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On the Question of Tailors Being Stylists

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
@unbelragazzo recently interviewed Luca Rubinacci for StyleForum, and in the interview, Luca commented on how Rubinacci helps clients achieve a distinct and personal style. I commented that I think this is mostly a marketing pitch, and that no good bespoke tailoring house really works like this. It's kind of like how perfumers say that a scent changes on your skin. Kind of true (to a degree), but this is mostly a way to make the average person feel special and uniquely addressed. Or like raw denim, which is often said to age so uniquely, that it'll mold to your body and tell the story of your life. IMO, all this is just a bunch of baloney to sell people on the idea that their purchases are more unique than they are.

Instead, I think of good tailors as ones with a strong house style. You can tweak what they do on the margin, but not much more than that. Bad tailors are the ones who will actually try to make you whatever you want. (Note, I'm not saying Rubinacci is a bad tailoring house. I really like their work, but just found this "distinct personal style" thing to be a marketing pitch).

Anyway, @David Reeves said he would like to comment more on it, but not in a thread that's supposed to be about Rubinacci. So I'm starting a thread. Maybe it'll spur some good discussion.
post #2 of 43
I'll just make a quick comment and then disappear into the ether. I agree more with Luca then I do with you. An important aspect of picking a tailor is how their house style jives with both what you are looking for and how that style fits in with you. The second point is something that I think not enough people consider (sorry, not everyone looks great in a napoli style). To address Luca's point, the other thing that few people consider is, what is the tailor's personal style and style outlook? Honestly, a lot of tailors lack style. One thing about Rubinacci, whether you like them or not, is that they have a certain style. Not the cut but rather the pairing of colors, textures, styles etc. That filters down to the clients, some more than others and some without even realizing that they are wearing rubinacci's style. Go to another tailor in Napoli and you may well very be very "Napoli", but you won't be Rubinacci. So when you bring together a tailor that has, lets say mediocre style, and you pair him with a client that is looking for direction or also has mediocre style, you get a medicore styled garment. Not saying a badly cut or made garment, but a badly styled one. Just look at some of the commissions that get posted here.
post #3 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by edmorel View Post

I'll just make a quick comment and then disappear into the ether. I agree more with Luca then I do with you. An important aspect of picking a tailor is how their house style jives with both what you are looking for and how that style fits in with you. The second point is something that I think not enough people consider (sorry, not everyone looks great in a napoli style). To address Luca's point, the other thing that few people consider is, what is the tailor's personal style and style outlook? Honestly, a lot of tailors lack style. One thing about Rubinacci, whether you like them or not, is that they have a certain style. Not the cut but rather the pairing of colors, textures, styles etc. That filters down to the clients, some more than others and some without even realizing that they are wearing rubinacci's style. Go to another tailor in Napoli and you may well very be very "Napoli", but you won't be Rubinacci. So when you bring together a tailor that has, lets say mediocre style, and you pair him with a client that is looking for direction or also has mediocre style, you get a medicore styled garment. Not saying a badly cut or made garment, but a badly styled one. Just look at some of the commissions that get posted here.

I agree with everything here. Just to clarify, cause maybe I'm not clear on what I meant by "tailors working as stylists," I'm referring to this passage here (this a response given by Luca to one of Unbel's questions:
Quote:
One of the best compliments I've had was from a politician in Kazakstan. Everyone was at a round table with some important Russian politicians. Of the seven men there, five were dressed by Rubinacci. The politician said, "You five, you are all dressed very well, who are your tailors?" Upon finding that they all used Rubinacci, he was amazed that each could look so good but so different. This means that we are dressing people to look different.

It gives the impression that a tailor works with you to give you something unique and personal. I'm not really sure that happens.

It might well be because I'm a confrontation-avoiding, obsequious Asian, but I find that you give tailors a general guideline of what you want, and they just make something for you. Mostly that means small tweaks to their house style, with you giving input into the somewhat basic stuff (lapel design, how many buttons, fabric choice, etc).

