FERDINANDO CARACENI: THE PRINCE

 

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Ferdinando Caraceni is alive and well. Under the tutelage of his daughter Nicoletta, the house produces prodigious garments that are perhaps closer to Domenico Caraceni’s DNA, more than anyone else, although not related to the Caracenis. He trained with several masters, eventually cutting for Augusto Caraceni before setting out on his own.
I call him Prince Ferdinando, because Domenico was the King. That being said, Ferdinando was a dashing gentleman and was the best billboard for his namesake. He wore a double breast like no one else. So natural and extremely elegant. Its the high armhole, the slim bodice with no bellowing of the chest. Really the only way to wear the double breast.

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Double breasted could be so overpowering or rakish. Heavy shoulder padding or extended shoulders don’t help the matter. This Ferdinando Caraceni is a masterful example of what the double breast should be. The proportions are perfect. There are some similarities with an A. Caraceni double breast and that of a Ferdinando. Both have gently padded shoulders with subtle roped sleeve heads adhering to the Milanese sentiment. The lapels have similar belly or curvature. A Caraceni peaks which sometimes extends more than Ferdinando and the degree of peak has more variations. Also distinct on the A. Caraceni on occasion is when the jacket is striped the striping will be less parallel to the outer edge of the lapel.

The Ferdinand Caraceni double breast is still truly one of the most flattering examples to be had. Exhausting superlatives, you bet. It’s a jacket that’s masculine, elegant, very sexy, yet understated. To be sexy and be dressed as a true gentleman, FC is difficult to match. They’re still around and they have not veered. They’re not concerned with branding, and their operation is small and all in house. True heritage with low production, what bespoke should be.

The Ferdinand peak is brilliant, always consistent, always the proper amount of separation from the collar. Ferdinand Caraceni is a proper bench made jacket, always hand padded.

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What’s quite intriguing about this example is that it was executed for a 35 short gentleman, and the scale and proportions are just perfect. Many celebrated and quite revered tailors often miss the mark when the scale is out of the general range of the standard size. It still looks brilliant in this smaller size, but can’t button on the standard form creating its own sprazzatura.

All the elements of a great sartoria bearing a most legendary name still going strong. Viva Ferdiando Caraceni.

 

 

 

 

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ULDERICO BASILI ROMA: MORE CARACENI THAN CARACENI

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There are times when the essence of craft is elevated beyond the mentor. In the world of bench tailoring, the house, as legendary as it may be, is only as good as the trained tailors they take on. Those tailors perpetuate the name and everything it represents. This means that there is consistency when one decides to go to Anderson & Sheppard, A. Caraceni, or any other renowned tailor. When one sees a jacket from theses makers, it’s generally easily identified. But through examination over the years, some jackets will stand out even though they have the same label. Those variations are a function of the human element. Even though they are all master tailors under the auspices of such revered houses, some tailors just stand out. Generally, all the garments turned out by these wonderful tailors are lovely and there is a familiarity albeit the boutonniere, the cap of the shoulder, the interior skirting of the waistband, giving you the assurance that your body is surrounded by the name you’ve paid dearly to enwrap you.

However sometimes, there is an element to a garment that you can’t put your finger on. Yes, it’s Caraceni, but a little different, it can’t be pinpointed.

A case study in refined, very elegant Roman tailoring can be proudly represented by Signor Ulderico Basili. Ulderico Basili? Who’s that? Ulderico Basili was a Roman master tailor who apprenticed with the Roman chapter of Caraceni. Like many great tailors, he eventually set out on his own, creating proper jackets that did not veer from what is classical or elegant. Like many others, Basili distinguished himself with details and quality of finish. Most never became famous and pass into obscurity, but leave behind garments to marvel and respect, for anyone who cares.

In this suit Ulderico Basili becomes almost more Caraceni than Caraceni. What the hell does that even mean? If Tommy and Giulio Caraceni personify the Roman jacket, then the story stops there. However, the contributors to Roman tailoring go beyond one label or person. With this example of Roman tailoring, Basili stays within the Roman vernacular, but brought his own take. This is brought about through exquisite hand work. A boutonniere which is so beautiful, not necessarily unique in itself, but more beautiful than most. Tight tear drop, raised, delicate, yet bulletproof. The rest of the jacket again indicates classical Roman tailoring at its best.

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What defines the Roman jacket? This is more difficult in today’s world of tailoring. There are so many wonderful new tailors today, in addition to the old vanguard. That being said, there seems to be some convolution as to the provenance of a jacket. With soft tailoring the rigour, the sartorial dialect becomes hazy. This also goes for gorge height and collar to lapel ratios. In the contemporary world of tailoring, many don’t care. They want to look good and up to date. There is a certain banality with some of what is being turned out today. Perhaps following trend, but like a Caraceni variant, it’s hard to put a finger on it.

