Bespoke Excellence - Biagio Santo
Although not as prone to change as its counterpart, menswear has also experienced its share of cyclical trends, coming and going as both society and designers saw fit. Throughout the years, garments and accessories rotated in and out of the men’s fashion scene, with recent years seeking strong inspiration in early menswear influences, namely through the comeback of accessories. However, during this period, a handful of staple pieces prevailed, only to become menswear essentials in their own right. Among those, few carry such a timeless and quintessential connection to gentlemanliness as the tie.
I recently came in touch with Mr. Leo Faggiano: entrepreneur, artist, traveler, stylist… a man with a rich and unique background in the fashion business. Having studied arts in Rome and London, Leo then moved on to work with André Laug, one of the most renowned designers at the time, granting him the opportunity to travel the world and meet some of fashion’s most influential people.
Nowadays, he’s manager at one of the oldest and most exquisite bespoke tie manufacturers in Europe: Biagio Santo. Founded in Salento, Southern Italy, Biagio Santo brings to life the unique beauty and craftsmanship of traditional tailoring, acquired through a lifetime of dedication and passion for the art. The sartorial skills and techniques are now applied to a variety of luxurious neckwear and pocket squares, entirely handcrafted according to customer’s specifications. Their offerings include a wide array of available fabrics to choose from, including an exclusive vintage library and they are able to craft every model you can think of: 3 fold, 6 fold, 7 fold, unlined, the works. Crafted by an experienced team of tailors and seamstresses, each specialized in a particular step of the manufacturing process, every item is unique and embodies the brand’s values of perfection and excellence.
MTM green striped contrast spread collar shirt
Urban Menswear Myths #5
Long goes the time when men relied solely on their trustworthy tailors to keep up to date with the fashion demands of their social agenda. Garments were crafted according to each customer’s needs and liking. Nowadays, a massified fashion industry is hell-bent on delivering a never ending stock of ready-to-wear alternatives at the lowest price: after all, it’s just business…
Thankfully, the tailoring tradition has managed not only to withstand against all odds, but actually thrive in adversity due to the current “retro revival” moment we’re experiencing and the fact people are looking for better quality, unique items. Apart from this, there are those who despite the global change remained faithful to custom made garments, and not necessarily because they’re wealthy. I believe there’s a common misconception where people inherently associate custom made to hefty price tags, which isn’t entirely true.
The price tag depends on a variety of factors such as the item itself, fabric and of course, the craftsman behind it. World renowned tailors may charge you absurd amounts, but then again so do their designers counterparts. As with so many other things in life the key is balance: finding a quality/price ratio that suits you is crucial. Once you do, you’ll see that pieces tailored to your liking may perfectly compete with similar RTW alternatives, with the perk of being unique and perfect fitting. Say you choose a Thomas Mason fabric for a shirt or a Zegna for a suit, the end result may very well be cheaper than the same versions purchased at a retailer.
If you haven’t done so already give it a try, you might be in for a pleasant surprise…
Ermenegildo Zegna Fabrics SS11
Last week, while I was at Gentleman getting my herringbone overcoat measured for tailoring (expect a post once I pick it up), they were kind enough to let me go through the new SS11 Zegna Cloth Catalogue.
Zegna fabrics are known for their quality and elegance, assuming a leading role as the choice of excellence for tailors worldwide, when it comes to made to measure or bespoke garments. Their array of options is suited to cater to your every need, presenting fabrics for every occasion, all of which bear the brand’s renowned quality.
Whenever I get the chance to see and feel these types of fabrics, I get overwhelmed with ideas and enthusiasm…the turning of each page is accompanied by a constant brainstorming of potential garments in the making. I easily get sucked into that sartorial universe, becoming completely immersed in the variety of shades, patterns and textures, only to be brought back to reality when the answer to my inevitable question is given: - “a blazer will cost you around 1000€, suits start at 1500€”…
Atelier des Createurs
I’m always on the look for interesting brands or stores able to provide quality items marked by great construction and fit. On my never-ending quest, I come across several brands which I share with all of you: many of them are considered luxury labels, but price and reputation alone do not assure quality. Learning how to spot those features in every item you try on is key, as it enables you to find the best value for your money.
One of the things I’ve been enjoying the most since I started this blog, is to wander the streets of downtown Porto, carefully looking for local stores. The findings are outstanding as the city is famous for its tailors and fabric stores. So it comes to no surprise that several brands and manufacturers are choosing to open business here.
One of my latest findings was Atelier des Createurs, a semi-industrial tailoring/bespoking establishment, located in Rua José Falcão in the city centre. A project of two entrepeneurs (one French, the other Spanish), this amazing three-storey building is the workplace of several local craftsmen and women (seamstresses, tailors, etc.). The sheer scale and beauty of the architecture (an amazing work of rehabilitation) will make your jaw drop. The building is organized as follows:
- Ground Floor: as soon as you enter a massive stairway greets you; a door on the right gives access to the fabric storeroom, staff facilities and the “cutting room” where computer controlled machinery applies the desired cut for each of the nearly 200 pieces that go into making a suit. A once handmade process is now optimized through the use of technology, but still requires the art of skilled artisans on occasion;
- First Floor: here you’ll find the administration offices and an amazing room with around 40 professionals fully committed to providing top notch suits, through a sequential manufacturing process;
- Second Floor: a room entirely dedicated to suit pants awaits you, along with the area where finishing touches are added: hand sewn buttons and steaming and pressing of suits;
- Top Floor: this floor houses the showroom where you’ll be able to see all available fabrics for your suit, as well as a few finished models to give you an idea of what to expect. Also, you can try on the so called “canvas” which are pre-finished models (with all the seams and stitched parts), aimed at giving you a sense of fit and size. One of the things that absolutely blew me away was their collection of antique books and magazines, the likes of Adam Chemisier and Esquire, dating as old as 1940. Next to the showroom lies a fitting room and a private space where clients can try on their suits and express their opinion to tailors, in order to have them altered accordingly;
The whole establishment transpires professionalism and after trying their “canvas” and getting a feel of some final products, I can attest to their quality: they’ve got themselves a new client. An average price tag of 600€ seems appropriate when talking about a fully customized bespoke suit, especially when compared to other options out there. I’m a sucker for the art of bespoking and strongly recommend you give it a try. Drop by their atelier and check their blog here!
The ground floor: fabric storeroom, cutting room and staff lounge.
The sewing room on the first floor.
Second Floor: the areas dedicated to suit pants and steaming.
Top floor: the showroom, book collection, the “canvas” suit jackets and a few fabric samples.