I can imagine five clients of the same tailoring house coming out looking very different, but I don't think it's because the customer inserted his own unique, personal style into things. I think it's just because handmade goods tend to vary a lot, especially with larger operations.
post #4 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by dieworkwear View Post

I agree with everything here. Just to clarify, cause maybe I'm not clear on what I meant by "tailors working as stylists," I'm referring to this passage here (this a response given by Luca to one of Unbel's questions:
It gives the impression that a tailor works with you to give you something unique and personal. I'm not really sure that happens.

It might well be because I'm a confrontation-avoiding, obsequious Asian, but I find that you give tailors a general guideline of what you want, and they just make something for you. Mostly that means small tweaks to their house style, with you giving input into the somewhat basic stuff (lapel design, how many buttons, fabric choice, etc).

I can imagine five clients of the same tailoring house coming out looking very different, but I don't think it's because the customer inserted his own unique, personal style into things. I think it's just because handmade goods tend to vary a lot, especially with larger operations.

I would agree with you. A house style or "look" is important for any business from a marketing stand point. You really are ultimately defined and judged by the product you make. I would turn down a client who I thought was making bad decisions technically or stylistically. To not do so would be short sighted and also not fair to that client at the end of the day.
post #5 of 43
Well obviously I don't know what Luca was specifically talking about, and the thought of dressing Kazakstanian politicians sends shivers down my spine but I think he may mean that every individual is just that to them, an individual. They obviously have a house style but they adjust it (be it lapel size, sleeve width, chest, etc) to what best fits that customer. And that thought process continues through the fabric selection, the details etc. Should a Kazakstan politician be wearing a denim cashmere suit? Probably not and I hope that the Rubinacci's would tell them as such. To me that is where the "design" part of tailoring comes in. Don't just make whatever the customer wants, he is not always right. And as a customer, you need to be realistic in terms of both what works for your figure in terms of cuts and fabrics. I see people with really sloped shoulders wearing very sloped shoulder jackets, their upper body gives off a "I'm so sad" vibe. Also, fabric selection is so crucial, and again, you see a lot of mistakes in that regard, So in those things, I would like to think that Luca looks at his customers, knows how they are and what they do, and "designs" the appropriate garment for them using the appropriate fabrics/patterns.
post #6 of 43
I don't think house style is necessarily inconsistent with the concept of developing a personal style and I think you can find tailors who seek to instill personal style honestly. Cifonelli is a good example. There are at least 30 different named models that one can select, and unlimited variations that one can apply to any of those models. Some of those models are the result of specific customer requests for a particular garment, others are developed by Lorenzo. They all share something in common that makes them a Cifonelli garment, but there is almost complete freedom (and in fact a desire on cifonelli's part) to play with pieces or ask for something new. One can be daring and unique but still in my mind very Cifonelli in that the tailoring, workmanship and feel all bear the same hallmarks. And that is what they are going for.

At the same time, I'm always kind of taken aback when I walk into huntsman and see something other than a 1-button orbs db. Their version of personal style is looking like a huntsman person.

I would take Luca at face value. I don't think he would dress the way he dresses if he didn't want people to experiment.
post #7 of 43

I obviously do not know what Luca was talking about either, but these are my thoughts as a "personal stylist".  Tailors can give the best technical advice about a suit - for example, is a particular cloth suitable for a specific kind of suit.  However, tailors are craftsmen.  In my experience, they are not that interested in fashion, in the broad sense of the word, and they are used best when the customer also uses the services of a stylist.  In the case of a company like Rubinacci, they have tailors *and* stylists in house.  Mariano and Luca, and I suppose anyone else who works on the fittings - these guys supply the taste levels, and the actual cutters, they actually make the stuff - they are the literal hands of the operation.  When you go in to do a custom suit, usually, about 90% of the options are already set, and you just have to make fabric choices, give guidance on how you like things to fit, and make choices about cosmetic details.  Too much choice is not freedom, it's chaos. And besides, a lot of those choices are opaque to the customer, and make no sense unless you have a technical background anyway - the type, gauge, and color of the thread to use on the seams, on the button holes, the material for the interlining,etc...  However, it's my experience that someone is often needed to help most customers make those last 10% of choices.  

