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Best of the Best 2002: Style: Best Sportswear

William Kissel

Shirt Story
You could say that Robert Talbott’s handmade cashmere and cashmere/ mink Estate Collection sport shirts were 50 years in the making. Launched in 2000 to coincide with the California company’s golden anniversary, these ultraluxe shirts, priced from $2,600 to $2,800, represented a new frontier for a label originally known for its handmade, seven-fold silk neckwear.

Talbott expanded into dress shirts 12 years ago when it acquired Lucerne Shirt Co., a small, Houston shirtmaker that Talbott promptly moved to its Carmel headquarters. The extraordinary sport shirts that evolved from that acquisition have been so successful that the firm recently pushed the Estate Collection still further with a new assortment of $3,200 to $3,500 solid-colored Orylag models. Orylag—a plush fabric produced from the short-napped fur of an animal that is descended from the chinchilla—is more precious than cashmere and most frequently used in women’s haute couture. Talbott is the only men’s ready-to-wear company in the world to produce sport shirts made of Orylag, and it holds an exclusive on the fabric through Holland & Sherry, one of England’s premier textile manufacturers.

Estate by Robert Talbott, 800.747.8778, www.roberttalbott.com

Smarty Pants
Ever since Kiton owner Ciro Paone purchased much of the Duke of Windsor’s wardrobe at auction four years ago, he has been on a mission to build a better pair of pants. Many of Edward VIII’s intricately detailed slacks included—among other frills—cotton underpinnings that buttoned into the waistband. Kiton now produces a connoisseur’s trouser with the same type of detachable built-in boxer shorts favored by the Duke. That clever, cumbersome, costly—and quite optional—detail illustrates just how much thought goes into each pair of Kiton pants.

Kiton slacks are flawless works of art incorporating hand-stitched belt loops that are sewn inside the waistband rather than on top for greater strength, hand-sewn buttonholes throughout, and a special bar tack that maintains the straight line of the fly. The Duke would surely have been amused by one peculiar feature that is exclusive to Kiton: a hidden pocket that is accessible only through the fly.

Kiton, +81.5733175, 212.265.1995, www.kiton.it

Knitpickers
Men have worn knitwear to escape the obligation of shirt and tie ever since Noël Coward set the precedent. Over the years, few knitwear companies have managed to keep up with technical innovations as diligently as Avon Celli. The 80-year-old knitter has a repertoire that vacillates between the surreal and the sublime—from chunky 24-ply cashmere pullovers to micro-thin “millionaire” cashmere polos, which are knitted on 36-gauge machines once used to make women’s silk hosiery.

The company, now owned by the husband-and-wife team of Giordano Piovaccari and Paola Bersani, has led the pack by investing in technol-ogy that enables Avon Celli to twist its own innovative yarn combinations. As a result, Avon Celli remains consistently at the forefront, developing new knit notions such as winter-weight cashmere polar fleece (a material that was originally made from recycled plastic bottles) and its exclusive piqué-like ceramic silk for summer that reflects heat to reduce body temperature.

Avon Celli, 212.246.6022, www.avoncelli.com

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Photo by Ted Morrison
Photo by Chris Weeks