So what is the Roman jacket? I think Ulderico Basili embraces la giacca Romana as it was meant to be. The juxtaposition of the Roman vs. Milanese was always distinct. The shoulder pitch is slightly different. The Roman being less sloped. The shoulder does have slightly more padding on the Roman shoulder, but it’s purposeful and in tune with the silhouette, not meant to build the wearer up.

The sleeve head has very subtle roping, and is not rounded like the Milanese counterpart. Generally the gorge height or notch would be slightly higher on the Milanese jacket. This in turn creates more of an open fish mouth on the notch of the Roman examples.

A true Roman jacket. I’m sure Mr. Basili would  be pleased to know someone’s admiring his most sublime work.

 

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SAVILE ROW? NO, CHEO!

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Years ago there was a window on East 60th Street, 30 E 60th Street to be exact. In that window, there was always a covert wool chesterfield coat draped on a dress form. In the summer months it would be a seersucker jacket on the same form. These were distinct garments that did not resemble anything that other retail windows in the neighborhood had to offer. That same chesterfield just standing prominently in the window year after year. There was a mystique and beauty to it. Anyone with any interest in clothing would want to look beyond the coat on the form, for beyond the chesterfield, was an elegantly dressed Asian gentleman, toiling around a table with scissors, chalk, and a ruler.

The Asian gentleman cutting on that table was Korean born master tailor Mr. Chewoo Park. And, yes, Mr. Cheo trained on Savile Row with, among others, Anderson & Sheppard.

Some of the rather fine garments that Cheo has turned out through the years could be dead ringers for Anderson & Sheppard. Everything from the soft canvasing and drape, delicate needle work, shifted darts, non roped shoulders, and white sleeve lining with patterned three navy stripes all reflect a tailor who adheres to a Savile Row aesthetic.

Although that window no longer features the work of Cheo, he still cuts at 30 East 60th Street, but now he’s moved upstairs. In his prime, Mr. Cheo was part of a trinity of Savile Row transplants who decided to set up shop in New York City. Along with Bernard Weatherill and Leonard Logsdail, Mr. Cheo offered an authentic Savile Row suit.

Mr. Cheo is a proper bench tailor. A true cutter and pattern drafter. If his buttonholes were ever done off premises, they are consistently done by a Savile Row trained tailor. The buttonholes never vary and are done in a manner that is consistent and true to the Row. Cheo’s garments are elegant, very refined, and quite expensive. His patterns are precise. Out of all the New York tailors I’ve evaluated through the years, his work has never wavered and it is always pleasing to my eye.

Aside from the cut, drape, and finish, Cheo’s trim is authentic and proper British detailing. The under collar is in correct wool flannel gauze, a staple on the Row, as are the beveled genuine horn buttons and the crisp taffeta lining.

This jacket is a wonderful example of Cheo’s work. Mr. Cheo turns out jackets with more standard placed darts, as well as darts that are shifted to the side seams in the style of Anderson & Sheppard. Other cues to A&S is the shoulder, which is very soft and has no roping to the sleeve head. The other features that has elements of A&S is the notch and the higher roll on the three button. Generally, Anderson & Sheppard three buttons have a high roll, although they can do three roll to two and half. In comparison to a previous blog where I featured an A&S Navy chalk stripe suit that shows the high three button roll, Mr. Cheo’s three button is a superb model of how the three button should be done, and in the A&S vein. The lapel rolls just upon the top hole. It meets the hole in a gracious manner, it’s not flat or dead, very natural. When not done properly, the three buttons is forced, it becomes a dead garment. A pert buttonhole also enhances the aesthetic.

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BEAUTIFUL BOUTONNIERE

The boutonniere is the eye of the jacket, and it can reveal the soul of a garment. Take the label out of a jacket, and the boutonniere is the clue to it’s origins. When not used for the requisite flower on a wedding day or a pin for some proclaimed pride, the boutonniere in it’s naked form is there on the lapel to be seen, and hopefully to be admired.  99% of the world couldn’t care less about what someone is wearing, let alone a boutonniere. However it is quite reassuring for that 1%. When you look in the mirror, it’s so pleasing, it stands out, it accentuates, it has life. Clothing needs to fit in order to be elegant. However, the details take it to another level. A level that is waning. Touch your boutonniere at least once a day. Let it know that you care.

Boutonniere’s on bespoke garments are very distinct, and often quite unique. Some ready to wear garments also offer some sublime examples. Believe it or not, there are even some chop shop made to measure tailoring firms, that sub their work out to Chinese factories, that produce passable bouttonniere’s. Some of the boutonniere’s I have seen could pass for Milanese or Neapolitan, as well as the rest of the buttonholes on the garment. However in the end, nothing beats the real thing.