 

One MTO from No Man Walks Alone illustrates why this is a good idea.  So, at the trunk show, Greg did MTO with Inis Meain.  Solid yarns are pretty easy to figure out. If you choose a navy yarn, you are going to end up with a navy sweater, you hope.  However, you introduce a marled yarn, and how that will turn out depends a lot on the stitch type.  If a large part of the sweater is going to be done using simple purl stitch, you are probably going to end up with a camo effect, the size of which depends on the yarn being used.  If you use a rib stitch, with are alternating lines of purl and knit stitches, you are going to get less of a camo effect.  And anything complicated, like a cable, is going to drown out most of that effect.  I doubt that many of the people ordering had any idea that this was going to happen, and how a particular yarn would look on specific models.  That's where an experienced stylist comes in handy.  For a tailor, if you are going beyond, say, your basic blue and charcoal flannels and worsteds, it's a good idea to work with someone who has high taste levels, understands your preferences, and can also help you communicate with the tailor.  It's not always easy to know what a suit is going to look like from a little swatch of cloth.  Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I advocate RTW+ alterations for most people, or having something copied with few or no changes.  Bespoke, even with the use of a good stylist, is a rich man's game.  You are nearly guaranteed to strike out some of the times.  That can get costly, fast.  With RTW, you know right away if you like something, and a good alterations tailor can get something that looks good to begin with, look really good with alterations.  The same goes with every other sort of commission - shirts, jewelry, footwear.  Edward Green limited their mto options couple of years back, probably to avoid the dual problem of disappointed customers and Edward Green branded crazy shoes walking around in the wild.

 

The worst results usually occur when an inexperienced customer with mediocre to poor taste levels decides to take it upon himself to be both the stylist and the tailor. The biggest complaint that i've heard fom tailors is a customer coming in wanting to do CMT with a cloth that is unsuited to the suit that they want to make, which is in turn a poor fit for them, no matter how to cut it.  tldr; I agree completely with @edmorel - added an example, rambled a bit.

post #8 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by agjiffy View Post

I don't think house style is necessarily inconsistent with the concept of developing a personal style and I think you can find tailors who seek to instill personal style honestly. Cifonelli is a good example. There are at least 30 different named models that one can select, and unlimited variations that one can apply to any of those models. Some of those models are the result of specific customer requests for a particular garment, others are developed by Lorenzo. They all share something in common that makes them a Cifonelli garment, but there is almost complete freedom (and in fact a desire on cifonelli's part) to play with pieces or ask for something new. One can be daring and unique but still in my mind very Cifonelli in that the tailoring, workmanship and feel all bear the same hallmarks. And that is what they are going for.

I'm going to submit that 30 different models is not actually that many.  Split them up into double and single breasted, two, three, and 2 roll 3 buttons for the single breasted, peak, shawl, and notch lapels, different vented and ventless models, and you are pretty much there.  It sounds like a different approach, then say, Huntsman, but it doesn't seem like a free-for-all either.

post #9 of 43
^not right. Take a look at their site and their creations and then you will get it. It's not 1 button vs 2 button. It's five buttons with an unnotched lapel and bellows pockets versus completely unlined and unstructured sweater jacket. I am talking about drastic stylistic differences and innovative forms that aren't done elsewhere.
post #10 of 43

Could you link me to the models?  I am on the site, and am apparently too stupid to find the options.

post #11 of 43
Not sure it will work on a mobile device, but these are the ones on the website:
http://www.cifonelli.com/product-category/creations/

Here are some of the ones that aren't on the site:
http://parisiangentleman.co.uk/2012/08/31/cifonelli-contemporary-bespoke/

And here are some others that I don't believe are on the website:
http://parisiangentleman.co.uk/2012/11/20/new-cifonelli-designs/
post #12 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Reeves View Post

I would agree with you. A house style or "look" is important for any business from a marketing stand point. You really are ultimately defined and judged by the product you make. I would turn down a client who I thought was making bad decisions technically or stylistically. To not do so would be short sighted and also not fair to that client at the end of the day.

David, I'm curious: I've noticed that you can have five guys go to the same tailoring house, order the same thing, and each will come out looking completely different. The idea of a "house style" often feels loose and rough, and doesn't always accurately describe what something will look like on someone.

