At long last, my book, The Parisian Gentleman is to be released this fall by Thames & Hudson!
The Parisian Gentleman discusses and illustrates the delectable peculiarities of what makes Parisian handiwork, well, Parisian…without rehashing worn-out stories that can easily be looked up on Wikipedia or other such sources.
In the book, I’ve selected 20 Parisian houses with gorgeously illustrated chapters for each. The struggle to choose which houses to include out of so many options throughout France has been especially difficult.
Incidentally, two large houses were eliminated from the book for insisting on final-cut privileges on each word and photograph—an unacceptable demand indeed, since the book has nothing to do with advertising, and everything to do with revealing unique tidbits and genuine stories that have made these brands what they are today.
Both my publisher and myself refused censorship privileges to any house, and the end result features a highly exclusive group of brands that are illustrated in a genuine and spectacular volume made to endure for years to come.
Preparing the book took a good a year and a half of hard work to make it press-ready. The mockups have been incredible to see, and I feel that my texts go beautifully with the mind-blowing photographs that my close friend, extraordinaire Andy Julia, has captured through thousands of photographs that have been narrowed down to a selection of around 500 choice pieces. It is my great hope that the book will give the world a true taste of what it is that makes French craftsmanship so magical.
As this project is winding down, I have a brand new commission for another book : The Italian Gentleman, scheduled for release in late 2016!
To meet the task, we’ve been beating a path across Italy, again working closely with our publisher Thames & Hudson– one of the finest publishers in the select world of artistic books.
So it’s with a certain sense of achievement (to say the least) that Sonya and I set off again, to Italy.
We started the adventure last November, and we will continue to return to the country every few months to discover more and more prospects for Italian artisans to be featured in The Italian Gentleman.
What an absolutely insane task when you consider all the possibilities!
Italy is such a prolific place that celebrates men’s style in all of its shapes and forms, that trying to select a batch of houses to present an accurate sampling of the extreme talent spread across this very specific country, is enough to make anyone’s head spin on its axis.
Of course, there is the “list” of obvious artisans to cover in the book, but Italy is so full of different types of talent, with a mix of the obvious and the esoteric, that the task at hand might as well be endless.
The book will be illustrated by our good friend and PG contributing photographer Lyle Roblin, a top-notch Milan-based men’s style photo artist, with hard-earned experience and a drive to capture exacting images of what defines masculine elegance in Italy.
Italy remains the world’s absolute center of classical men’s style…and with at leastfive times as many houses to choose from compared what we had to work with for The Parisian Gentleman, the pressure is on to give the Italians the glory and recognition that they deserve.
To do the book (and the country) justice, we decided to visit each potential house, in-person, and one-at-a-time.
Phone interviews and on-line surveys pale in comparison to stepping foot directly on Italian soil and experiencing Italian personalities and talent first-hand.
This feat has required activating all of my networks and contacts so as to not to miss any hidden gems nestled in the boot-shaped peninsula.
The ambassadors of Vitale Barberis Canonico have been unrelenting and impeccable in their support, as has been the amazing Lyle Roblin, the book’s photographer, for his unflinching commitment and oh-so-useful ability to navigate the country and its many hidden crevices.
For the first leg of our grand Italian tour, we are exploring northern Italy to sample a first batch of houses and artisans…
As to be expected in Italy, it’s been a trip full of surprises … like the most curious house of Gianni Celeghin, in Legnano…
For the first time we set sail for Varese in Lombardy, where we met with Gianni Cleopazzo and his sister Mariangela, who together head the Sartoria Vergallo, a lovely traditional bespoke salon (as only Italy knows how to keep alive in mid-sized towns).
What makes Sartoria Vergallo stand out is the surprisingly young age of the artisans they employ.
To say that that we’re used to meeting well-seasoned men in tailoring workshops is an understatement — and many sartorias lament for the lack of young, qualified and passionate workers needed to rejuvenate and continue the legacy of their craft.
In this vein, the approach of Gianni Cleopazzo of Vergallo is different and refreshing, as he makes it his personal mission to recruit and form promising young tailors and cutters—proving that high level, traditional tailoring can be carried out by young people, providing that they are brilliantly trained, have a natural hand, and an unfaltering passion to dedicate themselves to the art.
Left to right : Simone Ubertino (VBC), Gianni Cleopazzo, Mariangela Cleopazzo, Sonya Glyn Nicholson of PG, and yours truly.
A photo of the (very) young cutter, hard at work in the workshop : her gesture is precise, assured, and natural.
A very interesting human sized house that makes convincing suits at a very decent price range (for traditional bespoke) — between 2000 to 2500€ for a suit.
Sartoria Vergallo : Via Donizetti Gaetano, 17, 21100 Varese.
Website : http://www.sartoriavergallo.it
The following day, we’re off to Padova to discover one of Italy’s most respected and exclusive Sartoria : Belvest.
Upon arrival, we are greeted by the owners, the wonderful Maria Theresa Nicoletto and her son, the affable and sincere Riccardo Della Piazza, now head of the family’s sartorial factory.
I’ve been watching Belvest for a while with respect for the stunning quality of their offering, always beyond reproach. Finding Belvest products under the company’s own name has always been challenging however, since Belvest mostly makes suits that bear the brands of some of the most esteemed luxury houses in France and Italy — and all around the world.
Visiting Sartoria Belvest didn’t disappoint. And my expectations were high.
With 300 employees, high-quality crafting standards, and a rocketing potential for expansion under the Belvest name (currently only 15% of the entire production), the Belvest operation is one of the most quality-oriented that I’ve ever seen, led by a passionate, demanding and especially kind family (see Belvest, a Great Name of Men’s Elegance).