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REX ORDINE SAVILII

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Self-indulgent as Prince of Wales and self-indulgent as would-be king just hanging out. Which leads to the question: Is a man who is so consumed by his clothing shallow? A gentleman does not speak of his clothing, or discuss who his tailor is. It is a private, very personal endeavor. But when you are born to be King Edward VIII, The Duke of Windsor, deciding to make dress one of your life’s vocations, you will only magnify what you wear for the rest of your life.

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Separating the man from the Duke may not be easy to do. Edward’s decision to bail his birthright obligation did not necessarily give him the free reign to become the most stylish gentleman of the 20th century. He already had free reign, and had he taken the throne would have essentially dressed the same way, since his proclivities to dress were inherent at an early age. But idle living lends itself to wonderful opportunities to self-indulgence, and in self-indulging the Duke began a wonderful collaboration with a true tailoring genius in Frederick Scholte. This was a true collaboration for it appears that Edward would not take dictating to, and would not surrender to a given house style. He was not only elegant, but was truly modern in his approach of dress. What the guard at the time raised their eyebrows to, or considered to be rakish is a style truly laid the foundation of what gentleman wear today. One might disagree, but Edward was not a dandy, nor a peacock. He was a stylish dresser, he dressed for himself and it was natural, pure and simple, not costume. Plaids, windowpanes, checks, stripes, spectators, bright colors – they all worked, and it was all him. No stylist, no fashion guru, all him just knowing what worked.

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This chap could have run a the label of labels especially with his wife as CEO.

Getting back to the true genius in this sartorial collaboration we must address Mr. Frederick Scholte.  Everything is brilliantly thought out: from shoulder pitch, to sleeve head to collar lapel ratio, and to button stance. The Scholte sloper and pattern was the paradigm for what Anderson & Sheppard was to become. His shoulder is still the standard.

The lovely 1997 Sotheby’s catalogue for the Duke and Dutchess of Windsor is a must-have for anyone with a passion for true Savile Row tailoring. It’s more interesting than coffee table books, which are glossy and offer the same cliche B.S. This catalogue gives a story and a timeline to the legendary style king himself.

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Frederick Scholte was an incomparable master tailor and the focus was the coat. This houndstooth check suit was executed in 1932. Cut slightly on the shorter side. The Duke always favored the four on two double breast, welted bessom pockets and side vents along with non-vented on occasion. This jacket is a lovely example of the Scholte shoulder and cut. Natural shoulder line with modest collar height. Soft shoulder with essentially no padding and no rope. There is a natural subtle lift on the sleeve head, proper and not contrived. Where’s the Duke’s input? Perhaps everywhere, from the four on two closure to button placement to the curvature or belly of the peak lapel to the roll of the closure on the top button. But make no mistake this is signature Scholte and like an authentic Neapolitan jacket, the same could be said of Scholte: it can not be replicated. The trousers were executed by Foster & Son.

Twelve years later the Duke would have a suit made by Metzel in New York. A navy and gray stripe in wool/linen. This jacket is also a four on two double breast. Slightly lower roll on the lapel giving a slightly longer effect on the outer edge. Very elegant, gently padded shoulders. But it would never be mistaken for Scholte to the expert eye. This is  not a question of being executed in 1944, it has more to do with the fact that it’s done by a New york custom tailor. As ghastly as much of the popular styling in the 1940’s took grip on the look of ready to wear as well as custom suits, many gentleman would not succumb to the decade. Padded shoulders and wide blades, lower armholes, no balance, and very unflattering. Not with the Metzel suit. It is handsome, very nice shoulders, and nicely balanced. But like the saying goes: “HE’S NO HEIFETZ.” Well if it fits then I must say “HE’S NO SCHOLTE.” And quite frankly no one was.

Kind Edward VIII channelled Mr. Frederick Scholte to be coronated  KING OF THE SAVILE ROW: REX ORDINE SAVILII.

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H. HUNTSMAN: JASON ROBARDS “GET SOME”

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Legendary actor Jason Robards’ portrayal of Ben Bradlee in, “ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN” was without question brilliant. His performance won him an Oscar at a time when they actually meant something. There’s a scene in which Bob Woodward tells Bradlee, “we haven’t had any luck yet” in which he replies, “GET SOME.”

In my hands I hold the most prodigious H. Huntsman & Sons house tweed sport coat, bespoken by Mr. Robards himself. I can’t help but think he would tell Woodward and Bernstein to get some. Get over to a tailor and, “GET SOME.” Get some style, get some beautiful clothes and don’t succumb to the ghastly 70’s. Get some H. Huntsman and don’t look back.

