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June 29, 2012 6:41 pm
The London shows this month started the drumroll for British menswear, and now further support is coming from a surprising source: Italy.
In the past few months Hackett, purveyor of “essential British kit”, has opened in Milan while Chester Barrie, whose presence on Savile Row dates from 1937 and whose clients have included Winston Churchill, is opening concessions in the upmarket department store Coin in Verona, Milan, and Mestre, near Venice.
“Italian men have more of an appetite for British tailoring now,” says Chris Scott-Gray, Chester Barrie’s head of marketing. “They’re seeing how these days even the classic British suit is sleeker, slimmer and more in keeping with Italian tastes.”
Meanwhile, with the resurgence of the tweed industry in Scotland and a revival of textile mills in Yorkshire, fabrics are increasingly being woven in one country and finished in the other. Ermenegildo Zegna’s woollen mill, Lanificio, has experienced increased demand from Savile Row as its tailors and cutters have started to want softer, lighter fabrics.
The fact that Italian men admire British tailoring so much and vice versa is hardly surprising. Over the past 50 or 60 years, there has been a rich cross-fertilisation between Italian and British menswear as Italian tailors and designers have paid homage to the style of Savile Row, added a dash of Mediterranean pizzazz, and sent it back to England.
David Neill, 31, an investment adviser, says: “I’ve used my quilted jacket a lot recently, especially as the weather in London has been awful. For me it’s much more of an Italian thing than a British one. Somehow British quilted jackets sound like something from the grouse moors.” In the past few years, Italian shirt-makers have also been widening collars and expanding cuffs, a Latin look that has been reproduced by hip young tailors and menswear brands in and around the Row.
“It’s said that the best-dressed Britons are Italians,” says Hackett’s Jeremy Hackett, pointing out that recently a number of British brands have been bought by Italian companies, such as Church’s shoes, now owned by Prada.
Simon Cundey, the seventh generation to run Henry Poole & Co in Savile Row, has seen a growing number of Italian customers. “Savile Row isn’t about fashion as such but its style is constantly evolving and Italians add to that with their ideas,” he says. “The Italians like the look of the stiff-upper-lip, military British tailoring, but also want to soften the silhouette. British tailoring is about correcting what’s not quite right, such as rounded shoulders or a paunch, whereas the Italians simply let the suit hang elegantly. Our Italian clients also like a softer sleeve head, almost like you’d find on a shirt. British clients are influenced by this.”
The Italians are happy to return the compliment. “We in Italy have always considered the British style as a guideline,” says veteran Neapolitan tailor Mariano Rubinacci, who has a shop in London. “But we’ve translated those concepts into the Italian lifestyle. We’ve made it easier. The Savile Row style is more influenced by the military style. We’re influenced by everyday lifestyle.”
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