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Wardrobe: Suit Yourself

William Kissel

Only a handful of stores and tailors construct bespoke suits of the highest quality—suits tailored to fit the client like a second skin. This deficiency in the marketplace contributes to what Italian textile maven Luca Trabaldo Togna sees as a lack of men who truly appreciate the fine art of bespoke tailoring. He hopes to remedy this situation at his recently opened New York atelier, Santandrea, where he imparts to clients his knowledge of luxury fabrics and suitmaking.

Trabaldo Togna’s shop is not for hurried businessmen in search of a quick stop to have their measurements taken and place an order. The stylish, by-appointment Santandrea showroom caters to men who are willing to dedicate at least a few hours to exploring fabrics, the precision cut of a suit, and the fine details that separate a made-to-measure suit from a customized ensemble.

"We want to give a gentleman the pleasure of going to a place for two or three hours to understand the differences between one cloth and another," says Trabaldo Togna. He encourages his clients to explore alternatives when selecting cloths—to play with options and ideas, much as he does when developing new fabrics at his textile factory in Biella, Italy. In fact, he is known for collecting discarded scraps of cloth, which he employs in his endless experimentation. One "experiment gone wrong," as he calls it, ultimately led to the creation of Estrato, a signature line of natural fabrics in stretch wool, cashmere, and mohair that derive their flexibility from a unique weave rather than from elastic.

Trabaldo Togna’s New York atelier mirrors the mood of his first Santandrea showroom, which opened in Milan three years ago and was remodeled last year. Located in Midtown, the loftlike space with brick walls is decorated with cozy club chairs and striking black-and-white photographs of a Santandrea tailor’s hands at work. Trabaldo Togna sought to create a private environment that invites clients to relax with a glass of wine while discussing the details of a suit with Evan D’Addario, managing director for North America—or even Trabaldo Togna himself, who divides his time between Biella, Milan, and New York.

As one might expect of a fifth-generation textile guru, Trabaldo Togna begins by educating his clients on fine fabrics, explaining the various nuances of durable super 130 wools, fine cashmere, wool/silk, and other complex blends. He points out that many suitmakers advise clients to select cloth by color and pattern while steering them away from ultrathin or overly springy cloths that they consider to be too difficult to work with. At Santandrea, he says, the tailor is not present during the consultation process, so there is no one to tell a client that something cannot be done.

Once a client has selected a fabric, Trabaldo Togna encourages him to step into the role of designer and craft his signature suit from a multitude of options. Among the numerous choices are surgeon’s cuffs with working buttonholes, side or center vents, peaked or notched lapels, and pleated or unpleated trousers. The suits—which are priced from $4,000 and require approximately six weeks to construct—are produced in Trabaldo Togna’s Italian workshop and then delivered to the New York showroom for the final fitting. Trabaldo Togna says that his clients derive as much pleasure from the finished product as from the process—and from the knowledge that they played the leading part in designing their own suit.

 

Santandrea, 212.582.4400, www.st-santandrea.it

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Copyright by catwalking.com
Photo by Ted Morrison