Italian tailors have been chipping away at Britain’s suitmaking legacy for decades. First they appropriated the classic English silhouette with its cinched waist and fitted shoulders, and then they tweaked the construction by removing the shoulder padding and lightening the interior linings for a softer fit. Most recently, Italian-made menswear infiltrated the last bastion of British tailoring, Savile Row, when Scabal introduced its No. 12 collection, named for the address of the cloth and fashion brand’s only store, located on the renowned London street.
Since 1975, Scabal has produced its mostly machine-made collection in Germany. But over the past year—as the 70-year-old Belgian company remodeled its Savile Row shop with ebonized wood cabinetry, a neoclassical fireplace, and sleek metal and black leather Le Corbusier furnishings—Scabal added the more exclusive No. 12 collection of suits, which are made by hand in Italy. The suits are intended to complement the chic new environment of the store, which also has a VIP room that showcases the brand’s premium wool fabrics, some embedded with 22-karat gold or diamond chips.
Neil Hart, president of Scabal in the United States, points out that it is not unusual for Savile Row suitmakers to outsource production, because British tailors often work independently and produce only one or two suits per week. “Very little tailoring actually happens on Savile Row anymore,” he explains. “The fabric might get measured and cut here, but most companies then send it to tailors working elsewhere to be made into suits.”
Scabal owner Jan Peter Thissen and his son, Gregor, who is CEO,considered producing No. 12 suits in England, but they ultimately contracted with a tailoring operation in Sardinia, Italy. British suitmakers, says Hart in explaining that decision, “don’t have the infrastructure like the Italians do to deal with any sort of quantity.” In addition to its London store, Scabal will offer No. 12 at more than a dozen shops throughout Europe, and eventually the suits will be sold in the United States.
When purchasing one of Scabal’s standard made-to-measure suits or one from the No. 12 collection, you can select from more than 5,000 cloth samples, including the company’s new Super 250s wool Summit cloth, priced at $2,700 a yard. While a suit produced by machine in Germany can be completed in about four hours, a No. 12 suit requires as much as 24 hours of labor. The Italian-made garments also incorporate less shoulder padding and finer camel hair, lambswool, or horsehair inner linings—or no linings at all—to create suits that are softer and more comfortable than traditional English fashions. Double-stitched buttonholes and working sleeve buttons also come standard on No. 12 jackets; with Scabal’s main collection, such details cost extra. However, more options are available when you purchase a less-expensive Scabal-label suit. “We designed No. 12 for the more elegant, sophisticated man who is less attracted by the possibility of having colorful linings and colored threads on his buttonholes,” explains Hart, adding that starting prices for No. 12 suits ($2,400 for ready-made and $3,600 for made-to-measure) are about 50 percent higher than those of suits in the Scabal collection.
Hart maintains that although the No. 12 suits are made on an island in the Mediterranean, they still project the quintessential Savile Row style. “Essentially we’ve combined two influences,” he says. “The fabrics and the shapely tailoring are very English, but to get the best workmanship, we went to Italy.”
Scabal, +44.207.734.8963, www.scabal.com