Sartoria Belvest Factory: Via Corsica, 23.35016 Piazzola sul Brenta, Padova
Sartoria Belvest Showroom: Via Sant’Andrea, 2 20121 Milano
Website : http://www.belvest.com
I’ve had a hankering to visit Riccardo Freccia Bestetti for a long time … and now, I can finally safely say that he’s arguably one of the most peculiar and creative boot-makers out there, nested in his little Vigevano workshop in Lombardy.
The Bestetti workshop is unlike any other I’ve seen, and it’s not an easy place to find…
Located in the far reaches of an old and rather sprawling industrial complex—the workshop is “announced” by a sticker plastered sideways on a letterbox, with the name ‘Bestetti’ scribbled on the label with a ballpoint pen.
The tone is set.
We are now on the stomping ground of an artisan whose last concern has anything to do with his “work place image”.
The only thing on Riccardo’s mind is shoemaking, which, incidentally, ranks among the world’s most astonishing, original and quite simply elegant… a true artist, in every sense of the word.
We’ll have the chance to write more on Mr Bestetti’s upcoming RTW range — a very promising prospect indeed !
To give you a small peak of what’s to come from Riccardo’s RTW line, take a look at the comparison picture below : both shoes are of the same model. The one on the left is RTW, while the one on the right is bench made.
They say that no prophet is accepted in his own country, and this saying holds true with Bestetti as well — despite Riccardo’s astounding worldwide success (especially in Asia, Europe and the US), he has sold little-to-no shoes in Italy.
A unique artisan that we at PG adore and wholeheartedly support.
Riccardo Freccia Bestatti Workshop : Via Manara Negrone, 32R. 27029 Vigevano
Website : http://www.frecciabestetti.com
Hidden away on a small street in the heart of Milan, NH Sartoria is a discreet tailoring workshop led by Frederico Ceschi a Santa Croce.
The house’s Master Tailor is Domenico Bambino — one of the craftsman at the vanguard of the Apulia school of tailoring, a method hailing from the southern reaches of the country.
The Apulia School’s main characteristic is its complete lack of lining—no internal structures, even for winter suits and jackets!
The structure of each piece requires that a specific method of assembly is used. This method is documented like a monastic scribe in a sacred text…which is a journal compiled by Master Domenico himself. Each fabric piece is cut according to the strict documented technique, using highly-selective fabrics.
An intriguing gem, and a beautiful salon led by a passionate gentleman with a very acute sense of taste.
Sartoria NH (Nobil Homo) : Via Chiossetto 2, 20122 Milano
Website : http://www.nhsartoria.it
This intimate bespoke shoe store (property of E. Marinella, the renowned Neapolitan tie maker) smells like rarefied leather, and feels like one of those fine stores from a time long past that you may have visited with your grandparents.
Savoia is a small boutique located in the heart of Milan, where educated clientele make a repeat-pilgrimage to commission a pair of bespoke shoes made by-the-book and crafted by an intimate crew of book makers working both on-site and directly from their own homes.
A charming place that is purposefully a bit old fashioned, providing quality leather products (from shoes to luggage, accessories and even trousers) to a discerning clientele. A welcoming reception and a polite staff is the icing on the proverbial cake.
Stivaleria Savoia is known for making some of the most comfortable shoes in Italy while still retaining massive style—an important place for people with sensitive feet, and an operation that has a spotless reputation among the local bourgeoisie.
Stivaleria Savoia : Via Petrarca, 7 angolo Vincenzo Monti 20123 Milano.
Website : http://stivaleriasavoia.it
The first truly unexpected surprise of our Italian campaign so far—a fantastic tailor we’d never heard of until now.
Following the advice of our friend Francesco Barberis Canonico, we made our way to the Pecora shop on a most rainy and overcast day.
Mario Pecora is a Milanese master tailor, who creates gorgeous suits in his small workshop, with the help of his son Angelo, who is himself a tailor that has been trained by his father.
Expect more details on Mario Pecora in the future; what we saw there was a true wonder. Master Pecora has a knack for cutting suits with flair, and all is made 100% by hand for a result that simply screams BESPOKE of the highest level.
A very fortunate discovery, and a name that any lover of bespoke should immediately write down in his notebook.
Mario Pecora : Via Borgospesso, 12. 20121 Milano
Website : http://www.sartoriamariopecora.com
Gianni Celeghin is a tailor I would have missed had I not been on the field, literally scouring the land for local sensations in Italy.
This very warm and intimate gem of a sartoria, where Gianni Celeghin and his wife have worked for more than 40 years, is somewhat unknown to the general public, and slightly tricky to find, no matter how sharp your GPS might be.
Located on a roundabout in the small town of Legnano in Lombardy, 25 km north of Milan, the Celeghin workshop is more than worthy of the effort it takes to find the place. The small villa is a tailoring wonderland adorned with curious and captivating relics, sculptures and paintings.
The owner is an authentic old-school artisan who began working at the age of 11, and you can be certain that the riveting story of his humble beginnings will be featured in the book…
Mr. Celeghin has the unique ability of making amazing garments that when finished, appear to have had a past life— to put it simply, each of his suits have a story to tell.
He works alongside his wife and a handful of fine craftsmen, and every piece is made completely by hand at the workshop. Very high level creations, for a very reasonable price (beginning at 2000€ for a suit).
A workshop located on the outskirts of Milan that any tailoring aficionados who find themselves in the city must visit.
Sartoria Celeghin : Via Novara, 10, 20025 Legnano
Tel : +39 0331 593386
The next chapters of our Italian campaign will take us back to northern Italy (to catch up with Zegna and A. Caraceni), followed by a small detour in Florence (to see Liverano & Ugolini, among others), then Roma (Battistoni, Ripense…), possibly Sicily, and of course Naples.
We can testify with each return trip that Italy is still, now more than ever, holy ground for the men’s style world.