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Help classify these fabric makers

BlvdDandy

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This list comes from searching the forum. Can someone separate these fabric manufacturers into three categories - first tier, second tier, third tier? Criteria for judging: medium weight/three season fabric; pretty basic navys or charcoals, maybe with some sort of self-pattern; Super 120s-150s  (looking for a compromise of fineness with reasonable durability - it will be a primary suit, but not worn that frequently). I'm going to W.W. Chan in Shanghai this May, and don't want to go in unprepared fabric-wise. I'll post about the rest of my suit plans after I gather a little more information. Feel free to add or correct, but mostly, do what you do best: categorize.

Vitale Barberis Canonico
Loro Piana
Zegna
Cerruti
Piacenza
Carlo Barbera
H. Lessor
Smiths
JJ Minnis
Moxon Huddersfield
Taylor & Lodge
Holland & Sherry
Reid & Taylor
Dormuiel
Scabal
Bower Roebuck
Wain Shiell
Reda
William Halstead
Charles Clayton
Policarpo
Guabello
Fox Brothers
 

Carlo

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Ones I know only...

Vitale Barberis Canonico - Good Biella mill, one of the big valley mills

Loro Piana - Excellent, somewhat overly marketed

Zegna - Excellent
Cerruti - Excellent
Piacenza - Excellent - wonderful cashmere
Carlo Barbera - A step above the preceding three - Superlative

I'd personally rate the next group as stratoshperic. Moxon makes for Oxxford (IMHO the best durability around). Lessor, Scabal, Dormuiel & Holland & Sherry are pretty much for bespoke. Ridiculous quality, prices are commensurate with with quality

Reda - Good Biella mill, mass production along with Policarpo, Angelico, Barberis... very good but not in the same class as Piana.

Guabello - Excellent - makes 180s for Kiton ...not sure I love that fabric and would not advise it unless you can afford to wear 5-6 times and then toss the suit.
 

uriahheep

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Some of the companies listed are not weavers but rather cloth merchants, for example Lesser, Scabal, Dormeuil, Smith, JJ Minnis and Wain Shiell. Scabal owns Bower & Roebuck, a weaver; Holland and Sherry is both a weaver and a merchant.
Oxxford doesn't use mostly Moxon. In fact, the major thing publicized was that Oxxford was using Moxon Super 180s, at the time when Super 180s was the finest. Oxxford uses many, many fabrics - Reid and Taylor, Charles Clayton, Guabello, Holland and Sherry(now part of the Individualized Apparel Group)...
 

Carlo

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I did not know that - only saw the swatches on that upper group and hadn't actually been to the mills. So... the Lessor and Scabal product - whoe weaves'm???? I'm just dying for a jacket in the collection below (blue/blue) absolutely to die for. Man... we could put together the Trivial Pursuit: Sartorial Edition team from hell around here
 

RJman

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How does Wain Shiell rate in comparison with, say, Lesser?
 

lisapop

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Loro Piana: way overrated; 5
Carlo Barbera: 10 (Especially range made for Lesser)
H. Lesser: 10
Smiths: 8
JJ Minnis: 10 (Outstanding flannels and their Rangoon range is among the noblest)
Holland & Sherry: 9 (Their Donegal Tweed range earns a 9.5)
Reid & Taylor: 8
Wain Shiell: 7
Fox Brothers: 10 (Among the very finest flannels)

Don't overlook John Hardy (Famous for their Russell Plaid cloth) which earns a 10 rating in my book, and Harrisons (Known for their Millionaire Cashmere that Kiton uses), another 10.
Grayson
 

uriahheep

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It's important not to overgeneralize when classifying mills. Often mills will have some rather unique offering quite different from the bulk of what they produce. I use certain fabrics only from specific weavers based on their specialization or if it's a unique offering. I use tropicals, casual jacketing, overcoating, trouser and business suit fabrics from different mills, with little overlap. I agree with Carlo about Piacenza. I don't like Loro Piana and Zegna that much. What's maddening is the race for the Supers. Regarding Barbera, I look to British weavers for British Cloth. Though described as "mass producers," (with Italian producers it's all relative) I like some of what I've seen from Policarpo, Reda and, most of all, VBC(Vitale Barberis Canonico). Guabello has Super 150s and Super 180s, but that's not the bulk of its production. Many mills now have Super 150s and Super 180s...sort of the way that 170s shirt fabrics are becoming more common(again, it's all relative). Obviously not all SUper 150s and Super 180s are equal, and not all 2x2 170s are equal. Guabello's "standard" range is good.
 