Mr. Robards was a gentleman actor, who in some ways bridged the gap of golden age actors that went to the market for groceries probably wearing a Caraceni or Kilgour, just because…. to actors today who couldn’t care less. Perhaps they’re better off. The world of bespoke can be all consuming. I suspect for Mr. Robards, putting a Huntsman jacket on was like putting on a Hanes t-shirt. No big deal, natural, easy.

But who told Jason Robards to go to Huntsman? Mr. Robards would never be mistaken for being overly stylish, or the proverbial “STYLE ICON,” a term that I could do without. Nor was he a dandy like those golden age actors who were “forced” to go to Savile Row. In Mr. Robards later years he was obviously sporting off the peg clothing, nothing distinct. So there was a point in time when Robards made the decision to go to Savile Row’s benchmark Huntsman. Perhaps his buddy and fellow actor Christopher Plummer, who resides in a neighboring Connecticut town where Robards once lived, inspired him. For Mr. Plummer, an Anglophile, is the only living actor I know of, who lives the bespoke life in it’s natural form. Bringing this up in 2016 is pointless. If you happen to stumble upon this jibber, who cares, what’s the point. Well there is no point, except for the fact that I am holding this glorious jacket, and it evokes the spirit of Savile Row. This garment personifies H. Huntsman & Sons, how great it can be, and the cast of characters that have gone through the doors, and yet the garments live on. Just look at this 47 year old jacket.

One look at this jacket is a reminder of why Huntsman was Huntsman. The sport coat  is a signature house tweed. It stands fresh and alive today, just as it did the day Mr. Robards took delivery in 1969. Full of life and in perfect condition, this jacket is ready to be worn 100 more years, and it will never be dated. Timeless clothing, timeless style, timeless Robards.

This Huntsman signature house tweed is a bulletproof Scottish cheviot. The general House style for the Huntsman house tweeds would be the single button. However, they’ve done two as well as three button models. Generally the Huntsman jacket is cut slightly longer, giving proper skirting and balance. In 2016, the quintessential house tweed does not succumb the abominable lengths that are “IN,” and soon to fade away. The shoulder pitch for Huntsman changed trough the years. In this example, there is minimal padding, with not much slope, and nonexistent roping on the sleeve head. Huntsman has always been the master of the cheviot tweed. Regardless of the decade, the examples are always balanced and well executed to what can be a tricky fabric to tailor. There is essentially no drape so the cut has to be precise and balanced. A roped shoulder in cheviot is aesthetically difficult. Huntsman’s restraint is why one makes the trip.

 

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THE MOST PERFECT SHOULDER OF ALL-TIME

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Is this the most perfect shoulder of all-time? Well of course it’s open to debate. But  I’ve seen them all, in their glory. Shoulders with roll, no roll, Spalla Camicia, Spalla Insellata, the pagoda, and on and on. They all have their place, and at times, can all be elegant. But for me, the search for perfection requires something beyond. The shoulder should never scream out, should never be contrived, and never be costume.

This divine shoulder speaks volumes of what a shoulder should be. Not just aesthetically, but for comfort and to be part of one’s anatomy. This is one of the greatest jackets ever, and the shoulder is what makes it. All the honors go to Maestro A. Follino of Padua. Here the bodice and the sleeve are two equal values. One part does not overlap the other. They meet at the seam, which in essence is not unique, but here the sleeve head kisses the bodice. There is no padding, the natural shoulder of the wearer creates the subtle lift. If one runs their finger on the interior of the shoulder cap they will see how supple and alive the sleeve head actually is. If you add a little pressure and pull the sleeve from the bodice, then you will see the divine hand stitches join them together.

Next, there’s the collar which is essentially the key to the shoulder. It holds to the neck, and creates a slope that follows the natural line of the shoulder. Standard fare collars are skimpy, too short, and create a gap from the shirt collar, which is very unpleasing. Surprisingly, I’ve seen some of these on bespoke suits.

Simply put this jacket has a proper collar.

The cut of the jacket is equally well thought out, and done in a luxurious dense silk herringbone weave. There is no vertical front dart. The seam under the arm slants with a slight curve towards the front quarter ending just below the opening of the patch pocket. Not only is this visually pleasing, but this seam also gives contour without a nipped look. This feature is very natural and respectful to the wearer.

This is indeed a properly made jacket in every respect. Properly made in the sense there is nothing extraneous. Every detail has a purpose, and every detail is executed by hand. There are only three straight stitches finished by machine. That’s it. Everything else is as it should be. Finished by the hands of a beautiful human being, one person, working on one jacket, for one person. A sartorial marriage made in heaven.

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