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English Fabric v. Italian Fabric

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by dieselman89, Jul 28, 2012.

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  1. dieselman89

    dieselman89 Senior member

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    Gents,

    I was hoping to gain some insight on this. What are the keys differences between English fabric and Italian fabric? If both fabrics are for suits and are 120s, what does the country of origin matter?
     
  2. taxgenius

    taxgenius Senior member

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    There is a lot more to quality than the Supers number.
     
  3. Musella

    Musella Senior member

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    There is a lot more to quality super numbers: right said
    I think that you should touch and feel, understand the differences between an italian fabric and an english one. Without touching and feeling nothing is important.. for example, sometimes a Super 190 is not better than a Super 150 or a 160. There are lot of explenations here but I think we could almost write a book.
    I had and have the opportunity to work with almost all the fabrics available on the market and supers are not always that great. Also some brands state a highed number super when it is not (or at least the quality is not that level). I work with Scabal, Cerruti, Holland &Sherry and so on...those are great but still, you have to understand them, and also understand that they are thinner, and have a very delicate fibre as high as you go.
     
  4. dieselman89

    dieselman89 Senior member

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    Thanks for the replies. So the best way of judging is by touching the fabric. Are English fabrics more durable than Italian? Or is this an old myth?
     
  5. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    The best way is to not attempt judging at all. It takes a lot of experience to get a feel for a cloth's quality. Rather, you should rely on the judgment of those who know better, whether a tailor or a more experienced bespoke customer, and the reputations of the various mills and merchants. Stick to the staple cloths from big name English merchants like Harrison's, Lesser (now owned by the former, but still a separate line), Minnis/John G. Hardy, Smith, etc., and you will not go wrong. While I've heard that many Italian sources have improved and can be considered on par with the English depending on the specific cloth, there is a lot more junk to sort through.

    I don't trust my own ability to judge a cloth by feel, so I generally follow the advice above.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2012
  6. Tropicalist

    Tropicalist Senior member

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    English tailors will often push you Italian fabrics while Italian tailors will often sing praises of English ones.
    To me the fabric quality is similar fort he same weight. English fabrics generally have a better selection of types of design, patterns and finish that I like- so I wear it almost exclusively. But this is because I like navy blue or charcoal gray in plain or pin stripes with a matte and milled finish.
     
  7. Musella

    Musella Senior member

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    You should not pay too much attention on "myths". Just experience and feel the fabric as been said.
    Italian fabrics have been improved a lot, the quality now is better than some years ago but you have to understand that some mills do some products better than other and others are not so great, and so on...
     
  8. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    This is not helpful to a beginner just diving into things. He will have no idea what to "feel" for. I reiterate my previous advice: choose well-regarded staples from respected English sources to begin with.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2012
  9. Musella

    Musella Senior member

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    I don't think it is a bad advice...feeling is all and it is a pretty central thing in tasting fabrics, then if he goes to buy a well made fabric he will understand what I'm saying, also because they will explain the craft of it. However you are right, starts with english sources to begin with, the italian fabrics are more "difficult" to choose.
     
  10. Petepan

    Petepan Senior member

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    Feeling is a surefire way to get the wrong fabric. You will be going for exactly the fabrics you should avoid. It is a learning curve, and best not learned by hand and feel.
     
  11. dieselman89

    dieselman89 Senior member

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    Thanks for the replies. Really helpful info.
     
  12. Musella

    Musella Senior member

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    If you have a wrong hand that is it. But the "hand" on a fabric is all. Also to make mistakes can be the best way to learn.
    When drinking wine, do you read its label and the maker before or you drink it first and then read?The palate needs to be teached as well as the hand. :)
     
  13. mafoofan

    mafoofan Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Of course, to enjoy wine one must learn by drinking it himself. But I would never recommend a novice buy an expensive bottle of wine without knowing what he is doing. If he must buy a bottle intended to be enjoyed later, after he has acquired a taste, he is better off relying on the advice of "experts" to begin with.
     
  14. Petepan

    Petepan Senior member

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    No, "hand" is not all, just a part. Chances are the newbie will pick a super 150 and above that feels fine to the hand, and then have a ripped crotch or a ripped rear in 2 years. Or the newbie will sweat in a super wool instead of choosing open weave due to climate.

    As for wine, it depends on your requirements. If you want to drink it now, or cellar and age it. Even if you are buying for drinking, the taste is misleading, because some wine taste better after thorough airing but taste yuck right out of bottle. Also, the taste of wine alters with the food you are having, and is also different whether you are drinking at the start of the meal or at the end of the meal.

    You are correct, the palate needs to be taught as well as the hand.
     
  15. Brendon

    Brendon Senior member

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    Good thread. I tend to buy English cloth only for the reason that I can be relatively sure of what I am buying. 2 by 2 in the warp and weft and in the super number stated. There is a lot of misinformation generated by suppliers of cloth, and salespeople. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story.
    2 articles I read and recommend, one on Paul Grassant Bespoke Tailor in Paris blog re cloth spec's and the other an older article generated by the British government a few years ago highlighting the efficiency of the Italian Mills and therefore their good value. If you are worried about the durability of a cloth, get a second pair of trousers made. Rest the cloth as wool is hydro-scopic and takes up I think about 20% weight /of moisture.
    Cloth handle is important however it can be a poor guide, a travel cloth will have an extra twist in the yarn which will take away the soft handle but give great performance.
     
  16. Musella

    Musella Senior member

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    mafoofan: "But I would never recommend a novice buy an expensive bottle of wine without knowing what he is doing. If he must buy a bottle intended to be enjoyed later, after he has acquired a taste, he is better off relying on the advice of "experts" to begin with."

    I would not reccomend that too, but errors and trials are often an obliged way for many. As said by Brendon, suppliers and salespeople give lot of misinformation and this can be a real problem for the inexperts.

    Petepan: +1, I'm with you "just a part", hand, knowledge and experience.
     
  17. nanotech

    nanotech Member

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    Ok, so I know this is a 2yr old thread, but my question is a bit more specific:

    Say the exact same cotton or wool, from literally the same supplier, etc. If the same end-product is to be produced by a reputable company that's not going to lie about the numbers, then what's the difference between Italian, English, or fabric from any country?

    Is there a certain process than an Italian mill goes through that the others don't know about (or just don't care to do)? Extra steps, better looms/machines, better inspection?

    At the end of the day, if you have the exact same raw materials and the same process step-by-step and the same machines, then you should end up with the same fabric no matter what place it was made, right?

    Are there really that many proprietary steps in this that one can end up telling who made which fabric even if the raw material was the same? (because I'm assuming the machines must be the same too)
     
  18. nanotech

    nanotech Member

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    tcbrgs says: "Most of the fabrics come from the same mills and are of equal quality. You pay for fabric design and ranges. It costs to support lots of stock. Scabal has 5000 fabrics in stock, and big advertising, but they have patterns and qualities as much as you can imagine, but they have a higher price. You can get the same for less, but usually they have cloth that design is unique to them for instance, so you pay the price they ask. "

    I think this may have answered my question, found it in another thread. But want to confirm with you guys. So is this correct, coming from a senior member here? The reason you pay a lot more for some fabrics than others is the range (more design work, much more inventory costs), the advertising, and perhaps smaller differences in cost of doing business in England vs Italy vs China?
     
  19. greger

    greger Senior member

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    Another thought, England has better water for wool, while Italy has better water for silk. So I've read.
     

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