Dirnelli (Dirnelli.tumblr.com) and I (paul-lux.tumblr.com) have contributed to this extensive review and are very happy to hear your thoughts. Don't expect outstanding writing skills from me though
It is our pleasure to publish today the Parisian Gentleman Selection of Ready-to-Wear Suits for 2014 !
This selection covers 39 houses and brands that have been carefully selected over a period of several months, with the valuable input of a few collaborators from the international sartorial scene, a method which is a first in the history of our selections.
This edition will be the beginning of many future collaborative pieces. It is indeed our hope to continue reuniting under vast projects such as this one, many different and respected names in the field–from established authors and fine journalists to dedicated bloggers, to create truly independent and in-depth selections curated with care and passion and up to date with the latest developments in the ever-changing world of men’s style.
For the 2014 edition of our RTW suits selection, Sonya, Greg and myself have had the honor of working with five very fine contributors ; three French, one Finish and one American.
First, let us give honor where honor is due : G. Bruce Boyer is one of the most respected and erudite writers in the field of men’s style and has done us the great pleasure of delivering reviews on two American houses. Ville Raivio, from the excellent Finish blogKEIKARI, was also kind enough to send us a review on another American house.
At the heart of this project, we have two passionate French bloggers: Dirnelli & Paul F, who sent us reviews on no less than 20 houses !
Dirnelli is an established name in the small world of I-Gents. His tumblr DIRNELLI has gradually become a very reliable resource for any and all gentlemen seeking sartorial inspiration. Having myself a first-hand knowledge of the long-winded investment in time required to maintain such a consistent activity, I can only salute Dirnelli’s diligence that has earned him a sizeable and passionate readership.
Paul F. is a more relaxed proponent of the new sartorial “selfie” wave. Though his approach is less hard-lined than Dirnelli’s, it is no less serious and knowledgeable. His Tumblr PAUL-LUX is a haven of good taste and elegance, animated by a truly passionate man at the head of a lovingly acquired collection of all things sartorial. The ensembles he presents are often splendid, denoting a very keen sartorial eye.
Lastly, to give voice to the youngest generation on the very important subject of RTW suits, we have once more opened our columns to our young friends of BONNE GUEULE, who kindly reviewed a young and up-and-coming French house for us.
The prices indicated in this selection are an estimated average, as such prices may vary (sometimes impressively so) between the different lines, collections and fabrics chosen. That being said, the estimations should be a reliable indicator that will help you find your way through this list which we have intended to make representative of today’s market.
Without further ado, presented in ascending price order, is the Parisian Gentleman Selection of Ready-to-Wear suits for 2014 !
Still a relevant entry-level offer
From 200 to 400 €
By Hugo Jacomet :
The suiting offered by English shirt makers, with TM Lewin being well in the lead, has always been a fantastic entry-level option in the world of classic men’s style, especially for the younger generations and for those on a tight budget.
The suit lines are indeed very affordable with prices frequently reduced to ~200€ during sales, which are almost permanent with new discount offers every week. TM Lewin’s suits are all made far from Jermyn Street (TM Lewin is owned by the Prominent Group, which operates major factories in Asia and India), and are almost all fused — though some models with floating chest pieces are available.
Nevertheless, with an average price of ~250€ for a full suit, TM Lewin remains–together with its main competitor Charles Tyrwhitt–an excellent first serious step in the world of classic men’s style.
The cuts are classic, the fabric selection and quality is decent at best, as are the few finishing touches. But at this price, you undeniably get what you have paid for.
++ : Decent suits for a low price, lots of variety in terms of cuts and fabrics, good customer service.
- – : You might want to visit one of the shops (in the UK) to try on a suit first hand and check your size, even though the online shop and return policies are very reliable.
From 300 to 800 €
By Hugo Jacomet :
Though some may not want to admit it, Suitsupply is a smashing entrepreneurial success and one of the main driving forces behind today’s small sartorial revolution.
By making men’s style accessible to almost everyone with fair price offerings complete with the undeniable flair in their collections and their talent in creating striking ad campaigns, Suitsupply has become the benchmark brand in the crowded sector of affordable men’s style (with Milano’s Boggi not too far behind).
Suitsupply was created in 2001 in Amsterdam, by a young Fokke de Jong, who built his strategy on the simple and audacious gamble of installing his first stores in unusual places, including being situated on a highway and later being located a significant distance away from the main commercial arteries. The idea was to make Suitsupply a destination, instead of just another shop situated in a line-up of stores. This is a very atypical way of doing business that proved very successful as stores located on offbeat locations entail a much lower rent and cost of maintenance which allows the saved money to be channeled into creating a vertical approach to the production line (which allows for Suitsupply to be in full control of its products, from the purchase of raw materials all the way up to sales). This approach has allowed the young company to pressure the men’s style market to a breaking point by offering a vast choice of aggressively priced suits at a quality / price ratio unheard of at the time.
By following up with a few hard-hitting ad campaigns on the internet (accompanied with a series of photography which I personally like, such as the “Trust the Suit” or the “Start Smoking” campaigns), the Dutch brand would enjoy a dazzling momentum with the opening of no less than 50 stores, including 10 in the USA and a flagship store on Madison Avenue.
With a wide choice of suits sold at a very fair price including a good deal of attention put into the styling of collections that are cut from good quality fabrics, Suitsupply is an excellent first step (perhaps the best in its price range) into the world of personal elegance, no matter your age or your financial means.
++ : Lots of style to chose from, good quality of construction for the price tag.
- – : The slightly (too) short trousers… a house “trademark” it would seem.
By Paul F :
My first impression after spending 10 minutes in a Suitsupply store in Brussels was not very good. Disappointing even. I was simply unable to find a suit that would fit me.
The truth is, I rarely accept help from salesmen, probably because I have seen too many incompetent ones, obsessed with sales figures and without any sense of style. After looking in more detail, I finally found something: a model called HAVANA. No, I don’t smoke cigars, but this model seemed to be the only cut that fit me well.
It is characterized by natural shoulders, a two-button jacket and flat front trousers. I had at first spotted the SOHO cut, but since I skipped swimming classes when I was younger, it’s a deal-breaker with such a close cut. You need to learn how to navigate a Suitsupply store if only for the sheer quantity of cuts on display. Take your time and try on several models.
The company, founded in Amsterdam, has now expanded far and wide, and its business model is working very well. Suitsupply sources its fabrics in Italy and then sends the fabric stock to China, where the suits are constructed. They are then sold either in one of the 50+ physical stores of the brand or via the excellent online shop (which has the best return policy I’ve ever seen, since one can return the items for free with UPS picking the products up right at your door !). The fabrics offered range from basic to more fashionable. As such, it’s very likely that many a gent will find something that satisfies them.
Suitsupply is an ideal way to start a quality wardrobe. Don’t blame the brand for its daring advertisements but instead focus on the products. There is true potential here with an honorable quality of construct.
Perfect budget buy
From 300 to 850 €
By Dirnelli :
This RTW brand is very impressive due to the wide range and elegant styling of its collection, all positioned at very reasonable prices. If I were to recommend just one entry-level brand to penurious sartorialists around the globe, Boggi would be it. In this price range, its major competitor is Suitsupply, but Boggi has the advantage of being ‘Made in Italy.’ Almost everything in Boggi’s plethoric product range is something you would want to wear if you are a fan of current Italian style.
Part of Boggi’s secret is using many different suppliers — e.g. Lardini, Lubiam, Flannnel Bay, Isaia, Tagliatore and even Caruso — so there is always something for everyone’s taste in every collection. Some suits are inexpensive and fused, but others are more expensive and fully canvassed, using luxury fabrics like Loro Piana Tasmanian Super 150′s.
