Best of the Best 2007: Menswear Collections: Luciano Barbera
Two labels are sewn inside each suit in Luciano Barbera’s fall tailored clothing collection; one bears Barbera’s name, and the other displays the signature of the tailor who made that particular garment. “Each one of our suits is produced by a single tailor,” says Barbera, explaining that he includes the name of that craftsman so you can make a more intimate connection with his company. The concept recalls a time when men of means employed personal tailors who would make suits that compensated for their body flaws or integrated such details as working sleeve buttons, a boutonniere holder under a lapel, or extra interior pockets—all of which are options for a modern Barbera suit.
In addition to including some customization, Barbera’s suits are shaped to fit comfortably in key areas: across the back, at the waist, and in the sleeves. “A man doesn’t have a straight arm, he has a slightly bent arm,” says Barbera, explaining the slight boomerang shape of his suits’ sleeves. “We imagined our jackets should follow the natural inclination of a gentleman’s arms.” With their slightly roped shoulders, higher notched lapels, and tapered hips, Barbera’s suits reference the work of Milanese tailor Mario Caraceni. However, Barbera’s are constructed by hand in a lighter, less structured manner by Neapolitan tailors. Carlo Barbera, the family-owned textile mill that is named for Luciano’s father and is located in Biella, Italy, supplies the tailors with superfine wools, cashmeres, and flannels.
Growing up around his family’s business gave Luciano extensive knowledge of textiles, and after graduating from high school, he moved to England, where he worked in mills and studied every aspect of fabric production, from combing and spinning to weaving and finishing. Thus, Highland colors of moss green and umber are prominent in Carlo Barbera’s Italian-made cloths, as are the rich textures characteristic of cloths made in the United Kingdom. But because of the proprietary weaving and finishing methods Luciano invented, Barbera fabrics weigh half as much as their English prototypes.
Operating his own textile mill allows Barbera to develop unusual fabrics for his apparel collection. “We always start by thinking about the end use when we design a fabric,” says Barbera. “So if we want to produce a suit, it has to be a wool, cashmere, or flannel, and a tuxedo will always be made from a barathea, an extrathin wool with a fine texture. Whereas if we are making a topcoat, we might create a heavy herringbone cashmere.”
Still, Barbera’s attention to detail stands out even more than do the wicking characteristics of his new microfiber raincoat lined in shearling, the sumptuousness of a washed cashmere pullover, or the durability of a double-faced, suede-trimmed wool overshirt. “It’s my dream to give the impression that we take no detail for granted,” he says, noting that this goal applies to all aspects of his collection—which includes leather outerwear, knitwear, golfwear, neckwear, and footwear. (The latter is produced in collaboration with Moreschi.)
So that the garments are comfortable and warm, Barbera lines his new wool/cashmere/baby camel herringbone topcoat in brushed cotton flannel, and he incorporates a removable shearling vest into his washed melton cashmere car coat. In a novel approach to knitwear, Barbera referenced fanciful foulard and minijacquard designs from neckwear patterns and adapted them to cashmere sweaters. Also, the insides of button plackets and collars on his knit shirts are made of the same chalk-striped cashmere cloth used to fashion Barbera suits. “It’s important that every single piece in the collection offers something special,” he responds when questioned about his favorite items. “It’s like asking a man, ‘Which is your favorite child?’ It simply can’t be done.”