Eight years ago on a late spring afternoon I decided to take my sons to the Museum of Modern Art. Before trekking to MOMA, I told my boys I wanted to check out the new Kiton boutique which was just around the block. My sons at the time were 12 and 10 and knew what Kiton was. My older boy would refer to Kiton ties as being seven layer. I’ve been fortunate to own a fair amount of Kiton and my sons have always known my penchant for clothing.
I explained to my sons that 4 east 54th street was once a single family residence. Changing hands several times through the years it was the home of Banca Di Napoli, and then eventually was acquired by Kiton. Hence we walked to this lovely building and just stared. An elegant neoclassical edifice standing on its own among massive contemporary office buildings.
Looking through the entrance, a very elegant gentleman strolls on through the front door as if to greet us, almost like he was expecting us. The gentleman was Ciro Paone, the co-founder and owner of Kiton. He was wearing a most sublime double breasted charcoal suit, undoubtedly in 14 micron wool by the looks of it. Left unbuttoned, a double breasted mind you, it just worked on him. Very natural and most elegant. Mr. Paone has what the Italians like to call sprezzatura, in spades. So comfortable in a suit, he has worn one virtually everyday of his life.
Signor Paone looks at my older son who was wearing a Blue Marlin Italia t-shirt, and exclaims “ah Italia”. He lights a cigarette and we shake hands. I proceed to tell him how much I love Kiton, and that I have a bit of it. Even though his English is not quite perfect, for some reason I think he knew I had a respectable sartorial I.Q. He looked me straight in the eye and asked “are you a tailor?” It struck me quite amusing. Here this fine gentleman who was on top of his game has a one track mind. To Mr. Paone there are tailors and everyone else. He eats, sleeps, and breaths fabric and tailoring. He and his passion created one of the most divine brands in the world. “THE BEST PLUS ONE.”
Today Kiton is as important as ever, the presentation, the fabrics, the overall look. Even machine made glued garbage has white threaded shoulder basting on the shoulders and sleeves, a homage to how influential Kiton is in menswear.
I still like Kiton quite a bit. I just wish they hadn’t become such a “luxury brand”. Doing polos, knits, jeans, bags etc. Kiton to me was the two T’s, textiles and tailoring. But the truth is they still make splendid tailored garments and their fabrics are among the best in the world. So is Kiton over priced? Yes indeed. Is it an alternative to bespoke? Not at all.
But all ready to wear is grossly overpriced, and quite frankly for what you get from Kiton per dollar, it is of more value than any other ready to wear suit (I think…). The fabrics alone can close the conversation right off the bat. Kiton’s acquisition of the Carlo Barbera mill essentially makes Kiton the only maker of fabrics of such a level. Along with Zegna and Loro Piana they form an Italian oligarch in textiles that can be rivaled by no one. To the extent that Anderson & Sheppard has Loro swatch books for the offering, I’m not sure what to say about this.
Kiton fabrics can range from $300 to well beyond $1,200 per yard, proprietary fabrics that are milled in both England and Italy. Yes this is part of the mark up, but still the fabrics are extremely costly and one is unlikely to find this sort of selection even at Caraceni.
There is a fair amount of hand work. Yes, the lapels and top portion of the collar are machine padded. However, the underpicking of the lapel is done by hand, which is vital. The under collar is hand picked and hand sewn on the edges. The line on the notch is hand basted.
All the pick stitching is done by hand and the buttonholes are all hand embroidered. Early Kiton buttonholes are exquisite. Some current buttonholes are still divine, but with the increased output of suits and sportcoats, the addition of a few hundred new tailors have left some of their holes a little less than what a Kiton hole should be.
Anyway, if you’ve never tried a Kiton jacket on, give it try. They feel quite nice on the body, very air like. The Kiton folks are quite friendly throughout the world. Just touch the fabrics while you stroll around. You can tell them that you’re just looking, just make sure your hands are clean.