++ : Excellent value-for-money on a wide range of suits, shirts & accessories.
- – : Construction quality is not to the highest standard and alterations are not included in the price.
By Paul F :
Boggi created a segment where there used to be little to none – in the quality mid-range offering (think neither Zara nor Brioni).
They are a good answer to the ever-recurring question that young graduates keep asking on forums around the web…where to find a decent suit below 400 euros for a first job, or even a job interview ?
Boggi, thanks to tight cost control, huge orders and a willingly lower margin, is able to offer a good selection of fabrics from well-known providers such as Vitale Barberis Canonico, or Loro Piana in a variety of cuts which fits most men from size EU 44 to 58. The cuts are not what you would consider “fashionable”, albeit they tend to be slimmer than most of what is done today, but you will not find ridiculously slim lapels straight from the Slimane Era (designer of Dior Homme in the 2000s).
Those in the know might recognize some references to leading Italian houses such as larger lapels, as well as finer points like the use of Solaro fabric with red/green reflections on a beige cotton. The top line is manufactured at some very reputable workshops. Boggi offers a perfect opportunity to buy a fully canvassed suit for approximately 800 euros. Here is how you start a quality wardrobe without breaking your piggy bank !
Salesmen are usually much better than the standard ones you would run into at most of the other stores within the same price range; most clerks are even actually Italian. At Boggi, navy flannel jackets with a detachable light grey flannel zip collars hang next to navy, grey and beige suits in a variety of plain fabrics as well as striped, windowpane or even Prince of Wales fabrics–all at a reasonable price.
A pleasant surprise from Japan
From 300 to 600 €
By Paul F :
Beams turned out to be a really pleasant surprise that I came across during my last visit to Tokyo.
This brand has stores all over the country, including no less than 30 stores in Tokyo alone. Given the number of locations, I did not expect much more than an enhanced version of Zara, but was surprised to find an extraordinary source of inspiration with a smart selection of products on display, which usually seems to suit the atmosphere of the district where the store is located (from formal to casual wear.)
Most suits branded Beams are fused, consequently they are truly cheap: 300 euros at full retail price. I bought a windowpane check grey flannel suit on sale and I don’t regret it one bit. Beams offers the best alternative to department store entry level suits. However, that means you would have to actually fly to Japan or dare to order online without trying the suit on first. And as one might expect, their suit sizes tend to be on the smaller side.
Beams stores are far from being run-of-the-mill entry level stores. They actually have a vast selection and a highly stylish sales force, even if the work staff’s style is not always my cup of tea.
Beams also offers partially or fully canvassed suits and coats manufactured by Ring Jacket or by Italian brands like Lardini or Boglioli. If you visit Japan, make sure to pop into several Beams stores. I can guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised by what you’ll see.
The Basque sensation
from 400 to 750€
By Hugo Jacomet :
This young Spanish house is the love child of Instagram / Tumblr / forums / blogs the world over, and is one of the most pleasant surprises ever to emerge from a country not necessarily famed for its contribution to suiting (even though Spain has nothing to prove when it comes to shoes.)
Its success among men’s style aficionados has allowed the brand to expand past its native borders all the way over to Paris, where it has opened a quaint little shop.
Lander Urquijo offers a limited but well conceived line of sports jackets and suits at intriguing prices. Their clever use of unusual colors is a breath of fresh air and the style of the house is very convincing, as is the quality of construct.
A very good option for those seeking colorful suits with a very smart silhouette.
The new wave is on the way and it is a refreshing one…Viva Espana !
By Dirnelli :
This Spanish brand cleverly picked up where Hackett left off…after Hackett lost its fire.
Lander Urquijo offers Brit-with-a-twist, blue-blooded menswear classics done with Mediterranean panache and eccentricity. The references to Savile Row and to Naples are explicit in the styling of the collections.
It’s fun to watch (or patron) a brand that’s in the early days of expansion — Lander Urquijo, the man, is a 40-year old that you can still go to and shake hands with upon meeting. Lander’s family has owned a tailoring business in Spain for at least a generation, but young heir Lander has decided to breathe new life into the family business by expanding the RTW operations.
A brand to keep an eye out for in the coming years.
++ : Very affordable prices for contemporary Neapolitan styling done with provocative fabric choices.
- – : Hard to find, as the brand is still quite confidential, with only 3 shops (Madrid, Bilbao and now Paris.)
Good suits for the stout figure
From 400 to 800 €
By Sonya Glyn Nicholson :
For the record, O’Connell’s was started by three Buffalo Bills players in the late 1950s. Soon after, Bernie Huber purchased O’Connells and the Huber’s have retained the store to this day.
O’Connell’s swears by the style of the 1950s and in addition to their current offerings, still has a sizable stock of period suits for lovers of vintage, that are becoming more numerous. The somewhat shielded brand enjoys a loyal and passionate customer base and has a following that confirms the value of their products…all still fashioned in 1950s style with no apologies (and if you have a thing for patchwork gingham trousers, congratulations, this is your place). Some suits have more, albeit slight, waist suppression than others so pay attention to the overall silhouette created by the fit.
Tailored in Canada—O’Connell suits have center vents, undarted jackets, saddled shoulders, and raglan sleeves that give strong indicators of pure American style. Yet the selection has more nostalgic class and flair than the average RTW sack suit or soft tailored ensemble you’ll find in the States. We like the high gorge and the 3-roll-2 jacket front on many of the coats, with the lapel rolled over the top button and the fact that none of O’Connells suits are fused.
There are some complaints of long shipping times in specific areas, and so if you are having an item shipped, ask up front about how long it will take for your suit to arrive.
Wool suits start at $495.00.
++ : Well adapted for the tall or larger gentlemen. Good value for money.
- – : Cuts can be wide, and all in all, fairly conventional
Caruso by Caruso
From 500 to 800€
By Dirnelli :
Maco is a brand made by Caruso (like its other brand called Raffaele Caruso.)
It’s very nicely made, comfortable to wear, and very current it its styling. Fabric choices are beautiful.
It’s just a shame that this brand is still confidential and not widely distributed. Perhaps Caruso doesn’t want to be too aggressive in competing directly with the brands that it makes for…
By Hugo Jacomet :
On a related note, the name “Maco” comes from MA.CO, which stands for Manifattura Confezioni–the name of the company before it changed its name to Raffaele Caruso Spa.
This little detail would make Maco the original Caruso brand. Unfortunately, unless you plan a trip close to Parma or other nearby outlets, chances are that you won’t come across a Maco suit.
Also note that Pierre Degand in Brussels has developed with Maco a beautiful small line of suits called “Degand by Caruso”, priced around 1000€…
++ : Great value for money, great styling, quality of construct, and fabric choices.
- – : Difficult to find outside Soragna (Parma).
The new generation of the “Made In France”
From 600 to 1000€
By Benoit Wojtenka (Bonnegueule.fr)
Founded in 2008, Melinda Gloss has always had some interesting suit collections, even though you wouldn’t notice right away by glancing at various lookbooks.
The two founders of the brand have a practically obsessive tendency to look for that little thing that will make the difference. The materials and fabrics are varied, of good taste, and always offer an interesting little twist.
Rémi is the creative mind behind the brand. A passionate man always toiling away to improve his jacket collection. Year after year, his style evolves – the cuts change, the shoulder becomes more comfortable, the lapels drape more gracefully … each passing seasons brings its lot of improvement.
In addition to the classic selection of colors (the eternal shades of blue and grey), Melinda Gloss offers more daring colors as well. Colors could include a burgundy smoking jacket or a turquoise cotton suit. One of the trademarks of this house is the button selection, which offers such oddities as corozo buttons, alongside such classics as the ever popular horn buttons. Plastic buttons are not an option here.
