These are glorious days for the suit. The boxy, floppy jackets and loose, pleated trousers of yesteryear have been shunted in favor of suits with lean cuts and sharp profiles. The latest look is more youthful, modern, and flattering to men of every age and physique. Whether the wearer goes to the gym or not, today’s suit has—and the results are striking.
Traditional styles like the three-piece suit and double-breasted jacket are reappearing, but the current versions are lightened by trim lines contoured to the body. Jackets are cut a bit shorter, while trousers are narrow, tapered, and accented (if at all) by a single, neat pleat at the waist. The result is both conservative and edgy—enough so that men are beginning to incorporate their own after-hours sense of style into their business attire. One may wear a three-piece suit, for example, without the jacket, while another may prefer to add a shot of color with a vibrant shirt and pocket square. Either way, men are now wearing suits long after the workday is over, thanks to soft and super-lightweight fabrics that have made them supremely comfortable, despite the closer fits. Performance textiles resist wrinkles and maintain their shape while still appearing dapper. And specially designed salons that feel more like private lairs than shops, such as those established by Brioni, Cesare Attolini, and Kiton, have made the experience of being fitted for a suit a pleasure. At Ralph Lauren’s Madison Avenue location, clients can unwind in a cozy living room with a glass of whiskey while assessing fabrics, and at Cesare Attolini’s shop, they can sip a glass of Champagne during a fitting. Taking their cue from the world of women’s couture, men’s brands have created unique retail experiences that make shopping a recreational pursuit.
The impeccable lines of this season’s suits require the precision of made-to-measure tailoring. This experience begins with a consultation with a tailor, who asks a number of questions pertinent to the wearer’s personality and lifestyle before making recommendations. For example, the new super-lightweight materials may be enticing, but they are probably not the best choice for an active man. “We favor hardy, traditional English fabrics that are resilient and hold their shape,” says Enrico Libani, CEO of the Neapolitan suitmaker Cesare Attolini. Superfine materials are best for social occasions, says Brioni’s North American CEO, Todd Barrato, who recommends everyday suits in sturdier textiles such as the brand’s new high-twist 100 percent wool, which has the soft and slightly luminous characteristics of mohair. “This fabric is practically creaseless and good for men who travel,” he says.
Brioni is among the brands that have begun to partner with textile mills to create innovative fabrics, such as a wool blended with silk to lend it a subtle luster. Kiton acquired the Carlo Barbera mills in Biella, Italy, 3 years ago and is also developing new durable materials that deliver a soft, supple feel yet hold their shape. The pinnacle of softness, however, remains vicuña, which Kiton weaves at Carlo Barbera. This year, Kiton unveiled a new patterned vicuña fabric, which starts at about $40,000 for a made-to-measure suit.
After the fabric is selected, the tailor measures the client and then reviews with him all of the options for the suit’s construction—from lining and pockets to buttons and collars. Approximately 6 to 8 weeks after the order is placed, the suit arrives at the retail location for the final fitting and alterations. At Cesare Attolini, where made-to-measure suits start at $6,900, sleeves are formed to exactly fit the arm, tapered at the wrist, and given extra flexibility at the shoulder for movement. “If the jacket follows the anatomy of the body, it allows for ease of movement,” says Libani.
At the pinnacle of fine suitmaking is the master tailor, who undergoes years of training to learn how to skillfully hand sew a suit from start to finish. To meet the growing demand for handmade suits, houses like Kiton and Brioni have set up their own schools to instruct the next generation in the art of tailoring. Brioni’s Barrato expects the desire for sleeker, trimmer suits to continue to grow, especially among American men, who have recently begun to appreciate a more European aesthetic. With new fabrics and silhouettes that are more comfortable, he says, “American men are enjoying getting dressed up in a suit for the office and going out.”
Master of the House
At the pinnacle of fine suitmaking is the master tailor, who undergoes years of training to learn how to skillfully hand sew a suit from start to finish. The finest suitmakers send these exceptional craftsmen around the globe to meet individually with top clients, who reap the sartorial benefits of being measured and fitted for a suit by the very person who will likely hand sew the garment at the workshop.
Brioni employs seven master tailors in its remote workshop in Penne, a few hours outside Rome. One of them, Gianni Serpentini, was recently dispatched to the brand’s New York stores to fit leading clients. The 39-year-old Serpentini is a second-generation tailor: Both of his parents worked for Brioni, and he began apprenticing with them at age 14. Outfitted in an exceptionally trim, formfitting three-piece suit, he moves with grace and speed, assessing the dimensions and movements of each client. “Small adjustments make a big difference in a suit,” he says, noting that he needs to know the finest details, such as which pocket a man uses for his wallet and phone (in order to add extra support) and whether he plays tennis (one side of the body will likely be slightly larger than the other). When asked how long a Brioni jacket will last, he is quick to answer, almost in despair: “Too long.”
Vitale Barberis Canonico (www.vitalebarberiscanonico.it), one of the world’s oldest operating textile mills, is nestled among the foothills of the Alps in the Piedmont region of Italy, where fresh mountain waters are used to process high-quality wool. Though the family-held company celebrates its 350th anniversary this year, it is in no way out of step with modern times. The mill’s wide range of fabrics includes innovative blends and weaves, lightweight wools, and performance textiles, as well as traditional tweeds and wools that have been in the archives for generations. To mark the anniversary, the mill unveiled a capsule collection of three fabrics, each recalling an important piece of the past: The one named Invincible is a traditional worsted wool that is soft and light, with a fineness of just 17.5 microns; Pinnacle is made in a number of miniaturized patterns from the archives; and Intrepid is a sturdy weave in a weighty fabric for the active man. Vitale Barberis Canonico’s fabrics are distributed the world over to small ateliers, Savile Row tailors, and top luxury brands such as the ones profiled on these pages.
Brioni 888.778.8775, www.brioni.com
Cartier 800.227.8437, www.cartier.us
Cesare Attolini 646.707.3006, www.cesareattolini.com
Falke available at Neiman Marcus, 877.634.6263, www.neimanmarcus.com
Fratelli Rossetti 212.888.5107, www.fratellirossetti.com
Kiton 212.813.0272, www.kiton.it
Oxxford 312.829.3600, www.oxxfordclothes.com
Paul Stuart 800.678.8278, www.paulstuart.com
Richard James available at Mr Porter, 877.535.3677, www.mrporter.com
Tom Ford 212.359.0300, www.tomford.com
Vacheron Constantin 877.701.1755, www.vacheron-constantin.com
Digital Technician: Joseph Borduin
Photo Assistant: Luke Dickey
Stylist’s Assistants: Marc Anthony George and Amanda Pesca
Model: Zhao Lei, Ford Models
Groomer: Luke Baker at Jed Root
Tailor: Isa Kriegeskotte at Christy Rilling Studio
Captions: Christina Garofalo