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Tailors in Milan, Biella, etc.

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
My girlfriend and I have decided to fly to Milan for a short 1 or 2 week business-vacation of sorts, in middle to late March. She has been designing women's clothing, and wants to find a tailoring house there who could help assemble her clothing and possibly find a textile mill or outlet with high-quality fabrics (mostly wool and possibly fur, although we will probably stick with a fur company in the Ukraine, which provides beautiful mink, etc). She has been working with a woman here in Seattle, who is expensive and takes forever to complete a garment (as in 2 months for a simple jacket), and we're not sure the tailoring is quite up to the standards of the women she will be selling to. When she found out that some of the members of this board are tailors, and that others frequently travel to Milan and have experience working with textile mills and/or tailoring shops there, she asked me to post asking for any advice anyone might have. This would not be a one-off bespoke kind of deal, more like looking for some shops who are capable of handling a larger volume (1-5 garments a month at first). She only designs women's clothing, so she would not be attempting to compete with anyone here, and does not wish to, so I hope nobody is offended by my questions. Her market is women's beautiques, mostly local and ones owned by friends, and she will be focussed on dresses, shoes and jackets. Anyway, does anyone have any input or advice? Any little areas that are great for finding the best textiles or tailors? Anything we should watch out for or avoid? Any practical stuff, like should we hire a translator, and where are the best places to stay/eat/shop? I'm sure we'll learn much when we're there, but we only have a short time span this trip, and we want to spend a few days in Southern Italy (sun..), so we would like to make the most of our trip. Thanks in advance for any assistance. I hope this is an appropriate place to post these questions, if not, I would not be offended if my thread was moved/removed or whatever.
post #2 of 13
There are lots of good places to see and things to do in Milano.  Are you driving or taking trains?  Biella is a two train trip from Milano Centrale and it isn't (IMHO) all that geared to shopping.  It is also more of a region.  Ie, you walk around Milano's shopping district and see everything.  When we go to Biella we hire a driver who knows all the mills for the day. I can probably help you find the production she needs.  PM me your telephone number and let me know when to call you.  The Biella region is beautiful but not touristy.  My suggestion would be to take at least one daytrip from Milano to Firenza (Florence) by train.  She can find nice leather goods and production easily there. You also want to take a 30 minute train from Milano to Como to spend a day visiting the silk museum and checking fabric stores. I've never done Biella tourist style - our experiences there are when we are looking for fabric in hundreds of meters rather than a few garments but there are mills to check out depending on what she has in mind. Also, check with us on a few places to eat/shop in Milan.  Our hotel suggestion would be the Westin Palace (especially if you have Starwood points to spend) as it is a few blocks from the train station in one direction, 10 minute walk to the high end shopping in the other direction and two blocks from our favorite restaurant. You might also consider a daytrip to Venezia so you can get swindled by the gondola guys (Terrible ripoff - chicks dig it when their guy takes them on one anyway).   "Pretend" to leave your wallet in the room before wandering down to Via Della Spiga.  Do NOT take your wallet to Via Gesu (Brioni, Kiton, Tincati, Lattanzi) or you may be swimming home. Going in you are better off switching through Zurich - if you get the route that uses both London airports (Arrive Gatwick, exit Heathrow) you have a great chance of missing your flight. Let me know what she wants to produce and what type of volume you are looking at and I have friends who can locate the production for her.  This is one to be careful on- if you don't know who you are dealing with you wind up getting something made in Eastern Europe and tagged 'made in italy'. You will not need a translator - the industry folks there alway speak English or have someone who can translate. As long as you are apologetic about not speaking Italian and be sure to compliment their English you'll find the folks EXTREMELY happy to help you. They don't act nice in Italy - they genuinely are nice.
post #3 of 13
Oh... and as to Southern Italy... how far south are you talking? Sorrento is one of our favorites when we are workign with our tailors outside Napoli - Naples is not a pretty town or a touristy one but Sorrento is very touristy and you can't watch the sun set over Capri while dining 150 feet up a cliff from the ocean without loving it. Easy on the limoncello - tastes like koolaid but the lemon/sugar mask pure alcohol.
post #4 of 13
Carlo, Have you any recommendations for someone travelling to Milan for a few days in mid April? Perhaps a few insider´s tips for buying good quality shirts, pants or sweaters at more reasonable prices? Ciao, Steven
post #5 of 13
Carlo, Have you any recommendations for someone travelling to Milan for a few days in mid April?  Perhaps a few insider´s tips for buying good quality shirts, pants or sweaters at more reasonable prices? Ciao, Steven
If you know your brands and you know what to look for in terms of workmanship and quality.... head off to the Milan market on the Viale Papiniano on Tuesdays and Saturdays, there is a metro stop there. Go to the side that sells clothing, and you can find yourself an incredible bargain. Many of the stall owners also have their own little stores.
post #6 of 13