The products are all made in France (in Limoges). The jackets are all half-canvassed, and all the inner materials such as the padding or the canvas are also made in France.
The cuts are modern, and as such, all jackets and trousers can be worn mismatched. A Melinda Gloss jacket always goes very well with a pair of denims or chinos.
A fine and modern alternative that is fully “Made In France”…of good taste with nice fabrics and sold at a reasonable price.
Fantastic value (and style) for money
from 600 to 1000€
By Paul F :
Ring Jacket is a brand I discovered when I first stepped into the Armoury Shop in Hong Kong, a well-known place among our community.
The cut is definitely modern without ever feeling “fashionable”. The fabrics are very nice with interesting patterns. The suits and jackets are fully canvassed and the finishing touches are more than decent, all for a relatively low price.
So I bought one, and I fell in love with the generous lapels! Not all models feature wide lapels though, so proponents of conservative style need not worry. I then bought a few more suits in Japan where RJ is actually from, at prices significantly lower, between about 700 and 800€, which is very reasonable given the manufacturing quality and the fabulous fabrics.
This is undeniably one of my favorite brands as far as value for money goes. Sizes run from EU 42 to 56, so most men should find something that fits them. I like the salesmen, composed of truly passionate people, despite the staff sporting super-short trousers, which I confess that I don’t like…
At RJ, you’d typically find navy suits, double breasted camel hair coats and the now famous “Creamy Waffle jacket” ; do check the latter yourself is you can, as I’d be absolutely unable to describe the unique feel of this fabric.
The main issue that remains is the European distribution of the brand: that is, there is none. Khakis of Carmel, a US based retailer started a partnership with Ring Jacket, but at a fairly higher price that what you’d pay in Asia–but hey, they’ve got to pay those import taxes right … ?
Brooks still provides decent suits at decent prices
From 600 to 1200€
By G. Bruce Boyer :
Brooks Brothers, founded in 1818, is the oldest retail store in the USA. and the first to specialize in readywear clothing for men.
It became the bastion of traditional clothing for the Eastern Establishment style of business dress in the 19th century, and into the 20th Century it became known as the WASP Ivy Style store of choice. In the 1950s it gained popularity as the center of the “Madison Avenue – Gray Flannel – Campus” style of dress in the USA, and favorably copied abroad. Ironically it was just after WW II that the Brooks family finally sold the firm (1946).
The following years were difficult, as Brooks went from one owner to another, each one seemingly worse than the former. Finally the store was bought by the Italians in 2001, and has been making a great effort to re-define itself with an “International Preppy” design approach, particularly catering to the young professional man.
There seems to be an attempt to both return to the 1950s roots with an emphasis on good quality, reasonably priced oxford button down shirts and classic neckwear and other accessories, but also to provide a number of newer, streamlined silhouettes which drift very far afiled from the Ivy styling in the tailored clothing.
It can be said, however, that Brooks remains true to its roots by providing decent clothing at a decent price for a large number of men.
Par Hugo Jacomet :
I would advise favoring the “Made in Italy” line, by far the most interesting in terms of quality of construct.
Spearheading accessible British style
From 600 to 1400€
By Hugo Jacomet :
Founded in 1979 by Sir Jeremy Hackett from what was originally a simple thrift shop, Hackett became in the 90′s one of the major advocates for affordable British styled suits.
Hackett’s collections were, until the middle of the 2000s, known for playing with the greatest symbols of “Britishness” with flair, gusto, and even some humor (like their logo, a bowl hat and two umbrellas. Can you get much more British than that ?)
Sold by Richemont to the Torreal group (a Spanish investment fund) in 2005, Hackett seems to have lost a bit of its fire since a few years, with products that lack the personality of what the brand used to make – even though the number of shops around the world has dramatically increased.
But despite having lost some of the flamboyance that made its charm (and success), Hackett remains a very safe choice in its price range.
++ : Good value for money, lots of choices, some particularly nice pieces to handpick each season for the sharp eye.
- – : Not as charming as it once was, quality of construct could be better.
Clean & clear cut
From 800 to 2000€
By Sonya Glyn Nicholson :
With 95 percent of all garments made in Italy by whom Ports describes as “artisanal craftsmen”, the Ports 1961 menswear collection is emerging as an interesting choice for a RTW suit for the man who likes a traditional look with modern flair. Expect clean, if not pristine line cuts which form a classic silhouette
Ports seems to get it right with a correct collar fit, and medium-width lapels with an attractive lapel notch. But there’s more…natural shoulders that appear tailored, a high button-stance, and a jacket length that is only slightly short in front–however the back of the jacket is cut noticeably short on some models, in the manner of the Pop Suit, which could cause a first-time suit owner to newly discover his buttocks.
Trousers are streamlined, but not obnoxiously slim and the trouser waist cut is set close the natural waistline. The silhouette is slimming with gradual waist suppression done in good taste. Overall, a serious work. It would be a prudent to say that the designers and manufacturers at Ports have some exposure to proper tailoring.
Originating in Toronto, but now with a flagship store on the famed rue du Faubourg-Saint Honoré where the men’s collection was added in 2012, this young Canadian house seems to succeed where others have failed–creating a suit that is both futuristic and timeless. Fabrics meanwhile, include Loro Piana. It’s not difficult to find something nice to say about this collection. Suits are superb and clean cut with a fit configured for the athletic, with a particularly nice chest drape on the double-breasted ensemble. A great discovery to follow.
++ : Extremely clean silhouettes, gorgeous double-breasted suits.
- – : The back-cut of the jacket may be too short for the Non-Pop Suit lover. What a pity…
Life without structures
From 850 to 1500€
By Hugo Jacomet :
The ultra-light sports jacket specialist.
The Boglioli brothers rose to fame in the past few years with their line of jackets, which feel almost closer to a cardigan than they do to a suit jacket. The comfort is unparalleled, as such you really have to try it to believe it.
The fabrics are as light as it gets, the jackets have absolutely no structure, and the cloth has a superb Italian feel to it. A must-have for anyone who travels a lot, or has a party to attend by the seaside in summer.
Note that the Boglioli brothers left the company last year, and recently launched a new brand – GIGI – whose first products look extremely promising (soon available at Degand in Brussels). To be continued …
++ : As comfortable as comfortable gets, truly stylish casual chic.
- – : Can be expensive.
Quality Italian suits at an affordable price
From 850 to 1600€
By Hugo Jacomet :
Less well-known than most of its competitors, Lardini is nonetheless one of the greatest manufacturers of quality Italian suits, with an average output of 1600 suits a day.
This family-owned factory makes suits for such famous names as Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo and Versace, no less. They also sell their own range of suits of very fair quality with nice Italian flair and a good quality of construct, complete with a coherent price tag.
A good, serious, Italian brand.
++ : Serious products, well assembled, with a plain (but still Italian) style.
- – : Almost too plain sometimes.
Quality RTW with a twist
From 900 to 1500€
By Hugo Jacomet :
Timothy Everest has offered since a few years several small RTW collections drawn up by the man himself and made in Portugal, England, and even Japan (where Timothy Everest products sell quite well).
The lines are sometimes daring (without going over the top), the fabrics are of good quality, and the half-canvassed construct is well-made.
A fine line of “British with a twist”, which we love at PG.
++ : The suits are well made, with the very British flair that made the house famous.
- – : Very small collections with limited choice.
Creativity and quality
From 900 to 1500€
By Hugo Jacomet :
Richard James is undeniably one of the leaders of the new establishment on the Row, and one of those who blurred the lines between bespoke tailoring and quality ready-to-wear, while brimming with quality.
