Francesco Smalto, pictured above, passed away last month.
I once had the opportunity to examine one of the coats made in his Paris atelier, and posted a video showing some of the work being done. Those who fetishize hand work should absolutely love his stuff, though the styling may not be for everybody.
Kirby recently reached out to me to offer another, more recent example of their work, Kirby of the Hanger Project, whose website sells luxury wooden hangers and Saphir shoe polish. Yes, I am willing to trade links for bespoke clothing.
This example was made for a member of the royal family of the country in which Smalto was residing when he passed away, and whose taste in clothing can be said to be somewhat flamboyant. A 3 on 3 double-breasted model with a huge amount of padding in the shoulders, and a rather firm chest, cut out of a stripe which we might normally associate with trousers to be paired with a morning coat. The photo below is of me modeling the coat.
Their house label set in their trademark teardrop pocket, one of the little touches that at once speak of uncommon attention to detail and an attempt at "luxury branding". The back of the pocket is also shown.
The bottom of the center vent is tacked by hand with the trademark S for Smalto, a little touch that I like.
Other details which are unusual to see in bespoke clothing but are typical of luxury houses are branded jacquard linings, and corozo buttons with FRANCESCO SMALTO etched in the back.
The client's initials are hand embroidered on the lining, in addition to the usual label inside the pocket with the client's name, order number and date of order (not shown).
The buttonholes, as expected, are good, but I have seen better examples of the boutonnière milanaise
The lining has been entirely inserted by hand with a semi-decorative stitch. Here is shown the inside of the vent.
Now for the more nerdy stuff.
As we saw on the last example, the top collar is done in two pieces, a bit of engineering not commonly found in bespoke tailoring.
All the seams have been overcast by hand, which is somewhat unusual as one might expect to find them either pinked or serged which would be much faster than doing it by hand. But I respect their choice. The lapel and collar, on the other hand, have been padded by machine, then the edges taped rather carefully by hand.
The chest, however, has been very thoroughly padded by hand on both sides.
An absolutely enormous amount of wadding in the shoulder but a light, single-ply piece of canvas in the cap of the sleeve-
And a very liberal amount of haircloth in the chest.
Students of tailoring should take note of the split, or vee, in the smaller piece of haircloth along the roll line- the fullness created by doing this is carried over the shoulder point, though this split is normally applied neck to the neck and not quite so far down the chest.
To avoid the vees we usually see in the shoulder part, the canvas has been seamed along the hollow part, not only to create the necessary length over the shoulder point, but to rotate the hairline in that part on to a semi bias. This creates some give over the shoulder but also some support- it is common to turn the haircloth piece in the shoulder on a similar angle. What is not clear to me is the purpose of the cross-cut piece of inch-wide haircloth running straight up the hollow part of the front shoulder. This may be due to a particular shape on the client's anatomy.
Very wide outlets have been left on the shoulder seam-
The back neck and armhole have been stayed with lining instead of silesia (or, as we will soon see from a Neapolitan tailor, canvas)
The vents are reinforced with wiggan, which has been felled, along with all the hems, with an extremely fine thread and a very delicate stitch. Someone in their shop has very good hands.
Overall the workmanship is excellent, with an inordinate amount of attention to detail overall, something which should lend Paris' tailors a much higher level of esteem on the world stage- by comparison, many of the better-known Italian houses are over-rated. But that will be the subject of another discussion, coming very soon, thanks to a long-awaited donation by voxsartoria...
Friday, May 22, 2015
Friday, May 15, 2015
Carpu65 posted a page from an issue of the Tailor and Cutter magazine from 1954. It is an article by J. King Wilson on his recollection of the drafts of Frederick Scholte, the "inventor" of the Drape cut.
He admits that his memory may be a bit fuzzy, but this draft is interesting nonetheless, for several reasons. He gives the size as a 40" chest.