I would second T4's advice to visit the street market. You have to get your elbows out, but it's fun to scavenge. And you can sometimes find a real treasure if you dig long and deep enough. But, unless you're just in a mood to go shopping the high-end boutiques, then there are certainly better places to visit in Italy than Milan IMHO.
post #7 of 13
there are certainly better places to visit in Italy than Milan IMHO.
Do tell, please. I (and perhaps others) will be in Rome or other Italian cities again in the future. Are there any recommended sartorial stops, as if Palladium architecture and beautiful scenery were not enough, while visiting the northern "hill towns" such as Asolo? Ciao, Steven
post #8 of 13
"Pretend" to leave your wallet in the room before wandering down to Via Della Spiga.  Do NOT take your wallet to Via Gesu (Brioni, Kiton, Tincati, Lattanzi) or you may be swimming home.
Who are Tincati, exactly? The name's come up as a recommendation a few times, but I've never seen so much as a stitch of their work. Anyone have pictures? The website is pretty sparse...
post #9 of 13
WRT.. 1. Where to go: I'm in love with Rome and Tuscany. We go to Milan for business because everyone has offices there. It's also close to Biella and Como and we always need 2-3 days in Como. Como is a lovely area but very touristy - there are some good restaurants and bad ones right on the lake. Best bet is to ask locals politely for an expert opinion. When you hear the same name 2-3 times you know where to eat. Milan is fun for checking out the latest looks, not all of them make it over here a year later, some do. For shopping the good brands are here of course but there are many very fine brands without the name recognition. Tincati: Down the street from Brioni & Kiton. I do not know this but if I were guessing I'd say that Kiton makes some of their stuff - if not then it is equal or better. Prices are similarly astronomical but it's a wonderful store to wander through. Most of the time when we are there we are basing there and taking trains to Como, Bergamo, Biella for business. When we are vacationing or uh.. researching (typical trip is 5 days of work, 5 days of 'research' - you can write off research, not a vacation). My personal favorite is Rome, Jill favors Florence. Florence is a major tourist trap but the hotels, dining, museums and shopping are worth a few days. Follow the same restaurant rules - ask shopowners and those you meet where to eat but finding lousy food in FLorence is not easy. Go with the house wines, they are local and interesting. The outdoor markets in FLorence are designed to seperate tourists from traveller's checks. Lots of the stuff you see is actually lousy and made in China. The stores near the market will usually have very nice stuff (they reel you in outside in the market then get you into their store). Deals can be had - wonderful deals - if you know what you are looking at. My favorite purchases last trip were a leather duffle bag and a shirt/jacket made from antelope suede. I also saw fake versions of the suede shirt elsewhere for half off. Again - know your materials. A winery tour from Florence is a great daytrip to see the countryside - touristy but nice. Venice: Kinda cool, doesn't smell great in the summer - something you should see once before you die. Rome: Icould spend a month exploring old churches and museums in ROme. Actually, the Vatican museum is worth three weeks. Shopping is excellent. The big names are expensive as you'd expect but the 'average' stuff is better than it is here - nice self-tipped ties of good construction for 15-20 Euros. Nicer than most $40 ties here. Shirts: Again, Borelli isn't cheap anywhere but 'fashion' shirts are - 20-30 euros for decent shirts. Italy has a LOT of production so there are always deals to be had. Whatever you do - do NOT bring uncomfortable shoes... You will walk a LOT in Rome and it ain't flat. Also wear summer weight trousers but not shorts - no entry to the olllld churches in shorts and it comes across as bad American manners and you may as well wear a tee shirt that says "I am a dumb tourist, rip me off please". South from Rome the Amalfi coast is beautiful. Naples is not the tourist town that Rome/Florence/Venice are but Capri is beautiful, Pompei is a fascinating day trip and Sorrento, Positano et al are gorgeous - the huge cliff over the sea in Sorrento are somewhat spellbinding - see note on proper footwear. Some general truisms we have found all over Italy: 1. For God's sake be polite. Italians are friendly, they like tourists but they will be amazingly helpful and friendly if you are complimentary and respectful. Asking NICELY for directions will usually get you walked right to where you are going and introduced - just act like a guest and you'll be treated like one. In stores the owner will greet you, retunr the greeting. 2. If you prefer to drink American swill coffee ask for it. If you ask for fru-fru flavored capuccino they will tell you that the flavor is coffee and milk. The coffee is wonderful and if you order a double expect not to blink for 72 hours. 3. Slow down. Italians drive fast, they don't rush otherwise. If you want everyone to rush around go to New York. If you go to Italy relax. The food, wine, architecture, art, clothes and women (Jill says the men but whatever) are all beautiful - why would you be in a hurry? 