Now distributed internationally (in such places as Barneys in New York and Harrods in London), the products of RJ are made in Italy with very contemporary cuts and a creative choice of colors that you rarely see anywhere – from old pink to pale blue and purple, as illustrated above.
A house we like a lot here at PG, for the quality of its products, the cohesive communication strategy it employs (always very creative without being vulgar), and the undeniable style of its last Spring / Summer collections, which has some of the most refreshing pieces we’ve seen in a while.
++ : A very personal style that gets better and better with each passing collections. Lots of flair.
- – : Short collections. Sometimes a lack of choice.
Savile Row’s rising star
From 900 to 1800€
By Hugo Jacomet :
It’s been two years since “Young Richard” himself draws and offers his very own collection of classic suits, made in Italy.
All the basics of men’s style are respected in his collections, which are available in a selection of discreet fabrics that always fit the product very well. The half-canvassing is also of good quality.
Richard Anderson’s RTW is quite simply a true quality product, only available (to this day) at N°13 Savile Row, or via the house’s website.
++ : Quality-made classic style cut in nice fabrics. A very safe choice.
- – : Only available in London or online.
The right product, the wrong marketing.
From 1000 to 1700€
By Dirnelli :
This is tailoring, not fashion, but you could never guess
Never has a RTW brand been so poorly served by its marketing material and ads. Don’t be fooled by their sleek & trendy pictures in fashion magazines, or their faux-hip boutiques in bad locations such as airport terminals: Pal Zileri actually makes an amazing suit, but you have to try it first to understand why, as the tailoring skills are not visible through the brand’s storytelling.
For example, PZ is one of the few RTW brands to make trousers that are barely canvassed at the waistline, which is much more comfortable to wear than the stiff waistlines of most RTW trousers. The construction of their jackets is so light you barely feel it on you, and yet their jackets have structure and hold up well to wear.
PZ’s choice of fabrics is always differentiating in subtle ways, and so remains original yet wearable. The way a RTW brand chooses its fabrics is often telling: some brands just choose expensive fabrics that don’t actually look good, whereas Pal Zileri’s fabric choices are not the from most luxurious bunches, but are always very carefully curated and are interesting both visually and to the hand. Obviously, this brand has some people who know what they are doing in terms of hardcore tailoring choices.
Too bad that part of the brand’s storytelling gets no airtime, the real value proposition lay there.
++ : Great tailoring, styling, fabrics and prices.
- – : The marketing is completely wrong-headed compared to the underlying value proposition of the brand .
Mid Atlantic East-Coast flair
From 1100 to 1800€
By G. Bruce Boyer :
Paul Stuart is both more upscale in design and price than Brooks. The firm’s design philosophy is based on a fashion approach to traditional business and sports wear.
More mid-Atlantic than Eastern Establishment, more color, and with a slightly “sharper” look in silhouette to the tailored clothes, Paul Stuart has always moved slightly toward the fashionable end of the traditional spectrum. The firm’s recent addition a few years ago of a new department — called the Phineas Cole Collection — has been a very upscale version of their offerings in both price and design. The Phineas Cole line is definitely for the younger man who is something of a dandy, and unafraid of a bolder, more individualistic approach.
Over the past several years both the classic Paul Stuart and the newer Phineas Cole offerings have taken on a pronounced Italian – British amalgam in which many of the top quality fabrics are British, the colors Italian, and the styling a hybrid of both.
The store continues to appeal to the Wall Street financier, well-dressed and a bit brash lawyers, and the slightly more high wattage corporate heads.
++ : Excellent Italian/British flair, Phineas Cole line is full of personality. A serious product.
- – : Still hard to come by – only three stores (New York & Chicago) and a few selected points of sale in Japan.
The Volkswagen group of menswear
From 1100 to 3000€
By Dirnelli :
Volkswagen is Audi and Porsche too — but only car nuts know or care about this.
Likewise, Caruso is THE mass-producer of high quality suits around the world. It is known to manufacture for the all the best menswear brands globally , but the Caruso name flies under the radar as far as most consumers are aware. You may think that you are buying different suits made in different places, just because the outside brand label is different, but 7 times out of 10, you’re just buying a Caruso suit styled differently, to match each brand’s house style (you can verify this by looking for the trademark Caruso technical label, always the same, inside the jacket pocket).
It’s impressive that they have succeeded in maintaining such quality standards, even as demand and output have grown. No other garment maker has been able to meet that challenge so far in the history of ready-to-wear — it’s worth tipping our hat to Caruso on that score alone.
++ : Excellent value. The suits are so well made that even a size up or down your regular size might seem to fit you perfectly.
- – : A Caruso suit retails for 1 to 4 times its price depending on the brand who sells it.
By Paul F :
Finally a chance to talk about this wonderful brand that all elegant men should know about. But truth is very few people have heard of it.
For the anecdote, I recall talking about Caruso during a golf tournament and here is what my competitor told me (think 40 something, snobbish voice and attitude, yellow corduroy pants with a green sweater to mimic the club’s colors):
“But my dear Paul, what is Caruso? I never heard of it and I know a great deal about suits. I only wear Smalto. Ready-to-wear though because the time they take for a made-to-measure order is annoying”.
Funny thing to say (still makes me smile to this day)…because Caruso is actually making the ready to wear collection of Smalto. They also do Cifonelli’s and Hartwood’s. This is clearly one of the best makers out there.
However, not all Caruso suits are made equal – there are different lines. But that being said, I never came across a Caruso suit that disappointed me. The fully canvassed line is great and quite light too, with very decent finishing touches and usually outstanding fit. RTW prices range from 1000€ to 3000€. Some retailers can get a bit greedy with the margin, but do remember that different lines also mean more options.
I still recall vividly a Smalto double-breasted cashmere coat that was simply outstanding. It was made by Caruso, and fortunately not in my size, as its asking price was not what I would have called reasonable for me at the time…
A great French brand that deserves more attention
From 1200 to 1800€
By Dirnelli :
Hartwood is another wonderful Caruso-made suit, but presents even greater value for money, as the Hartwood brand is not global enough to warrant a hefty price premium.
In fact, Hartwood may be one of the least expensive Caruso suits available on the market. That alone is worth some attention. Furthermore, Hartwood uses only Loro Piana for all its fabric choices, for better or for worse , as Loro Piana fabrics tend to be delicate (But a RTW brand could do a lot worse than have its entire collections made solely from Loro Piana fabrics, so we will not fault them there).
Hartwood is already well-appreciated by suit connoisseurs in France, but the brand probably now deserves more international visibility as the collections are always very appealing season after season.
++ : The least expensive Caruso suit on the market; handmade Milanese buttonhole on all suits.
- – : Loro Piana fabrics exclusively, which can be delicate at times.
From 1200 to 1600€ (Black Label), 4000€ + (Purple Label)
By Sonya Glyn Nicholson :
With a signature Gatsby style that is easy to recognize, the past few years have seen Ralph Lauren Purple Label morph into suiting eye-candy, with a toned down but still sharply spiced 2014 collection.
While the less costly Black Label (BL) gets its fair share of attention, a portion of the BL line is an unfortunate monochromatic, with a lighter grade fabric and a trim fit. The bright spot for BL includes their Italian cut with wider shoulders and roped sleeves that yields a traditional silhouette. Both the Black and Purple labels earn credit for a crafting a more defined shoulder than most American brands.
The Purple Label, often made of robust cashmere and silk and made by Caruso in Italy, steps up the elegance factor with finer fabrics and a more refined silhouette. A lot of hand-stitching is worked into the RTW line, making it one of the more impressive RTW choices out there. And, while you may not know many men who own a Ralph Lauren Purple Label Suit, few can deny that these suits are aesthetically lovely and that the Purple Label line itself amps up the overall image of Ralph Lauren.
