Following the success of my first post on shirt recommendations, I propose today my selection of ready-to-wear suits, organized by price range.
Before getting into the core of the subject, let me start with a preamble outlining my method and, most importantly, stressing that it is only going to be a subjective selection. Despite being compiled seriously and with the intent of bringing forward labels that respect a certain quality standards, my choices remain conditioned by my taste and experiences.
Three premises have guided this selection:
- First, omit the very low range (fusibles through and through), particularly houses bearing a falsely Italian sounding name like Mario Dessutti or Massimo Dutti (property of Spanish group Inditex, owner of Zara). Buying a suit there is sure to be a bad investment in the medium term. Even if it seems like a good deal at the time, I guarantee that you will be disappointed after only a few months. There exists alternatives of genuine quality to these labels of mass production that are not much pricier.
- Second, in true PG fashion, cross off multibillion mega brands like Kenzo, Armani, Zegna, Boss, Lauren, Smith and the like. Why? Because even though some offer genuine good quality, the idea that 70% of the price of a suit is conditioned by (outrageous) marketing costs is unbearable to me. Many studies have showed that the actual production cost of a suit for these labels accounts for a mere 30% of the sale price. This means that you pay more for the brand than for the quality.
- Third, eliminate super high end like Kiton, Brioni or Zilli, whose RTW prices are often higher than true Bespoke. Spending 5,000 euros or more on RTW (even with very high quality fabrics and finish) seems unreasonable. If you have 5,000 euros to invest in a suit, I can only urge you to step into the wonderful world of bespoke. Indeed, never will a RTW suit, whatever the price, compare to a suit that has been made just for you in the privacy of the fitting room of a bespoke salon.
Without further ado, here is PG’s selection of RTW suits, by price range.
The first category should help you steer clear of false Italian labels and veer towards English shirt makers (Tyrwhitt, Lewin) which I believe stand out more with a very honest quality of construction (half-canvassed suits), complete with decent cuts and fabric selection.
PG’S RECOMMENDATION: TM LEWIN
On top of offering particularly well-priced shirts, this Jermyn Street shirt maker also has a full range of suits of decent quality at particularly affordable prices. Of course we are not talking about high range fabrics or even tailored finish, but with 220 euros suits (!!), I can’t think of any serious competitor on the market (except for other Jermyn Street shirt makers like Charles Tyrwhitt, whose products I haven’t studied yet but that seem to compare in terms of quality). This contradicts the saying that states that “one should never buy a suit from a shirt maker”.
The only damper is the necessity to order by mail unless you can afford a quick return trip to Dublin, for instance (less than 80 euros on low cost airlines) where TM Lewin has a large and rather enjoyable boutique. But frankly, at these prices, I think a post-delivery visit to a good tailor will ensure you have a very acceptable quality suit at a very competitive price.
Add to that the extreme efficiency of their online customer service that respects delays and honors prospective refunds, and you've got a serious, affordable and efficient house.
ALTERNATIVE: Charles Tyrwhitt.
This price range is highly competitive and displays a plentiful offer, as it matches the average budget most commonly attributed to a suit by most people without the least fleeting interest in men's style. It is hard to find your way around in this price range. Despite this, we can, with little hesitation, recommend a label that offers an absolutely exceptional price/quality ratio.
PG’S RECOMMENDATION: GANT
Property of the Maus brothers group (Lacoste), this American label in full renewal indisputably offers a surprisingly good quality/price ratio. I personally tried some of their products (including an Oxford cotton jacket), characterized by details rarely seen in this price range: including quality welts, contrasted saddle stitches, V cut pants, embroidered arrowheads, etc. A quality label that flirts with sartorial culture while remaining extremely affordable.
We are now stepping into a different realm, with labels that can directly compete with the usual mega brands, the likes of Boss, Armani and co. In this very competitive range, we recommend 3 superb labels: two French and one Italian.
PG’S RECOMMENDATIONS: HARTWOOD, MARC GUYOT and PAL ZILERI.
Contrary to what the name suggests, Hartwood is a small confidential French couture label whose creed is to offer high quality products at a fair price. Hartwood can seduce aficionados and satisfy gents seeking classic style with a twist. Fabrics are good (Piana or Zegna), cuts rather fitted, 4 types of shoulders are offered and vents are very wide (up to 30 cm). A beautiful French label that PG supports wholeheartedly (which also has a very affordable made-to-measure offer).
MG does nothing like anyone else. Speaking of Marc Guyot RTW is almost erroneous: it is closer to industrial measure or made-to-measure. Of course, if you are looking for a classic and versatile suit, this label is not for you. MG’s products are very heavily 30s inspired and have a lot of character: vintage fabrics, bold patterns, covered buttons, braids, etc. But if you are looking for a suit brimming with personality and of very good make, you have come to the right place.
The two wonders above (a flannel Saxony Prince of Wales and a flannel fully lined with silk satin) are examples of what kind 2-piece suits you can get for less than 1,000 euros.
The only downside are the delays that will test your patience ; you might end up dreaming about your suit for a while before you can wear it. Everything MG is earned… but despite this, Marc Guyot is a label that PG holds in high esteem.
In this price range, Pal Zileri is a prime choice: an actual Italian Sartoriale offering quality comparable to neighbors Corneliani or Zegna, but better priced. Exclusive fabrics, polished finishing touches and high quality construct expertly made. A connoisseur’s choice starting from 1,200 euros for a pure wool suit. A label we respect a lot.
As we are slowly nearing the very high-end, here again offers are abundant. For this price range we have decided to omit the giants: Dior (that I gave up during the Slimane era, with its anorexic cuts and narrow lapels), Lanvin (actually made by Canali) and Smalto (whose prices recently exploded to attract a decreasingly Parisian client base).
Our selection then naturally went to a legendary bespoke label, which recently had the excellent idea of opening a shop rue Marbeuf where you will find a small RTW line of great tradition.
PG’S RECOMMENDATION: CIFONELLI
A true institution of bespoke, Cifonelli recently opened a small boutique rue Marbeuf, right below its bespoke salon, that offers a small range of “reasonably” priced (on average 1,800 euros for a 2-piece suit) suits of excellent quality. Of course, these products can’t be compared to the creations coming out of the bespoke salon above, but nevertheless, Cifonelli RTW shouldn't be dismissed as "discount" Cifonelli.
All models were designed by the Cifonelli cousins and their suppliers (the best Italian factories) can be trusted. This fantastic alternative to famous labels gives you the assurance of owning a very high-class suit at a fair price.
Gentlemen, I hope that this selection, though subjective, imperfect and incomplete, will help you. The next post of this series will focus on shoes.