The half waist is approximately 21", one can't say for sure since the dart and overlap measures are missing; it's generous but still within the realm of an ample size 40. The neck point is located 4 1/2" from the scye, which is roughly an inch of drape by my calculations. No surprise there. The point-to-point is a whopping 20", which is not surprising given the purpose of the drape was to give the appearance of broad shoulders and full chest above a trim waist, and there is 3/4" fullness in the shoulder compared to the 3/8" that was commonly given in Wilson's but I'm curious that there appears to be little to no drape in the blade. I would have expected some here , given what other drafts and certainly what other tailors who make some version or other of the drape cut, but it is possible that Scholte, whose purpose in cutting was aesthetic and not functional, may not have given much drape to the blade. I don't remember having seen a decent back view of any of his coats. The drape in the blade may have been a later addition, or else it is a mistake on the part of Mr. Wilson as the article was written about seven years after Scholte's death, and perhaps 20 years after the height of the drape cut's popularity.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Friday, May 8, 2015
Zegna has closed its Padova factory, the one that was producing the Zegna Couture and Tom Ford products, both of which I thought were superbly made. 230 people were to be put out of work, with an offer of a transfer to other locations (production is being transferred to a plant in Novarra). On the bright side, that means there will be highly-skilled technicians available to be scooped up by manufacturers around the world who might need help.
Full article at
Sartoria padovana, finisce un’era
In.Co chiude l’azienda di Rubano
A casa 230 persone. I sindacati sul piede di guerra: «Lunedì assemblea»
RUBANO (PADOVA) Narrano che tra gli anni Cinquanta e Sessanta ci fossero vere e proprie gare tra i sarti del Padovano per entrare in quelle sacre mura. La Gival era la bottega trasformatasi in azienda professionista nell’alta classe, nelle giacche e nei pantaloni eleganti. Ago, stoffa e filo di altissimo livello, il sogno di un’Italia che usciva dalla guerra e si faceva bella non solo nel giorno di festa. Ebbene, a più di sessant’anni dall’inizio dell’avventura, adesso tutto finisce. Claudio Ronco, responsabile della supply chain della divisione abbigliamento del gruppo Ermenegildo Zegna (che dal 1996 è subentrato con la Spa In.Co alla Gival) ieri mattina ha annunciato la cassa integrazione guadagni ordinaria per quattro giorni la settimana fino al 9 maggio. «Di fatto, chiudono lo stabilimento di Sarmeola», taglia corto Angelo Levorato, che segue la vertenza per la sigla di reparto della Cisl, la Femca. Resteranno senza lavoro poco meno di 230 persone, la maggioranza sono donne di mezza età. A tutti, è stato offerto il trasferimento in altri poli produttivi italiani.
«Ma è impossibile spostare donne con famiglia», tuona Levorato. Il gruppo infatti adesso vuole spostare l’alta sartoria del capospalla maschile nel nuovo centro di San Pietro Mosezzo (in provincia di Novara), costato 20 milioni di euro con obiettivo 600 occupati grazie a 200 assunzioni. Le motivazioni addotte dall’azienda per l’addio a Padova sono legate alla contrazione dei mercati russo e cinese, dove il modo di vestire maschile è sempre meno formale. Tradotto in numeri: servono 300 capi al giorno per mandare avanti lo stabilimento , che oggi è ridotto a 120 e l’ultima campagna di vendite (chiusa nella prima settimana di marzo) non ha dato gli esiti sperati. Così, i dipendenti da lunedì affronteranno la cassa integrazione, che durerà fino al prossimo 9 maggio.
Poi si vedrà. Sul piatto, per tutti, sono stati promessi posti di lavoro a Novara, ma anche a Biella e Parma, negli stabilimenti che si occupano di outwear, abbigliamento in pelle e accessori. Lunedì è programmata una nuova assemblea sindacale a partire dalle nove del mattino, che si annuncia infuocata dopo lo choc di quella di giovedì mattina. «Ma a meno di un miracolo, la proprietà non torna indietro », taglia corto Levorato. Si chiuderà così nei prossimi giorni una pagina storica della sartoria veneta. La Gival infatti era arrivata ad avere fin quasi 500 dipendenti e nel segmento alto dell’eleganza classica, quella amata dall’uomo d’affari, aveva pochi competitors nel Nordest. Una storia che, invero, aveva già avuto una sua prima «morte» nel 1996, con quel concordato preventivo che permise al gruppo Zegna di comperare anche lo stabile. Al tempo c’erano 400 dipendenti, che vennero ridotti a 150 per poi tornare a salire, nell’ultimo ventennio, anche fino a 300
Friday, May 1, 2015
The long-awaited revision of what is perhaps the definitive English-language textbook on traditional tailoring techniques (at least of those currently being published) has been released.
Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear is a textbook published by Bloomsbury Publishing, and has been revised by Denis Antoine, a teacher of menswear at the Savannah College of Art and Design. While other publications may be more thorough treatments of the subject, books like those written by the late Stanley Hostek are not as clearly presented for the novice, and the coveted Modern Tailor, Outfitter and Clothier have been out of print since the 1950's so complete, three-volume sets are comparatively rare and expensive. Then there is R. Doyle's The Art of the Tailor, which seems not much more than a copy-and-paste job by an enthusiastic but misguided amateur who may be waltzing very near the edges, if not trampling directly upon the Berne Convention. The bibliography lists a number of other titles which may be useful to the student, as well as a few supply sources.
I have often said that learning tailoring from a book is somewhat akin to learning to play piano from a book, but for those who have no access to a teacher this is as good a place to start as any, and it is certainly a very good accompaniment to any formal course of study.
Chapters include the following:
1- Tailoring (history, supplies and basic techniques)
2- The pattern (measurements, patterns, preliminary adjustments)
3- The fit (toile or muslin fittings and pattern adjustments or "blue pencil")
4- Fabric (weights, patterns, etc.)
5- Layout and Cutting (matching stripes and plaids etc.)
6- The Jacket-
Darts and Seams
Buttons and buttonholes
7- The Pants
8- The Vest
700 new photos and illustrations are included in this revision and one of the most helpful aspects is the addition of color to the diagrams which help enormously with the clarity of the instructions. Some of the photos are somewhat dark and slightly fuzzy, but I am well aware of the difficulty of photographing this type of thing and am not sure how it could be done better. On the whole, though, the graphic representations of the steps involved are one of the great strengths of this book and are of enormous value to the student or beginner
New to this edition is a discussion of ironwork. The photos illustrating the technique are not super clear, but I happen to think that this is something best learned at the hands of a teacher and at least the book broaches the subject so that students are aware of the principle and the need for it so it is an improvement on the previous edition.
The methods presented are probably one of the better systems for the beginner, avoiding many of the personal quirks and regional variations that tend to plague other forms of instruction, whether in print or in newer video format. There are as many ways of constructing a coat as there are tailors, but I feel the book presents methods that would be easily adapted to most workshops rather than idiosyncrasies that lend personal flavor to a garment but are best left to experimentation and discovery once the student has a firm grasp of the basics.
I am somewhat perplexed, however, by the treatment of collars. The text discusses the use of the collar pattern that may have been provided with whatever commercial jacket pattern was being used, and has good instructions for drafting a collar pattern, save for one error in the final steps of the draft. Though useful for advanced tailors and certainly for people working in the RTW industry, I think that the more traditional method of shaping the under collar would be more in keeping with the overall subject of the book. Rather than using a pre-shaped pattern for a collar, a blocked under collar is typically attached to the coat with a fair amount of extra width on it once the facing has been attached. The collar is then shaped either freehand, or better yet, using a paper shaper, and the excess is trimmed away; using a pre-shaped under collar requires a very great deal of precision when attaching it in order to have a perfectly even and symmetrical shape from one side to the other. Helpful patterns for parts like pocket and fly pieces are included at the back of the book, and I feel that shapers would have been a very good addition to these, especially since they were often included in earlier books aimed at the professional, whether for use in traditional tailoring methods or for drafting paper patterns for wholesale. A sample of these shapers can be found near the back of the Modern Mitchell System of Men's Designing-
Space, time, or other restrictions may have dictated this, as well as the one-page treatment of final pressing, something which I feel deserves and entire chapter, if not an entire book. Again, the author may have felt that these were things best learnt in their entirety at the hands of an experienced practitioner rather than trying to explain them poorly in print.