The “look” of the Purple Label suit has been so well publicized both online and in magazine spreads, that few other brands are so readily recognized by a simple glance of a suiting ensemble. Buying a PL suit requires a certain eye to avoid appearing as if you’ve undressed the window mannequin to clothe yourself or snatched the whole stockroom showcase.
Regarding the 3rd-tier Polo Ralph Lauren blue label–Dirnelli likes the half-canvassed Garrison made by Corneliani, and identifies the suit as being one of his better finds.
It seems RL has recognized that their garments may be too recognizable, and the latest Purple Label 2014 offering has been varied to include a modern deco style and the fine looking Drake Suit—which has a circa-1800 flair, complete with waistcoat. The cost for an odd jacket (with the exception of the more affordable linen jacket) will run around $4,000 U.S. dollars, with a suit costing $5,000+. Steep pricing for those who care about cost…but the price alone doesn’t stop anyone from looking and admiring the work of Ralph Lauren.
We like the Italian-cut BL Twill Wool Suit (Item #326136) retailing around $2,000 with a close silhouette, high notch, double vents, pick-stitching and flat-front trousers with adjustable straps. Another option is the Black Label tuxedo at $1,700, but double-check the tuxedo jacket shoulder line from the side of the neck to the tip of the shoulder to ensure it is rumple-free and constructed to your standards.
++ : A safe bet. Nice silhouette including lots of hand finishing with a quality look and feel.
- – : Outrageous prices, product is at times too recognizable.
The unsung hero of menswear
From 1200 to 1800€
By Hugo Jacomet :
For those of you who read French, a PG reader sent us a contribution on Canali a few years back : CANALI PG.
By Dirnelli :
Why doesn’t this brand get the internet buzz it deserves?
The Canali suit meets every requirement of the tailoring enthusiast: full canvassing, great cuts and superb fabric choices (although often quite delicate.) Granted, it’s a mass-produced garment. But for something mass-produced to feel this nice when you wear it, it just proves that ’Made in Italy’ still stands for something today: quality RTW. Canali is one of the few brands to A) own its factory, and B) to use the factory exclusively for its own collections.
Canali could certainly earn additional income if they wanted to use their factory to make suits for other luxury brands — as could most other Italian suit brands that own factories — but instead Canali is exclusive in everything they do, even down to some fabrics that are woven solely for Canali . As a result, the wearing sensation of a Canali suit is unique, ranking up there with the best of the handmade Italian suit brands.
+ + : A very elegant, contemporary, well-made and comfortable suit.
- – : Mostly delicate fabrics.
Good quality suits, widely distributed
From 1200 to 1800€
By Dirnelli :
In the same price range, Corneliani and Canali have many points in common: ownership of their own factory, current Italian styling, many handmade steps and great comfort. The main difference between Canali and Corneliani is that Corneliani gets more internet hype , and that they make suits for others, e.g., Ralph Lauren.
Also, Corneliani has some fabric choices that are a bit more “nouveau riche”, unfortunately.
Still a good option in this price range however.
++ : Great suits with many steps made by hand.
- – : Some unfortunate fabric choices at times.
A Parisian nugget
From 1350 to 1700€
By Greg Jacomet :
For those of you who read French, here is a review we posted about a year back : HUSBANDS PAR PG.
By Paul F :
A young French house producing beautiful suits made in Italy, in top-shelf fabrics with a modern cut: Finally!
That was my first thought when I read a Parisian Gentleman article praising this (small, for now at least…) brand. I’m like a bee, I like to wander and discover new things, especially when for once, they don’t end with an “i” (Brioni, Canali, Corneliani, Pal Zileri, etc.). I couldn’t help it, so I payed them a visit.
Nicolas, the owner and founder, is not the son of a tailor or a cutter; he’s a man who dropped his former job to pursue his dream and passion for all things sartorial – someone with the very honest desire to see more well-dressed men out there. But I think I lost my train of thought, where was I…?
Ah, Yes! Exceptional fabrics (Fox Brothers that usually cost a fortune), handmade milanese buttonholes done by Jessica de Hody, and cuts that fit me like a glove immediately. I can honestly say I spent a lot of time at the little Parisian shop, seeing as I wear a EU 44-46, which makes it a hassle to find a decent RTW option that fits me. But Husbands has me covered.
The house doesn’t do seasonal collections, as Nicolas firmly believes in the notion of timeless elegance. His selection is spot-on though : a double-breasted wool and cashmere overcoat, a blue fresco suit, a navy flannel suit with chalk stripes, a gun club tweed sport coat, a three-piece linen suit for summer etc. I could spend a fortune here, especially considering that the prices, averaging at 1350€, are very reasonable in regard to the overall quality Husbands has to offer.
Eternal knights of British elegance, beware! You might step on slimmer fits and narrower hems, but nothing that should prevent you from considering this house.
An unsung hero of Italian tailoring
from 1550 to 2350€
By Dirnelli :
Nobody on the internet buzzes about this great RTW brand, another unsung hero of Italian suit making.
The price is steep but the product is very nice, and is recognized for its quality by true connoisseurs.
No frills, very classic, almost to the point of being sterile. Always original fabric choices, which can be hit or miss.
Surprising to see such disparity, sometimes it almost seems as if they picked their fabrics at random.
++ : Classic, well-made, no mistakes in styling or tailoring.
- – : Fabrics choices can be completely wrong sometimes.
Beautiful, but little to do with the legendary bespoke house cut
From 1850 to 2500€
By Dirnelli :
Cifonelli offers a superb RTW line made by Caruso, using great fabrics, made to the highest standards of Caruso production, labelled ‘Gold Finish’. Perhaps Cifonelli’s RTW line is the ideal compromise for penurious sartorialists who are not ready to make the jump to Cifonelli bespoke.
The RTW line offers great cuts, great construction, and great value-for-money (especially during sales.) However, be aware that the style and cut of the RTW line is different from Cifonelli bespoke.
+ + : A great way to dip your toes in the Cifonelli waters without breaking your piggy bank.
- – : The RTW style is different from the bespoke cut.
A great name of Parisian bespoke and ready-to-wear
From 1850 to 2800 €
By Hugo Jacomet :
Unarguably one of the greatest names in luxury RTW – whose founder and former owner was one of the few master tailors to successfully make the transition between traditional bespoke and quality RTW as soon as the 60′s ended.
With a RTW line made at Caruso, a Smalto suit is always a safe bet. The fit and drape are almost always spot on, and the suits can be made to have a very close fit. A fine work that manages to stay relevant year after year (even if some fabric choices are questionable).
The famous Smalto notch, available on Smalto’s RTW suits is a direct heir to the legendary Camps notch (Francesco Smalto was Camps’ disciple), and one of the French tailoring house’s most famous trademark. Every aficionado should own a suit with one such notch.
By Dirnelli :
The fishmouth lapel is a trademark of Parisian bespoke tailoring, but it is extremely uncommon to find it in RTW suits.
Thankfully , Smalto offers a RTW model that has this classic styling (it’s even its most famous signature feature). This fact alone makes their RTW line a go to destination for anyone interested in traditional French tailoring.
The RTW suits are Caruso-made, so no-nonsense, although curiously they are more padded and structured than what Caruso does for most other brands.
Some of Smalto’s RTW fabric choices are questionable however ( e.g. too many shiny fabrics) . The trademark 5-button cuff takes some time getting used to (Tom Ford does it too), but Smalto’s unique square buttons on blazers are a stroke of genius — you have to see it to believe it, because no one would ever expect square buttons to actually look nice.
