Best of the Best 2007: Custom Clothing: Bespoke Apparel

  • Montblanc Cashmere in Leather double-gusset alligator briefcase, $14,300; Perry Ercolino tasseled saltwater crocodile loafer, $6,800 per pair; Bill Niemczyk for Wm. Julian sharkskin belt, $280, and Mark Kielty sterling silver Paladin buckle set, $610.
  • Alexander Kabbaz cotton dress shirts, $750 to $1,050; Bespoke David Chu 12-fold silk neckties, $275 each.
<< Back to Robb Report, June 2007
  • William Kissel

Cesare Attolini
Bespoke David Chu *  Ravazzolo

Major brands have expanded the proportions of their suits to allow for greater ease of movement, but Cesare Attolini holds to the theory that the closer the cloth is to the body, the more elegant, and comfortable, the fit. Therefore, for fall, he further narrowed the waist, shoulders, and lapels of his already razor-slim S-model suits and topcoats. Attolini makes his suits from resilient English wools and Scottish cashmeres instead of the airy wool fabrics that have become popular. He pairs the sturdier materials with incredibly lightweight interior constructions, featuring horsehair linings, to create garments that fit like a second skin.
Cesare Attolini,, distributed by Ellegi, 212.246.7034
When he entered the bespoke clothing business last summer, former Nautica founder and designer David Chu partnered with Neapolitan tailor Giovanni Natale, who sews by hand every slim-fitting suit in Bespoke David Chu (212.277.6400,, a collection that uses only premium wools and superspun cashmeres. Ravazzolo (; through Luciano Moresco, 718.884.3303) developed a computer system that links retailers directly with the Italian factory. With this new technology, your precise specifications can start generating an accurate pattern at the suitmaker in Italy even before you have left a store in America.

Perry Ercolino
John Lobb * Michael Toschi

Perry Ercolino is one of few shoemakers capable of crafting what is called a whole cut shoe—one produced from a single piece of leather cut into the shape of a shoe and stitched together with a single seam at the heel. Ercolino’s collection, made by hand in Pennsylvania and sold through custom tailor Leonard Logsdail in New York, includes oxfords and wingtips with antique-looking finishes.
Perry Ercolino,, through Leonard Logsdail, 212.752.5030

The legend of St. Crispin, the patron saint of shoemakers, has not been forgotten by John Lobb (212. 888.9797,, which introduces a special-edition shoe collection (limited to 1,000 pairs annually) on October 25. On that date in or about the year 288, Crispin, who preached about the evils of material possessions by day, was beheaded, after it was discovered that he spent his nights making shoes. This fall, Michael Toschi (877.686.7244, will introduce his Vecchia Mano (old hand) collection, which is handmade to your specifications in Italy using French calf, llama, and other exotic skins. Toschi sells the collection through a small number of premier retailers and at what he calls “private acquisition parties,” events held in private homes.

Alexander Kabbaz
Ascot Chang * Paris Custom Shirtmakers

Alexander Kabbaz says crafting one of his custom dress shirts from superfine 200—one of the world’s finest and costliest cottons—is like “sewing melted butter as it runs down a stream.” Therefore, he notes, it is essential that the pattern be precise before he begins cutting and sewing the cloth. After multiple fittings, Kabbaz produces a sample shirt for you to try, to ensure that the fit of the final shirts meets your expectations.  Alexander Kabbaz, 631.267.7909, 

To ensure sewing consistency, each shirt from Paris Custom Shirtmakers (212.695.3563) in New York is produced by a single seamstress. Furthermore, owner Atam Sahmanian inspects every shirt for quality and fit before it leaves his New York City workshop. For its new Hand Stitched shirt line, Ascot Chang (212.759.3333, uses only Sea Island cotton or even finer fabrics selected from its cache of 4,000 cloth samples. Compared to one of the company’s standard models, each Hand Stitched shirt incorporates an additional 2,000 stitches in the cuffs and armholes.

Bespoke David Chu
Seven-fold neckwear seems almost ordinary compared to designer David Chu’s custom-made 12-fold ties, which are constructed from a single piece of solid-colored or printed silk folded 12 times and held in place with a single silk thread that is sewn by hand down the spine. The collective folds of silk retain the tie’s shape, eliminating the need for a bulky lining.  Bespoke David Chu, 212.277.6400,

Bill Niemczyk for Wm. Julian straps and Mark Kielty buckles
Kiton * Martin Dingman

Custom leather craftsman Bill Niemczyk has produced prototypes for Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, but he saves his best skins and techniques for his own Wm. Julian label. Each strap is cut by hand from French calf, shark, ostrich, or another exotic material, then dyed and finished with four applications of a lacquerlike coating to enrich the skin’s color and retain its suppleness. Niemczyk then uses 19th-century forging irons to set the chemicals into the leather.

Silversmith Mark Kielty also employs old-fashioned techniques. Kielty casts, grinds, sands, and polishes every made-to-order sterling silver or 18-karat-gold buckle, which can have as many as 17 beveled surfaces.
Wm. Julian, 860.844.8440, Mark Kielty, 360.385.5370,
When Kiton (212.813.0272, could not find suitable-quality belts to pair with its bespoke footwear, the Italian clothing maker established its own factory in Naples to craft one-of-a-kind straps from crocodile and sharkskin in various colors and finishes. Kiton appoints each made-to-order strap with a custom sterling silver or 18-karat-gold buckle designed to your specifications. British goldsmith John Flitton, whom Queen Elizabeth II has commissioned for engravings, is at your service when you purchase a solid silver buckle from Martin Dingman’s (800.955.2358, M2 collection, which also features colored alligator straps. Flitton will engrave a monogram or message on the buckle.

Montblanc Cashmere in Leather
Ralph Lauren Purple Label Made to Order * Stefano Ricci

Montblanc’s Cashmere in Leather collection of briefcases, wallets, card holders, and portfolios is so named because of the softness of the materials, which include American alligator lined with supple calfskin. Master craftsmen at the German company, best known for its writing instruments, spend as long as four months working on each piece, which can be customized in size and shape and with details such as monograms.
Montblanc, 800.995.4810,
The Ralph Lauren Purple Label Made to Order (888.475.7674, collection of luggage and leather goods includes a complete set of crocodile-skin luggage and a crocodile legal briefcase, both appointed with sterling silver handles and closures. The pieces can be customized with your choice of colors, linings, engravings, and other details. The line is sold only at Ralph Lauren stores in New York, Chicago, and, starting this fall, Beverly Hills. Stefano Ricci (212.371.3901, enlisted a father-and-son team of custom leather crafters in Florence, Italy, to produce his new line of crocodile luggage, bags, and briefcases, each of which is limited to fewer than 36 pieces per year.

Scabal Private Line
Dormeuil’s Vanquish
For its new Private Line collection of lightweight Super 180 wool and wool/cashmere cloths, Belgian fabric maker Scabal employs new technology to weave your name or words of your choice into the pinstripes of the cloth. You can select from two fonts, Cyrillic or Roman, and the length and poignancy of the message is virtually limitless.
Scabal,, available through Fabric Czar, 212.475.6666


Dormeuil’s Vanquish (800.416. 4144, combines the two most precious fibers, vicuña and pashmina, in one extremely limited supercloth. Vanquish is woven from fibers that are eight times finer than human hair, and at $5,000 per yard, it is the world’s most expensive fabric.

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