The book is not exactly cheap, though textbooks never are, so if you own a previous edition of it I don't think I would upgrade to this latest one. It's a book, after all, not an iPhone. But if you don't have a copy and are learning, or trying to learn, the complex craft of tailoring, I consider this new edition of the text to be a must-have in your library.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Vicki Vasilopoulos is bringing her documentary, Men of the Cloth back to Chicago.
Advance tickets to the May 7th screening are required, as they will not be available at the door, and can be reserved here
Friday, April 10, 2015
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
After years of men's tailoring school programs being shut down for lack of interest, it's nice to see not only renewed interest, but also to know that there still are training programs around.
Located in Dublin, Ireland, the National Tailoring Academy runs an accredited post-graduate course in Bespoke Fashion Tailoring. An email from one of the instructors advises us that
"It's designed for students with fashion qualifications or industry professionals who want to go further into the garment manufacturing process, both hand and factory method. There is a limited amount of time but we can start the students off on the right path and some have gone on to paid apprenticeships, others to work with international manufacturers.
Our staff are qualified Master Tailors and we have frequent visits from Savile Row tailors for talks and master-classes, along with a few other short courses to make use of our facilities.
Our facilities are the best in Ireland..."
Certainly from the photos available they seem to be very well-equipped and while I can't speak to any of it fist-hand, those interested in advancing their studies in the craft might want to explore this option.
Monday, March 9, 2015
At the suggestion of a friend (or rather, his daughter) I just finished reading Mary Blume's The Master of us All: Balenciaga, His Workrooms, his World. I can't say for sure whether it was the quality of the writing, the subject matter itself, or merely nostalgia for a time when I had it in my head that I would some day move to Paris to work in one of the great couture houses, such as they still existed, but it was a book that I put down at the penultimate chapter (but just for a while) merely because I didn't want it to end.
"The master of us all" was the way in which Christian Dior referred to the reclusive Spanish couturier, details of whose life are so scant that a large portion of the book deals with the subject from the viewpoint of his primary vendeuse, though that doesn't much diminish the story itself. It may seem odd to our selfie-obsessed society that the namesake of one of the twentieth century's most important fashion houses should shun the spotlight, having granted a sum total of one interview over the course of his career and who preferred to hide behind the curtain at the end of each défilé rather than the customary appearance on what would eventually become a catwalk, but one does not have to read too deeply between the lines to understand his longing for privacy.
I had always admired his sculptural cutting and it had a profound influence on my own obsession with shape, and I was surprised to learn that we were similarly afflicted with a somewhat unhealthy fixation with sleeves, the story of one of his shipments being delayed when he decided to rip them all out and have them reset to his liking being somewhat close to my own experience...
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
A post for industry nerds.
I'm beta testing Accumark V10 which will be released to the public soon. We have been using V8 and a lot of the major interface changes were made in V9 so there are a lot of big changes for me. But I just came across the most exciting new feature.
In the past, in order to share files between systems like Lectra and Gerber one had to convert files to .dxf (drawing exchange format) first then reconverted to native format on the new platform. The process was long, somewhat painful, and buggy. Data like floating notches and internal lines and drills were usually lost.
A friend just texted me to ask if I could open a pattern for him. Not a problem, if it was Gerber. It's .MDL, he said. Groan. That's Lectra, which would normally have been the end of the conversation unless he went back to the originator and asked them to convert it to .dxf, then I would have to reconvert it to Gerber format in order to open it. I couldn't find the V10 conversion utility since the new interface is very different so I shot an email to my contact at Gerber.
"You can open a Lectra mdl directly in PDS or plx in EasyMarking. (File Type drop down, select the lectra file format). You can also use the Data Conversion utility to convert a group of data if you just wanted to convert a lot at once. DCU is found in the AM Explorer Ribbon on the Process Tab.