Hats off to the superb handmade Milanese by default on all suits, as many luxury RTW brands don’t offer this detail, mysteriously.
+ + : Nice cuts, always a safe choice. The classic fishmouth lapel, trademark of Parisian bespoke
- – : Some very gaudy fabrics in each collection…
Wonderful suits for those willing to browse
From 1950 to 2800 €
By Sonya Glyn Nicholson :
Short History: Watchmaker by trade, Ermenegildo Zegna changes occupations to become a wool-weaver in 1852. Years later his youngest child, also named Ermenegildo, will expand the business and establish the Lanificio Zegna Wool Mill in 1910 in Trivero near the foothills of Biella. Early on, a progressive focus is given to source natural fibers directly from their country of origin to make Zegna fabrics. The next generation, sons Angelo and Aldo open a factory to produce RTW men’s clothing constructed from Zegna fabrics in Novara, Italy, in 1968.
A little education is in order when considering Emenegildo Zegna, one of the best RTW lines available. Without wasting time, go straight to the quality mark and look for the E. Zegna or the Couture line (as the Z line carries more of a sportswear theme).
The Milano and more costly Trofero Couture are available in both the A and B cloth-lines and are handsome in terms of fit and aesthetics. Less success has been found with the Roma model, with complaints of a boxy jacket fit.
Suits manufactured from the main factory in Switzerland for RTW is a premium catch, versus still-good suits made in Spain or just over the border in Italy (this is not necessarily true for MTM).
So, ask questions and read labels for better odds on scoring a great RTW suit. For a mainline suit with a full floating canvass and high grade fabric, expect to spend a little more than 2,000 euros, with the Trofero Couture line providing more detailed hand-finishing with the drawback being a price point that can be up to 50 percent more than the Milano. Price reductions are not unheard of, so if you see the right E Zegna or Couture suit hovering below the prices mentioned here, definitely do a try-on.
In regard to cloth quality, upon last check, Sak’s and Barney’s generally carry B cloth lines, with Neiman Marcus offering A and B cloth lines.
Consider (with caution) a size smaller than you normally wear, as sizes sometimes but not always run larger than the norm. Look at shoulder fit to notice how far past your natural shoulder line that the fabric extends. You will find a lot of hand finishing on the suits aforementioned, which are constructed with lovely cloth that is also woven by Zegna.
With the suits discussed here, you will be hard-pressed to find a Zegna review that is not positive.
++ : High quality classic suits worth the effort to investigate
- – : Prices that can vary wildly. Huge gaps in quality between the different price ranges. A great brand but that one should navigate carefully.
Amazing neapolitan RTW
From 2000 to 2700 €
By Dirnelli :
Just plain awesome. Only distributed (in Paris) at Old England back in the times.
I shall forever regret that I woke up too late to this brand and didn’t take full advantage to stock up when Old England went out of business.
SP has an absolutely amazing trademark Neapolitan cut, completely inspired by Kiton, where its founders used to work. And, they have improved on the original–at one third of the price of the original.
++ : Great styling and fit and fabrics, a great Neapolitan RTW brand.
- – : Lack of distribution and still a relatively high price.
Double-breasted WOW factor
From 2000 to 3000 €
By Sonya Glyn Nicholson :
Short history: Enrico Isaia opened a small draper’s shop in Naples in 1920 where he sold fabric to Neapolitan tailors selected from the best Italian and English mills. In 1957, the company was relocated just outside of Naples in a “tailoring-town” called Casalnuovo with 15,000 residents listing their profession as being tailors. Enrico, along with sons Enrico, Jr., Corrado and Rosario later opened a workshop next to the drapers store with help of some of the town’s master artisans to eventually bring Neopolitan tailoring to the world.
The Gianluca Isaia Napoli main line leaves a good impression, especially with the double-breasted suit selection, which is evidenced by the number of online back orders on their DBs. Aside from Isaia’s brilliant use of their logo as a lapel pin, the company has a known expertise for designing vanguard fabric design, texture and color combinations. This suit yields a nice silhouette fairly close to the body, but not too extreme—with only some models favoring a more relaxed fit. The price point for a super 120 looks to be around 2300 euros for a suit, but certain collections like the AW13 has good styling with a much lower price point, although I can find no first hand reviews of the AW13, other than aesthetic approval. Discounts are not unheard of, so keep your eyes open.
The lower line, Gianluca Napoli ( with the noticeable absence of the word ‘Isaia’ in the name) receives soft reviews with little excitement while the upper line, Enrico Isaia is almost entirely handmade but relatively unknown.
The mainline collection fabric is cut by hand and the suits are made with full quality canvass construction with a combination of machine-sewing and a good amount of hand finishing. The silhouette is slightly elongated and includes a full, rounded chest, high armholes, and softer shoulders that are sewn with a slight slope backwards which prevents the look of a “knocked-down posture”. The collar is cut at a 60 degree angle, keeping gaps to a minimum. A few models have collars that appear a too low in height, with the entire shirt collar presenting itself beneath the jacket collar…not my favorite look, but understandable for men who like to pop the back of their jacket collars and thus may prefer a low set collar construction.
ISIAI suits are made of nice fabric—including high-end Australian Merino wool, at times using the natural colors of sheep hair instead of dying the fabric…and at other times using beautiful vegetable-based dyes for their cloths. These lovely fabrics definitely amp up the look of their suits.
A hint of dandyism plays into the Isaia designs which is appealing to a lot of men.The single breasted jackets are attractive, but are less memorable with a very standard lapel and an unusual “backwards 7″ notch shape that is up to you to either love or dislike. However, add a sans-lapel waistcoat to the single breasted jacket and you have a much better story in terms in creating a strong ensemble.
++ : Great DB suit main line, nice construction designs and stylistic fabric/pattern combinations.
- – : Notice jacket collar height
Superb but almost impossible to find… under its own label
From 2000 to 5000 €
By Hugo Jacomet :
Belvest is an astonishing suit and jacket maker, whose bulk of the business is to make suits for the biggest name in luxury (Hermès, Vuitton, Prada), which are then sold, of course, at very luxurious prices as well…
The house also releases its own collection, two every year to be precise, under its own name. Some of the models of said collections are among the most beautiful pieces I’ve laid eyes on in RTW (only Attolini might compare).
The only problem is that Belvest suits are essentially impossible to find. This might be, à la Maco by Caruso, a deliberate choice from the company not to directly compete against the houses it works for (who retail at a much higher price).
A sublime product in every possible way. The best of what Italy has to offer in a RTW line.
++ : Superb product.
- – : Almost impossible to find.
H. HUNTSMAN & SONS
Excellent traditional RTW
From 2200 to 3100 €
By Hugo Jacomet :
Despite a troubled history and an impressive track record of peculiar former owners, Huntsman & Sons is one of Savile Row’s most iconic houses. Their RTW line is formidable, with exclusive tweeds of the highest quality.
The house’s cut is famed among connoisseurs of fine suits ; a tight fit, one button, and very high armscyes.
Wearing a Huntsman coat will make you stand proud and at attention. You won’t be able to help it, that’s the way it has always been.
A house everyone should consider at one point or the other, though the exceptionally high price tag is a serious roadblock…
++ : Legendary tweed. Beautifully made.
- – : Huntsman has been known to be the most expensive house on the Row, and their RTW line lives up to that reputation.
LIVERANO & LIVERANO
The most Japanese of Italian houses
From 2500 to 3500 €
By Paul F :
I visited Liverano’s shop during a 3-day stay in Florence. I had not planned on going there as I already had a busy sightseeing schedule already, as well as a few appointments with other houses. But as I wandered the streets of beautiful Florence, I accidentally stumbled upon the shop, so I had little choice but to enter (again, I swear it was not planned).
