Menswear doesn’t get more personal than the bespoke suit. And for a long line of dapper dressers stretching from Richard Burton to President Barack Obama, the go-to name in the intimate world of bespoke is Brioni. The Italian fashion house prides itself on adhering to the same rigorous codes of craftsmanship it instituted back in 1945. This includes buttonholes hammered by hand on site, and jackets pressed more than 80 times to help contour fabric to a client’s body shape. Each of the 220 steps involved in creating a single suit is done in-house in its nearly 50-year-old factory in Penne, Italy.
The old-school art of tailoring is a tradition that the brand takes very seriously. So seriously that it founded an institution in 1985 – Scuola di Alta Sartoria Nazareno Fonticoli – to ensure that the expertise is passed down through generations. The arduous journey to becoming one of Brioni’s master tailors begins here, with students entering as young as 14 years old, and only the top 15 from each year taken on as apprentices at Brioni’s facilities.
It is the unique relationship between the tailor and the client that differentiates Brioni’s most exclusive Su Misura suit. Here, a new pattern is designed from scratch specifically for the client, unlike “made-to-measure” which involves adjusting a pre-existing, standard size pattern. In fact, every aspect from fit to fabric is conceived with the client in mind. The result is a garment customised to an individual’s personality, lifestyle and ideal look.
Measurements and materials – The process begins before a measurement is even taken. When the master tailor meets the client, the first thing he does is observe his posture and how he moves. This will determine the most flattering silhouette for his body type. He is then measured, and outfitted in a trial garment. The latter ensures that the client has an idea of the basic look of the final product. Then, he decides on the details. First, the fabric – Brioni is renowned for its bold colour palette and wide selection of materials, with 70 per cent made exclusively for the brand. This is followed by the choice of buttons, special linings and personal touches, such as an embroidered name or initials on the inside of the jacket. The measurements are recorded and sent to Penne, for the pattern to be cut.
Creating the foundation – The master tailor creates a pattern unique to the client. Every person is built differently; in the same way, no two patterns are ever alike. He meticulously aligns it with the fabric to make sure that each component of the suit – such as the chest piece, back panels, sleeves and collar – matches up precisely. This is particularly critical for suits with checks and stripes. The pattern is then cut by hand. A step that defines the bespoke process, it allows adjustments to be made easily. With this groundwork laid, the rest of the suit, including the inner canvassing, shoulder padding and felt, can be assembled.
Assembling and finishing – The garment is placed on a bust to confirm that the drape and form of the jacket are aligned correctly. The internal canvassing – typically made from a mix of linen and horsehair – is now sewn into the chest area. Enhancing a man’s shape, this allows easy movement, yet gives the jacket the snug fit of a second skin. It is also a mark of a suit’s pedigree, as only the finest handmade garments in the world are fully canvassed. Each step of workmanship – from attaching the felt lining for support in the collar to finishing the buttonholes – is then carried out by hand, involving over 200 tailors, each with a specialised role.
Fitted to perfection The suit is now complete, but not considered finished till a second fitting has been conducted. The client is invited to try on the garment, as the master tailor assesses whether it meets the brand’s exacting standards. He uses a chalk or basting stitch to mark any adjustments that may be needed to perfect the fit. The suit is sent back to Penne for Brioni’s expert tailors to make the final alterations. The suit is now ready to be delivered to the client.
For our step-by-step guide into the making of Corthay bespoke shoes, Bentley Mulsanne and Roger W. Smith Great Britain timepiece, download the digital edition here.