Hope this helps,"
Hope this helps? It would be bloody miraculous, if true. I had my doubts. So I opened PDS, navigated to the folder and found the Lectra model. Then opened it directly, with grading intact. No more conversion, no more .dxf! Finally!
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
The first of our new half-canvas samples for Fall 2015 start coming off the production line. There is still a lot of work to be done, but considering where we were six months ago I think it's a decent start.
Monday, February 2, 2015
We got some new machines in our factory last week- some state-of-the-art sleeve setting machines from Durkopp-Adler in Germany. Anyone who has ever attempted to hang a tailored sleeve knows it's probably one of the most difficult jobs, if not the most difficult. These machines are created to help an operator sew in ten to twenty pairs of sleeves PER HOUR. Fancy things, these machines.
In a timely coincidence, the German chapter of the International Association of Clothing Designers and Executives just visited the Durkopp-Adler facilities in Bielefeld, Germany. My friend, Joachim Hensch, the Senior Head of Product Excellence, Man, at Hugo Boss wrote about that visit on his new blog, patterndesignanalyst.com. His post is reproduced here, with permission.
A VIEW INTO THE ENGINE OF THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY – HOSTED BY DÜRKOPP ADLER AG
Words and Images coutesy of Joachim Hensch
Have you ever been to a sewing machine supplier ? No ? Well, here’s how it can look like.
During our annual IACDE meeting of the german chapter in Bielefeld we had the chance to take a deep dive into the current and historic sewing machine industry. For textile addicts like the IACDE members it was a stunning experience. We started with a general introduction about the history of the companies of Dürkopp and Adler, which were founded in 1860 and 1867 and learned a lot about their ventures in many different arenas like cars, bicycles, motorcycles, and many more, but also from the beginning the sewing industry. Today they are the third largest sewing machine supplier in the world and as such are well structured. If you are interested in more details about them you will find more here.
Then we started our visit in the product development area. Now the biggest surprise for me was the fact that even in this highly engineering industry you find product designer doing hand sketches. As we learned the company works since many years with industry designers and you could see in the hand-drawn sketch that these were a true professionals.
Then, when the designs meets the needs of the inner mechanical secrets, which is fundamental and pretty much the same as in the car industry, and the overall look seems to be nice, the machine block is pre-produced in a whole piece and they do some first trials with attachments and further develop the new machine type. The good thing here is that due to simultaneous engineering methods all involved other teams also develop the inner parts of the new product, either in digital way or in reality.
We learned a lot about this process step, how all the thousands of small pieces are designed in a 3D system and it was also possible to check the resilience and the movement of the corpus digitally when under pressure.
An absolute advantage to our industries movement into 3D design is the fact that only a few materials are elastic, every other piece is somehow stiff and rigid and as such much easier to precisely design and digitally prove in function in CAD systems than our products are. But you will learn in another blog entry that our CAD partners have made a lot of improvements here as well.
For sure, as we read a lot about it in the internet, some of us asked the engineers about 3D printing in this step. What we learned is that for some operations its quite useful but for heavy metal parts like the production of the “transportation feet” they still use CNC-controlled multifunctional lathes. They are much faster, very precise and at the end one machine can handle 5 different operations in one.
Next part was the testing. Here they care a lot about the movement and processes in the machine itself, for example the mechanical parts around the transport and needle handling, how the thread is moved and “tied” in the sewing process, but also how to make the machines move more quietly and smoothly during usage and much more.
In a special Lab they use high speed cameras making movies with 8000 pictures in a second and we could see exactly how and when the needle moves down and up and leaves a small bow with the thread where the circling part of the lower thread compartment can grab it and “tie it” together.
In the same video they can listen to the high end microphones and check if there are some uneven or straining movements and redirect this to the development engineers to improve the machine accordingly.
Also what we visited was a room where they stress test the machines and let them run under full speed and usage. It was incredibly loud there but a made a video. So however loud it may sound on your computer, just double or triple it :-)
VIDEO LINKED HERE
After that we went further to see the production of the machines, the electronic parts and programming, the logistics and distribution and finally the showroom with all its various types for many industries, not only textile.
But this will be continued in the next blog – stay tuned !