So I started walking around. To my great surprise, the house also offers ready to wear with shirts, ties, coats, suits, sport coats and so on, on top of their bespoke operation. I met Takahiro Osaki whom you have probably already seen on the internet.
As you might expect from a Japanese gentleman, he was very polite, helpful and stylish: classic with a twist. While discussing with Osaki-san, he offered me to try on a navy fresco sport coat. I answered (a bit rudely) that I highly doubted that he had my size in store (EU 44-46). But he actually did, and there was only 2 cm to let out from the waist to make this sport coat absolutely perfect for me. Master Liverano came out of his atelier in order to make the necessary adjustments. Not a word from him, just some mumbling and checking whether things were OK. He was obviously intensely focused on what he was doing.
I would have been keen to discuss a bit, but I guess he was already busy, and me not being a bespoke customer might have not helped. Don’t get me wrong, he was not being impolite or unfriendly, just very professional and focused.
But back to that sport coat. To put it plainly : I LOVE IT. It’s one of my top 3 and I do own quite a lot of pieces.
It fits perfectly and my Roman tailor (NB: Andrea Luparelli from Sartoria Ripense, check PG archives if you want to read more about him) told me: “what’s this jacket? It’s perfect”. I can tell you; I truly adore Andrea but he will not tell someone he loves something if he does not. He has a sharp eye.”
Liverano’s RTW is beautifully done by ISAIA.
Several lines and finishes are available at ISAIA but I really think that Liverano has chosen the highest quality line possible.
If you’re in the market for a Florentine piece of elegance, then you might have found your house.
These suits carry a certain intrigue that is hard not to like (even if only a little)
From 3000 to 5000 €
By Sonya Glyn Nicholson :
Texas born Thomas Carlyle “Tom” Ford, American fashion designer and film director is known for his turnaround of Gucci in 1997 (who acquired Yves Saint Laurent in 1999) and for striking out on his own in NYC with the creation of the Tom Ford label in partnership with Zegna in 2006.
Known for his sexy take on the sixties and seventies silhouette, his suit designs are internationally recognized for close-fit flair that combines a signature cut with clever fabric pattern and color combinations.
In January of 2013, Ford finally presented his RTW men’s collection in London, a milestone for the brand and its reputation.
In 2012, the O’Connor suit ($3,500) introduced in the James Bond movie “Skyfall” is one of his more well-known suit designs. Made with a smaller lapel and straighter trousers legs and close and gradual waist suppression, the ensemble channels a strong sixties vibe. Still, other suits have generous lapels, and standard trouser widths with a more European flair, as there is no shortage of variety here.
The Tom Ford Smoking Jacket with his alluring bow ties are also a tempting choice for evening wear with rich colors and patterns and an elegant fit abounds.
With the limitations of an athletic fit, period designs, and a serious price tag, a Tom Ford RTW suit can create a very nice emotion, with among the cleanest chest and sharpest body lines available on the RTW market. The handmade Milanese lapel buttonhole is exquisite, but the front jacket buttonholes are machine made.
On the downside, there are some light collar gap issues on a few of the suits and at times an uneven shoulder line (following from the side of the neck to the tip of the shoulder) on others, but once educated on the matter, these pitfalls can be avoided if you know to look for during a try-on, and select the suit with the correct fit for your body. Also, the coat collar on a few of the Tom Ford models are set very low, exposing the entire shirt collar, which bothers me to some degree. But again if you know to look for the issue, you can navigate around it by selecting the cut that is preferred.
Chris Evans debuted a beautiful 70s style Tom Ford 3-piece suit ($3,950.00) with a textbook fit, and a nice higher trouser waist line with an appealing wide-checked olive plaid fabric that would tempt even most discriminating aficionados (although I’m not a fan of the contrasting lapel button hole color).
Tom Ford offers two types of fits, Base A and Base B. Base A is for the man with an average body and Base B is cut for a (very) athletic body. Ford has combined some of the best qualities of Italian tailoring (signature barchetta chest pocket with a rounded-corner) and English tailoring (quality waistband finishing). There is light wadding in the shoulder, but still a formidable shoulder presentation. Pad stitching is done by machine but the under collar is made by self-cloth that has been felled and finished by hand.
These suits carry a certain intrigue that is hard not to like.
++ : Extremely clean chest and overall shape, Milanese buttonhole, strong style statement.
- – : Expensive, watch out for the occasional collar gap or shoulder line issue. Work out often.
Handmade in Chicago
From 3200 to 5000 €
By Ville Ravio :
Oxxford is different.
While most makers offering off-the-peg suits save time by employing machines on long, hidden seams, this old-guard factory from Chicago, of all places, staunchly declares “Always be faithful to Quality.”
For Oxxford, this means laborious hand-sewing and those little details that are best felt and seen rather than read about. As an example, they truly make hand-padded collars and lapels, which take several hours to create, and are not sewn just for marketing or because it can be done.
The tailors believe these stages produce a better fit around the neck and chest, and a more pronounced roll on the revers. Buttonholes are sewn with silk on both sides of the cloth to create a more durable detail. All this comes with a price: Oxxford’s suits retail at close to $4000, and are only available in the USA through retailers and the maker’s one flagship store in New York.
Retailers choose the details for the models on offer. The company’s MTM program offers endless options regarding details, cloths and cuts for the man who cares. Oxxford is the American answer for truly suiting up.
++ : Genuine quality, many handmade operations.
- – : Very conservative and expensive.
The greatest name of Roman’s tailoring
From 4000 to 7000 €
By Paul F :
Brioni, instantly reminds me of… Bond, James Bond.
Agent 007 has had many tailors, including some big names from the Row and others such as Tom Ford. But there was a Brioni period and it did not bring the agent of Her Majesty any disservice…
Brioni also rings a bell when it comes to outstanding manufacturing and details. Another thing maybe, the price, a tad exaggerated if you ask me but apparently love is blind so you might just not see the price tag before it is too late, i.e. when your wife throws a frying pan at you while checking your credit card statement.
Brioni is certainly one of the best RTW brands out there. Enter their shop and you will know what I mean. Wearing a Brioni brings you as close as it gets to actual bespoke, since the brand applies a lot of similar processes during manufacturing.
By now, you probably think that I own a lot of these suits. I do not. Two reasons mainly, price and size. I wear a smallish 46 EU (36 US) and Brioni does not target people my size apparently, or maybe only in Tokyo if they adapted to the country standards.
But let’s be fair, if you do have what it takes in your bank account, go get your license to kill, then enter a poker tournament à la Casino Royale in Karlovy Vary’s Grand Hotel Pupp.
++ : The cuts, fabrics and overall quality is astounding…
- – : … but so is the price.
Great cuts, amazing fabrics, fantastic finishing details and outrageous prices
From 4500 to 8000 €
By Hugo Jacomet :
Some say about Kiton that it is the top of international RTW. Others say their prices are scandalously high. Whatever side (if any or both) you find yourself on, you can’t deny that Kiton leaves no one indifferent. Monetary concerns set aside, Kiton does offer suits that are among the most beautiful and luxurious in the world.
Made in a staggering manufacturing facility near Naples that employs up to 330 tailors who produce a maddening 200,000 fully handmade suits a year, Kiton’s production is known for its high prices and for its fabric selection…probably the most exclusive and qualitative on earth.
One can’t deny the extreme quality of Kiton’s products in all their flamboyant glory. The sheer madness of Kiton’s Modus Operandi is materialized in this crazy factory that every style fanatic should visit at least once in his life.
