On the 25th of January, Cifonelli unveiled its first full ready-to-wear collection – a logical follow up to the successful capsule collection launched just last year.
As you probably know if you’ve been following PG, Cifonelli is my personal tailor – and has been for the better part of 10 years, even before PG was founded in 2009. It’s no secret that I consider Cifonelli to be among the very best of the cream of the bespoke crop.
Parisian Gentleman has always been supportive of the Rue Marbeuf’s bespoke salon, which we have unabashedly promoted because we believe that the sheer quality and sophistication of Cifonelli’s work deserves respect and recognition.
Since a few years, the Cifonelli bespoke salon has enjoyed international popularity with gentlemen flying from around the world to commission suits, jackets and coats made on Rue Marbeuf in Paris. The Cifonelli salon hums with activity with a hive of more than 40 skilled artisans working tirelessly to craft (entirely by hand of course) some of the most stunning pieces of clothing in the world, under the watchful eyes of cousins Lorenzo & Massimo Cifonelli.
Never before has Cifonelli seen such worldwide exposure. Though not fully a mainstream namesake, an ever-growing circle of aspiring and dapper gents recognize the Cifonelli name as carrying serious sartorial weight.
As the Cifonelli name keeps gaining momentum (for four generations now), their great success begs the question : When will Cifonelli step into the ready-to-wear arena ? Such a move is a complex endeavor — risky, tricky and very costly, but a move that would no doubt help a bespoke house reach a broader public with more affordable pricing than traditional bespoke (a bespoke Cifonelli suit starts at around 5500€).
Many respectable bespoke houses have made the transition into introducing a RTW line, with different degrees of success, so we couldn’t help but feel a bit apprehensive as to which route Cifonelli would take to provide a RTW range worthy of its name and reputation.
Let’s be straight : transitioning from bespoke to ready-to-wear is an intellectual abstraction – something that doesn’t really ‘happen’ in the strictest sense of the word. Great bespoke does not instantly equate to great ready-to-wear, except perhaps in the ever-so-fertile imagination of marketing departments, often working out of sheer ignorance as to what true “bespoke” entails in regard to effort, expertise, and technical hurdles.
In reality, comparing bespoke to ready-to-wear is akin to comparing a Formula One to a passenger car, or worse, to witness a marketing campaign piggyback a revered jewelry brand to sell a slew of bland if not gaudy perfume, slapped with the brand’s label.
The spin-off technique is nothing new – it allows marketing professionals to latch onto a brand’s elite reputation in order to sell an inferior product or something else entirely (by attaching the brand’s logo), promising a small share of the “dream” to the “masses”.
Of course, there are different derogatory layers of spin-off techniques ; from the shameless to the ridiculous, like a car brand that implies that an entry-level chunk-of-steel has anything to do with a Formula One / Rally / Nascar level vehicle — through the method of a basic endorsement. To contrast, we witness the better example of select RTW brands lifting details directly from the tailoring culture and integrating those details into their clothing line.
In the not-so-distant past, Cifonelli offered a nice RTW line made in Italy by Sartoria Caruso (who pretty much works for the whole world at this point) sold in Cifonelli’s small boutique Rue Marbeuf (directly below the bespoke salon) as well as in a few select retail locations throughout the world, like Isetan in Tokyo.
According to Lorenzo himself, the former collection actually had nothing to do with the Cifonelli’s style, flair, or trademark details and specifications. Specifically, the old line indeed did not have the signature Cifonelli highly structured and slightly slanted ‘cigarette shoulder’ with high armscyes (possibly the highest on the market today), and a small chest area covered by ample lapels which are notched and positioned high on the jacket.
So how did Cifonelli approach the latest transition between being a celebrated bespoke-only house, and launching a RTW line worthy of its reputation?
With a solid following of discriminating bespoke enthusiasts, the mega brand retail approach which targets the masses just wasn’t going to work. Instead, early adopters would likely be educated, style-conscious gentlemen with high expectations.
On a pragmatic level, how would Cifonelli find its niche in the over saturated high end ready-to-wear market next to giants like Kiton, Brioni and Cesare Attolini (a solid example of successful “spin-off” from tailoring to luxury RTW), or bona fide marketing steamrollers like Ralph Lauren Purple Label and Stefano Ricci ?
The first reassuring news is that Cifonelli has joined forces with a new team for the project, a collaboration of solid experience in the field, led by Erwan Camphuis – the knowledgeable head of an investment firm specializing in luxury retail.
Styling has been left to one of the industry’s most seasoned veterans – the innately talented John Vizzone, formerly in charge (among other responsibilities) of the Purple Label range at Ralph Lauren.
Although the Cifonelli cousins have given heavy input in forming styling templates, today they stay fully focused on the bespoke side of the business, the very DNA of the brand.
Cifonelli has risen to the challenge at hand : instead of playing it safe by choosing one of the great Italian sartoria and selecting only a few models to brand, Cifonelli walked, if not crawled, the extra mile.
The team selected a small Neapolitan sartoria based on the quality of its handiwork and uncanny ability to replicate delicate details as well as the ‘structured elements’ from the Cifonelli canon such as the famous cigarette shoulder, which is a highly complex specificity to craft and quite a counterintuitive challenge for Neapolitans.
Side note : the sartoria agreed to sign a contract stating that it would NEVER replicate the Cifonelli shoulder for any other house!
The result of this arduous journey is quite convincing. The first collection shows a clear Cifonelli flair in the shoulder area, giving the suits a strikingly Parisian feel. The choice of the fabrics is a pleasant surprise with no over-the-top selections, but instead beautiful cloth keeping to the high standards of understatement and elegance.
Put simply, the Cifonelli line is indeed high-end ready-to-wear, and the suits are superbly made.
For those who know Paris, the prestigious location of the upcoming flagship shop is on the corner of the Avenue de Matignon and the Rue du Faubourg St Honoré. Who can say better ?
One of the most strategic moves for Cifonelli has been to settle on a price-point for their high-end RTW suits. As a direct competitor to Kiton, Brioni, Attolini, Ricci and others, stratospheric pricing has been more than an option.
However, Cifonelli decided on a price-offering that falls well below the pricing of its main competitors. A Cifonelli RTW suit is sold between 2900 and 3900€, which is an average of 1500 to 2000€ less than these high-level competitors, for a comparable level of quality with the expected Parisian-style finishing details.
By extending its stomping grounds to the realm of luxury RTW, Cifonelli has positioned itself in a price range sure to send a shock wave or two throughout the status quo. This remarkable range fills an interesting spot in a market dominated by (albeit sublime) ludicrously expensive brands – who often sell their products at prices surpassing traditional bespoke.
Cifonelli has put its best foot forward in the launch of its ready-to-wear line, and whatever the future holds, the company could well become a force to reckon with in this field with an approach that protects its prestigious name and reputation.
Official Cifonelli Website : here
Discover the Cifonelli RTW collection 2015 on the PG Guide