certain fabrics are so fragile that time is needed to "˜rest' before you can sew on it again.  Mild steam is used while the unfinished suit fabric is hung, and then it is left for hours.  Kiton and Attolini (two names that are popularly known but by no means exclusively) do the most hand work on their suits.   In recent years, eBay sellers have also confused us in many ways.  For example, sellers always say that "This is completely handmade ..." or "hand-sewn buttonholes" or "high armhole", and so on, while he actually has no idea what he is talking about.  How many hand-sewn buttonholes can you find in the ready-made world?  Rare, though for $3000's worth of clothing you'd love to think that they are all hand-sewn, and of course all the salespersons from Bergdorf to eBay will want you to think that.   EBay auctions get more readers than New York Times, and sellers seem to "˜borrow' each other's writings freely.   On a rare occasion recently I bid on a pair of Brioni pants (it was only $55.).  However, they were flat front and the seller described it as pleated http://home.nyc.rr.com/hinleung/BrioniCord2.jpg.  I later sent the seller a picture of this and a real pleat, and he still insisted that he was right and refused a refund.   In my humble opinion, avoid paying too much attention at words like "hand-crafted", "hand-tailored" and any superlatives in an auction's description, though that doesn't mean sellers should not use them, as I agree, they are powerful words, and in many cases, true (like describing Turnbull as "˜one of the best shirtmakers').  However, if you are not sure about a maker (hey, no one knows everything), make a trip to your local department store and try on to know what you are looking for before making an auction purchase; because, excuse my English, could anyone define what "hand-tailored" means?   ~~~ Will write more later.  Hope to hear other's contributions too.
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
Already I have learned some fascinating details. Please write more if you get a chance.
Quote:
Your short list includes many, though you are forgetting some.  How about Oxxford, Battistoni (d'Avenza), Sartoria Castangia, and Luciano Barbera? --- (grinning) and I am sure Thracozaag can summon a few more houses of distinct style.
I too am an admirer of the other houses you mention. But I put on the list only those more readily available. I thought it more likely that you would have detailed information on the more commonly available suits. I should have included Oxxford though. One question - the two Battistoni suits I have seen were made by Castangia. Do the Battistoni/D'Avenza models predate the Castangias or are the newest models D'Azenza?
Quote:
In recent years, eBay sellers have also confused us in many ways.  For example, sellers always say that "This is completely handmade ..." or "hand-sewn buttonholes" or "high armhole", and so on, while he actually has no idea what he is talking about.  How many hand-sewn buttonholes can you find in the ready-made world?  Rare, though for $3000's worth of clothing you'd love to think that they are all hand-sewn, and of course all the salespersons from Bergdorf to eBay will want you to think that.   Ebay auctions get more readers than New York Times, and sellers seem to "˜borrow' each other's writings freely.
This is in part why I posted this topic. I write more extensively about my suits than anyone else on ebay. And I get knocked off constantly. Other sellers are always copying my auctions in their entirety despite my requests that they stop. There are a lot of sellers blatantly misrepresenting the suits, sportcoats etc. that they sell. This makes me very angry as it hurts the customer, the market, and me in the end. I have never knowingly misrepresented an item or a brand, ever. True, it has come to my attention that some of the things I have written in the past have been incorrect. But when I learned that I was wrong (a rare occasion these days) I changed the listing immediately. I am in a constant search for knowledge about high end tailored clothing and accessories. And all this knowledge gets passed on to my customers sooner or later - it's how I make a living. So when I ask what the specific differences in construcion are between say, an Oxxford and an Isaia, it is mostly for my own edification but it's also so that when I write about these houses my information will be correct. For instance: I've heard that the lapel padding is basted into an Oxxford by hand while in an Isaia it is sewn in by a special machine. But when I flip over the lapel and examine the underside on each suit I can't tell the difference..  