However, once again, one cannot mention Kiton without questioning their pricing policy, which is a very valid question. How can a RTW suit cost more that true bespoke in the most acclaimed and admired houses on the planet ? To this, Kiton replies that they DO deal in bespoke. To which I would reply that it is still RTW, albeit of the very highest order in every possible way, and beautifully adjusted for the cutomer.
To be perfectly honest, a Kiton suit after adjustments, does feel almost like a bona fide bespoke suit (as I’ve experienced a few times first hand), but without the waiting time, the fitting sessions, and the discussions with the master tailor.
For some, it’s a positive point ; Kiton’s delays are much shorter than bespoke and customer service is absolutely excellent. But for others, yours truly included, it’s a shortcoming, as I sincerely believe that the waiting time, the fitting sessions and the discussions with the tailors are fantastic experiences. It all boils down to you personal style (and your financial means).
Also noteworthy is the “Sartorio” line, which is a light version of the Kiton products with some machine-made operations and fabrics that are less exclusive than the main line. However the price tag is still high for a secondary line (around 3500€).
++ : Extreme quality. Extremely good service.
- – : Stratospheric prices, (understandably) hard to justify for a traditional clientele.
The other Mt. Everest of Neapolitan tailoring
From 4500 to 8000€
By Dirnelli :
Cesare Attolini is one of those luxurious handmade RTW brands, like Kiton and Brioni, that actually retails for a higher price than a bespoke suit.
Of those three stratospherically-priced brands, Attolini is perhaps the most beautiful, and the one that feels the nicest to wear. It’s a little known fact that Attolini also make suits for other brands — you can look for their trademark yellow sizing label inside the trousers, to identify whether some other high-end Italian RTW suit are actually being made by Attolini — e.g. Luciano Barbera Sartoriale is made by Attolini, among others (Gianfranco Ferre may have used Attolini also at one point, TBC).
The wonderful handmade construction and details of the Attolini topline are on par with bespoke, which can explain the high retail price. The style of the Attolini suit is the most perfect example, in RTW, of the wide lapel, high gorge, natural shoulder and 3 roll-2 look that you can only usually find in contemporary Italian bespoke.
It’s as if Attolini took all the elements from the perfect Neapolitan bespoke suit and made them available as RTW.
++ : Amazing contemporary Italian styling that’s hard to find outside of bespoke.
- – : Stratospheric Prices.
EDE & RAVENSCROFT
Quality RTW from a veteran London tailoring house
From 500 to 800 €
By Greg Jacomet :
Founded in 1689, Ede & Ravenscroft is one of the oldest tailoring houses still open in London today. A respected institution from Savile Row, historically known for being one of the chief providers of legal gowns in the UK and more recently for its rent-a-gown service (for graduation day ceremonies.)
Ede & Ravenscroft has been offering for a while now a nice collection of quality RTW suits that ranks up there with the best in its price range. Yet despite a faithful and dedicated customer base, the house is all too often ignored in favor of bigger brands with a bigger communication budget.
The house’s style is very British without being excessively formal. The range of half-canvassed suits is well designed, though the models are fairly classic, without many risks taken. Some models (typically those above 500 – 600 £) come with a spare pair of trousers, which is always a plus.
Ede & Ravenscroft also has a very nice range of sports jackets, from the classic Navy Blazer to a charming choice tweed coat, all of which are very convincing. In this area, it seems that E & R has allowed itself to take a few risks, with some relatively unusual pieces such as linen jackets in beautiful autumn colors.
The fact that the house has survived for so long is not due to chance. The products offered in RTW have a very enjoyable spot of British flair that will satisfy those who appreciate the style. A very good alternative in this price range for an English cut, considering that most similar value-driven suits are of an Italian cut.
++ : Good value for money, very nice tweeds, british design of good taste
— : Some products might fit slightly larger than what some of you are accustomed to
A very under-appreciated house
From 750 to 1200 €
By Jeffery Diduch :
Samuelsohn is perhaps unmatched in the value/price formula on the market. With workmanship on relative par with Canali but at a substantially lower price, it’s one of the most under-appreciated brands around.
Run by feuding twin septuagenarian brothers for far too long, the company was sold a few years ago to an investment firm that has been assembling a new management team, including Arnold Brant, Darrel Henson (one of the best merchandisers in the business) and Caruso’s former quality man. They have rejuvenated the offering and increased the capacity if the factory to meet current market challenges, namely the high Canadian dollar. For many years an exchange rate of about $0.65 USD to the Canadian dollar meant that Canadian manufacturers had a huge advantage against their American competitors on the Us market but that advantage has been erased.
Still in their favor, though, is the fact that Protectionist policies still levy import duties of up to 17% on certain raw materials (cashmere for example) which Canadian manufacturers don’t pay- this is particularly stupid when one considers that there are no more mills producing woolens in the US so the duties protect nobody while penalizing American clothing manufacturers. Ahem.
Business considerations aside, Samuelsohn also produces the private label programs for Harry Rosen and Paul Stuart, considered by many to be among the best men’s stores on either side of the border. Now that they also own Hickey Freeman (sniff) I am eager to see how they position both brands.
From luxury fabrics to luxury RTW
From 2200 to 3500 €
By Paul F :
When you think Loro Piana, you think luxury fabrics…cashmere of course, but also Vicuna (whose worldwide production is almost exclusive to Loro Piana) which translates into outrageous prices for outrageously nice fabric.
But Loro Piana also deals in retail, which is to some an interesting recent development, especially considering LP’s historical focus on strictly making cloth.
The luxury fabrics house entered the retail business because they recognized it to be a booming sector, which is something LVMH obviously noticed as well when they bought Loro Piana in 2013 for a ludicrous sum.
Loro Piana deals in exceptional all-around quality. I myself own a few cashmere pullovers, a baby cashmere parka, as well as a couple of jackets of considerable quality of construct, easily on par with what other top-of-the-line Italian houses craft.
The buttonholes are usually left undone, so as to allow for a greater freedom in adjusting the product to fit the customer. The canvassing is extremely light – one of my cashmere jackets is pure bliss to wear in winter with a turtleneck sweater from the same house.
It is however a bit of a challenge to find a signature Loro Piana style in the cuts, apart from the usual wide lapels, which can indeed be quite distinctive.
The colors used and their plentiful variations and shades are all astounding ; the Loro Piana catalogues are always a pleasure to skim through, as they feature many great pictures of tasteful color arrangement suggestions.
++ : Exceptional fabrics, beautifully made products, light and comfortable canvassing
— : Expensive
Exceptional fabrics, classic cuts at a very high price tag
From 3800 to 7000 €
By Dirnelli :
Another stratospherically-priced italian RTW brand, alongside Kiton and Brioni.
Ricci’s cuts are very classic, more Roman-inspired like Brioni. And, like Brioni, Ricci choses extremely expensive fabrics, which aren’t actually the most visually pleasing oftentimes. Ricci suits feel very light to wear, more so than Brioni but less so than Kiton.
I guess you can see where this is headed — Ricci belongs in the same price and hadnmade category as Brioni, Kiton and Attolini, but it is just bit less well-known than the other three. Probably only a matter of time before they get the same attention.
++ : Beautifully made suits in luxurious materials
— : Some fabrics are a bit too gaudy, and the styling is very very classic.
You might have noticed the absence from this selection of such houses we love as Marc Guyot whom, for a while now, has been working exclusively on his beautiful made-to-measure collection. His name will of course appear in our MTM selection. Same story for the beautiful products of Orazio Luciano (La Vera Sartoria Napoletana).
We hope that the review of these selections, which took a lot of work for all involved, will be of help in your quest for personal elegance.
Edited by SeamasterLux - 4/28/14 at 4:58am