Best of the Best 2011: Sportswear: Brioni

    Brioni is best known for the exceptionally tailored, classically cut suits it has been making since 1945. But in the last few years, it has also become a surprisingly inventive maker of sportswear. And this year, the house has come into its own with outstanding casual pieces that express utter comfort and luxury. One of the most memorable is fall’s matte-finish crocodile blouson jacket, made with skin that has been manipulated to create an unexpectedly smooth, soft, and feather-light garment. To achieve such pliability, the jacket’s craftsman must possess incredible fortitude, skiving the pricey hide to razor thinness while knowing that a single miscalculated cut could relegate the five-figure coat to the scrap bin.

    At the same time the luxury Italian clothier was developing methods to lighten crocodile as well as leather and shearling outerwear, it was taking the opposite approach to sport coats. Brioni’s herringbone, twill, and tweed were once hailed for their airy-thin weaves and wondrous weightlessness, but the latest versions are executed with an ever-so-slightly heavier hand, typical of English textiles from a bygone era. As a result, says co-owner Antonella de Simone, the line that once separated tailored clothing and casual wear has been transformed into a seamless approach to contemporary dressing. "A lot of our sportswear this year incorporates fabrics from our tailored clothing," she says, "whereas pockets once used exclusively for outerwear can now be found on our sport coats."

    Indeed, the company also has introduced a range of sport coats, including the Brunico, a shorter, leaner jacket with a high waist. It is the perfect layering piece for the man who keeps his attention to detail, even on the weekends.

    Brioni, 888.778.8775, www.brioni.com

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