Quote:
How many hand-sewn buttonholes can you find in the ready-made world?  Rare, though for $3000's worth of clothing you'd love to think that they are all hand-sewn
They aren't all that rare are they? To me it is very easy to spot a handmade buttonhole vs a machine-made one. Nearly all the houses we have been discussing in this post sew their buttonholes by hand - or am I mistaken somehow??
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
However, a basic knowledge in tailoring would be helpful, not to mention studies in textile (which is currently where my main interests lie) --- for example, look at how many different cashmere Kiton offers, even in the summer.  These two areas are generally quite easily accessible in printed media (books, journals, specialized periodicals and magazines).
I wish I had realized this earlier. I just aquired a book on tailoring techiniques. It's from the 70's and features some interesting pictures of the H. Huntsman premises. It is proving very interesting. I have managed to track down the titles of some other excellent professional manuals - both on tailoring and on textiles - and am about to order them. When I have recieved them hopefully I will be able to comment more thoroughly on the nuts and bolts of fine tailoring and fine fabrics.
post #6 of 6
ZEGNA NAPOLI COUTURE Literally one of the biggest clothing manufacturers, the Napoli Couture line is made in-house.  They also make shirts and shoes, though the shoes are made by someone else; and beginning next season, they are joining forces with Ferragamo (with a new company) to expand on their shoes market.   Napoli suits exhibit hand stitched details at all the expected places.  Styling wise, there is a slight (very slight) flare at the back jacket skirt, which I take it as a descendent from the English.  Arms are straight, pants slightly tapered, wider chest, nibbed waist --- altogether a very sharp look.  Fabric is phenomenal. The shoulder padding is minimal: I suspect only a one-piece "˜linen-cotton-linen' pad (cotton meaning cotton felt), extending ½" to ¾" outside the shoulder, with the armhole attached; but since the padding is so light, the armhole has a natural drop from the shoulder.  There is absolutely no bulging at the armhole-shoulder attachment.   The front body: the canvas is only stitched to the fabric around the armhole and at the edge, thus the canvas is "˜floating', making it extremely light to wear.  The lapel shows extensive handwork, though it is not rolled as perfectly as Borrelli or Kiton.   As Zegna allocates a set of fabrics only for use for the Napoli line, you cannot find those fabrics in the lower Zegna lines.  An example of comparable fabric used for the lower Zegna lines weighs 250g, while the Napoli Couture weighs 240g.  You will also find no cotton suits under the Napoli line. Regarding the made-to-measure program, the suits will not be made from scratch, a.k.a. bespoke.  You will try on the closest ready-made size, and the adjustments are sent to the factory to make the suit for you.  Prices, depending on the fabric (15 milmil 15, Tofeo, etc.), made under the Napoli make (you could specify them to be made under regular Zegna make for cheaper), should cost you about 15% more than buying off-the-rack.  An off-the-rack Napoli suit starts from US$2500, to 15 milmil15 fabric for US$3400.  Shirts are not make under the Napoli make.  They are machine make, even for custom, and will regrettably not be able to match patterns for you.  We will discuss their shirts under another thread. As Agnona also belongs to Zegna, you can have a selection of 3 different kinds of Vicuna fabrics.   The current record for fine wool is at 11.8 micron (I think), which will, of course, not be used yet, --- not until they find something even thinner.  The best Zegna fabric is a 14-micron wool, with only about a dozen patterns made into actual cloth.  When you choose to use this fabric, you can design your own pattern, since the raw material (the raw wool) is still in the factory.  The finished fabric will carry your name ("Made Exclusively for Placido Domingo", for example) at the edge of the fabric where you will usually find the name of the mill or those "Made in England" labels; and this strip with your name will go into the inside left pocket of your pants.  The suit will cost you .... only US$10,000 --- I said "˜only' because a similar suit at Kiton will cost you at least 50% more.  The sample fabric shows quality of fine weave, with a discreet glimmer, fantastic for stripes as the stripes reveal different characters under different lights and angles. The fabric is not thin, but textured, very slight stretch, smooth to touch.
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