How much of this is due to:

  • Silhouettes will look different on different people.
  • The whole of a suit is often more than just the sum of its parts (ie, when we describe something as having a full chest, nipped waist, and soft shoulder, that doesn't really describe the overall effect).
  • Handmade items will inherently have a lot of variation, and how something is cut for one guy won't necessarily translate to another person, even if they're the same body type.
  • Tailors will often modify a house style according to a wearer's body type, which in the end will produce a different effect.


I imagine the answer is probably a mix of the above things, but I'd be curious to hear your take, and which parts you think are more important.

Also, on this idea that bespoke commissions can be "collaborations," in the way that Luca seems to suggest, do you find that you can get better results with certain customers? M. Alden sometimes talks about how the outcome of a bespoke commission is as much dependent on the skill of the tailor as it is on the person ordering the garment, but frankly -- I mostly just go in, choose my fabrics and style details; pay my deposit; and then invite the person out for dinner or coffee. Do you find that commissions tend to turn out better when customers act differently?

(Would be curious to hear any opinions from people involved in the custom clothing business, like @edmorel, @despos, and @jefferyd)
post #13 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by dieworkwear View Post

Also, on this idea that bespoke commissions can be "collaborations," in the way that Luca seems to suggest, do you find that you can get better results with certain customers? M. Alden sometimes talks about how the outcome of a bespoke commission is as much dependent on the skill of the tailor as it is on the person ordering the garment, but frankly -- I mostly just go in, choose my fabrics and style details; pay my deposit; and then invite the person out for dinner or coffee. Do you find that commissions tend to turn out better when customers act differently?

 

In my experience, that is true. My commitment and knowledge reflect in the final garment, though I am not directly involved in its production. For example, I have garments where, though the tailor followed my feedback, the result was suboptimal as a result of my inexperience. However, this interpretation could reflect more of my own personality, than the reality. Also, those "experiences" where my earlier ones, so this could be the tailor dialling in the fit and styling.

post #14 of 43

Weird jumping off point for a substantive first post, but . . .

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dieworkwear View Post

M. Alden sometimes talks about how the outcome of a bespoke commission is as much dependent on the skill of the tailor as it is on the person ordering the garment, but frankly -- I mostly just go in, choose my fabrics and style details; pay my deposit; and then invite the person out for dinner or coffee. Do you find that commissions tend to turn out better when customers act differently?
 

 

You've made the decision, however, to visit that particular tailor, presumably because you appreciate his particular house style. Maybe you even care for the way he dresses himself. To my mind, such a selection constitutes a preference tending towards an expression of individual style, if not a necessarily unique one. And what sort of garments do you commission? Lots of sober worsteds? Or predominantly casual garments? How do cloth and details fit into your life? There's another very small opportunity for some expression of individualism. Beyond that, I think further such expression requires precisely what M. Alden mentioned: a lot of skill, or at least strong preferences, on the part of the client, and a willingness on the part of the tailor to collaborate.

 

I think, like you, I am skeptical of the notion that a bespoke tailor or cutter can really be a "stylist," bestowing upon clients wholly unique looks. A good bespoke tailor can provide a house style and, if one is lucky, a notion of good taste/tradition to guide commissions. I look at some members of this forum (and some past members), who spent years with a single tailor, tweaking the fit and cut of their garments, and manifesting a very specific vision of a wardrobe. To me, that's style, and it absolutely couldn't have happened without a client's strong desires.

 

Further, if a tailor could do that for a client without their creative input, I suspect it would seem . . . inorganic? That's just speculation.

post #15 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by agjiffy View Post

Not sure it will work on a mobile device, but these are the ones on the website:
http://www.cifonelli.com/product-category/creations/

Here are some of the ones that aren't on the site:
http://parisiangentleman.co.uk/2012/08/31/cifonelli-contemporary-bespoke/

And here are some others that I don't believe are on the website:
http://parisiangentleman.co.uk/2012/11/20/new-cifonelli-designs/

Well, I stand corrected.  Those really run the gamut, from a smoking jacket to a shooting jacket to a bunch of jackets with military inspired details.  Pretty interesting.  But yeah, there is a very "forward" stance to all of them - something very distinctive.

 

I suppose that Rubinacci is similar, if only judging from all the different models of jacket that Luca has been photographed wearing.

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