4. Take public tranportation. Trains, buses, cabs, feet. If you must drive the rule is 'he who drives slowly dies'. They are great drivers, just not patient ones. The fast lane is for passing or getting run over only. 5. Food... We never get to the main course. We tend to stick to pasta and snacks all day. The panini sandwhiches for breakfast are super, the Gelato makes a wonderful snack and wehn you get sick of walking stop for a liter of wine and some caprese (Buffalo mozz and tomatoes with balsamico). Stick to places where the locals are going to eat and you won't go far wrong. Pizza is great everywhere - get the pasta. For hotels we usually stay in the big places due to convenience and lots of Starwood points. The Excelsior in ROme and Florence, the Westin in Milano but they are way overpriced if you are not using points. Go to and anything 3-4 stars will suffice. For my trip next weekend I am only there for two nights so I am going to a little B&B in Rome that is around $60/night. The one thing I would stress throughout Italy is that the Italians are wonderful hosts with much to be proud of. If you are friendly and polite and ask for help they will (generally) take it as a point of personal pride to tell you all about what you want to know. Make it a point of personal pride to be a good guest as well. For example - ask your waiter to tell you the house specialty (food and wine) and they'll take care of you. In our favorite place in Milano (by no means fancy) we simply tell our waiter (same guy every time) that we want dinner - you choose. He immediately clears us a table, treats us like visiting royalty and runs around to anyone who lights up near Jill yelling NO FUMARE. as he stubs out their cigarette. We're good to him, he's good back. PM either Jill or myself for specific cities, areas etc and we'll help if we know the answer or ask a friend if we don't. There are some good books, Italy for dummies will get you by the first time but read up. English speakers are plentiful so language is not a major problem (well, one time we accientally ordered 2 pitchers of beer and a large caraffe of wine instead of a bottle and a glass but we were young and foolish then) Let someone help you - don't show off. Last thought - Italy is a very safe pplace by US standards. Train stations at night are an area to be alert, pickpockets abound in tourist spots (global truism) but you don't worry about muggings and that sort of thing. ..Heck, even the police have nicely fitted, smart looking attire right down to the fine leather holsters :-)
post #10 of 13
Thank you Carlo, for the wonderful insight, it's interesting to see my country with a tourist/business men eyes. Everything you say is good advice. I would also add that, starting from january 2005, smoking is prohibited in every public place, restaurant, bar, etc.. Finally I can go to restaurant with my children. PS I'm curious to know your preferite restaurant in Milano ...
post #11 of 13
This is excellent advice, Carlo, and I too experienced a very kind, gracious people when I visited Milan and Florence 3 weeks ago - my first visit after years and years. What can one say - the food, the style, the fashion, the monuments and museums make a trip to Italy a wonderful experience. ...and particularly, if one is interested in style, clothing, craftsman, fashion, as SF members are, well, the country is limitlessly fascinating.
post #12 of 13
Giona.... thank you :-) You may (and are entirely welcome to.) laugh at me but the restaurant is by no means 5-star. It is a little place between Centrale and the Westin Palace called La Porta Rosa (yes, another with the same name is in NYC). The reason I love it is because Milan was the one city in Italy that we did not enjoy at first but we must base there for many of our trips due to it being the center of the Italian fashion universe. Anyway, we love it not so much because of the food or winelist or the things we like in our favorite Dallas restaurants. We love it because when we are in Milano it makes us feel at home. The first night we went there we stopped simply because it was open and we were exhausted. We were covered in silk after a full day in Como and our host, Giuseppe, welcomed us in and had a ready smile. I was LITERALLy too tired to think about the menu so when he came for our order I said "I am completely exhausted and jet lagged - I would appreciate it if you could just serve us whatever you think is best". He proudly swiped the menus away and served us a fine meal and plenty of wine. We've been there... maybe 15-20 times since and I always hand the menu back to him without looking. Maybe this illustrates why I love Italy: He will gladly take whatever order you give him but when you ask for his expert opinion he proudly makes CERTAIN that your trust is well placed. When we see him now he greets us like old friends, gives Jill a big kiss (hey, all Italian guys do that - what's the deal Giona??? :-) ) and brings champagne. He also decides what I would like for dinner and it is always wonderful - from the house special homemade pasta to the fish/steak/veal to dessert. The 'smoking story' was from our last trip. As we sat down Jill whispered in Giuseppe's ear asking if he could move us to the back since a man at the next table had just lit a ciagarette... Giuseppe just reached over, broke the cigarette in half and said "Hey. NO FUMARE..." and pointed to Jill as if she was visiting royalty - Jill almost died from embarassment but it demonstrates how Italians view their friends when you treat them well. We've been out of touch some since Jill's mom and dad have been very ill and all of our business partners in Italy write weekly to say that they are remembering us in their prayers - good people. Anyway, this is a long answer to a short question. Hopefully - you hear a little bit of why I love Italy, the people. I can't say this strongly enough for those planning a vacation in Italy - all you need to do is be polite, be friendly and when someone is helping you be appreciative. An American in Rome will be treated far better than an Italian in most US cities.
post #13 of 13

I was wondering, does anyone knows of any fabric mills that will sell me a small quantity?

I am looking to make a suit or two but do not have the time to tailor and wait for it in Italy. So I hope to buy the fabulous fabrics and get my local tailor to help me with it.

Perhaps 10 yards on a 60inch wide wool. Super 100s, 8 - 10 ounce weight.

Thank you!
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