Carlo

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For whatever it's worth... Last time Jill and I went to Barbera (not the showroom in Milano, the actual mill in the mountains) we got into a discussion of the 'Supers' arms race. To put it mildly, there was more than a tad of disdain for the notion that quality is inversely proportional to micronage. As an example... Barbera makes a 160's that costs double what the 150's costs. the 150's is only 20% more expensive then the 140's.... Why? Because that 160s fabric is a different product. They get only so much wool for it each year and we could not get any if we wanted to probably. The firms it is reserved for are, shall we say, very well regarded here and elsewhere. Why is it special? because it is a half nanometer thinner than the 150's??? Nope. It's special because of the OTHER factors that are more important like tensile strength, elasticity, length of the fibers (now think - what makes a stronger cloth... a short, fine, brittle thread or a long one that is supple and elastic and doesn't suffer from abrasion easily??? THere is also a process, a tradition and a way of doing things that technology hasn't replaced. It takes over a year for the good stuff. The crucial step isn't the weaving but the spinning and resting. After they spin it into thread it has to be rested for a loooong time in the caves onsite before weaving. According to our hosts the weaving is not such a big deal once you have made the yarn properly. It's somewhat of a shame that 'supers' is such a buzzword because we'll be seeing it marketed that way shamelessly until folks catch on. Some interesting notes... the big 'Valley mills' in Biella are under real pressure from China now just like the silk guys in Como. At one mill we visited I was told that an American firm, one I respect, had dropped them in favor of China due to price pressures. And in case anyone missed it, that record bale of wool this past year? It did not go to Loro Piana... it went to Shanghai. Anyone think they'll adopt a 'go slow, do it right, do it by hand, do it naturally' policy for woolens?
 

uriahheep

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And in case anyone missed it, that record bale of wool this past year? It did not go to Loro Piana... it went to Shanghai.
Yup, I remember reading about. Didn't surprise me.
Anyone think they'll adopt a 'go slow, do it right, do it by hand, do it naturally' policy for woolens?
I've seen higher-count shirt fabrics from Asia, and they are not nearly as good as Italian and Swiss fabrics. Not sure if they do, but they can buy yarn from the same spinners. What really counts is the end product, which at this point cannot compare. There are factors known as experience and heritage. In all fairness, though, they really are catching up. Korean Cheil has begun to play with the big boys. Chinese and Indian companies have joined the race. How do they do it? Simple - money. That's what it takes to buy good raw materials instead of the stuff they're known for using. But believe this: some of the Italian and even Swiss companies are guilty of helping the competition. Some mills contract part of their production to Chinese and Indian companies, even sending people to teach them their production methods. I refuse to use fabrics of companies which do this. You don't have to worry about companies like Guabello, Piacenza and VBC technically manipulating the goods to make them "finer." Practically all reputable weavers use only long/strong/elastic fibers. Some mills spin their own yarn, some buy yarn spun by independent spinning mills. And regardless of which route they take, if the weaver cares about its reputation it will use only yarn spun from long fibers. Part of the reason that Barbera's Super 160s is much more expensive than their Super 150s could be that the finest, though not necessarily much finer than the next-finest, is often(especially applicable to wool) in very limited quantity and people go a bit batty vying for limited quantities.
 

T4phage

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Originally posted by Uriaheep:
....There are factors known as experience and heritage.
*ahem* I believe that the Chinese have the most experience and greatest heritage when it comes to silks....
 

uriahheep

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Silks, no doubt. Shirtings and suitings, as discussed, no.
 

Carlo

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T4 - without question the old handmade silks from China done the ancient way are beyond wonderful... but that is NOT what comes out of tie city by the mile every day from high speed looms and dyeing/finishing practices that would make the most mild environmentalist deposit organic fertilizer down his/her leg.

I just don't think China is good for the menswear industry - the quality is going up but their key tool is cost. Until they are willing to respect little things like trademarks why support them?
 

Alias

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Korean Cheil has begun to play with the big boys.
They don't really have much choice. The Chinese have taken away massive market share for low to mid-priced fabrics, so the Korean textile companies have been gearing up to compete with the English and Italians.

From what I've seen and felt, the gap is getting pretty narrow. They have the technical knowledge. It's pretty cool taking a square of Super 220's and pulling it every which way, and seeing it snap back together just fine.
 

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