“Bespoke is just what I want”
On a gloomy and rainy Monday in London, I meet with German bespoke tailoring expert Paolo Rossamachi. Sipping on my latte on the 5th floor of Harvey Nichols, I wait for him, my eyes on the lookout for a man in his mid-twenties in a well-tailored suit. No longer than five minutes later he appears. My expectations were met. Wearing a pair of matching blue trousers with a white and blue-striped shirt, a turquoise blue cardigan, leather camel gloves and an impeccable navy blue coat with a pink scarf tucked in, this man made me look bad in my black shirt tucked into my purple peplum skirt with my Manolo heels, and it took me over an hour to handpick my outfit du jour earlier today.
Paolo sits down, shivering from the cold and drenched from the rain. “I’m hungry. Shall we eat?” he asks heftily. “You just read my mind. I’m famished,” I answer promptly. He orders the signature burger with fries, whilst I have a crab and avocado salad. I ask him about his main interests and hobbies and ironically he replies, whilst munching on some fries: “I am a big fan of good food. I eat everything. I consider myself lucky enough for not having any allergies and I can therefore indulge in trying different cuisines and ingredients. I am not picky when it comes to food.”
No brainer. He was insinuating his nitpickiness with suits and ties of course. I swiftly ask him about how he defines the term bespoke. Concise and straight to the point, he states: “Just what I want”. This thought shakes me for a little minute. I felt like I was being sold a dream. “Just what I want”… the expression resonates in my head for a little while… such endless possibilities and room for creation… I start drifting away with my imagination. And then, thanks to my everlasting expressive face, he interrupts my chain of thoughts: “When you do bespoke, it’s because you have certain ideas and specifications that you want to concretize. It’s a very subtle domain”. Paolo distances himself from the common people who purchase ready-to-wear.
He elucidates the singularity of the bespoke world. The circle is very tight, and clients are very restricted. It takes more than a certain level of purchasing power to access the universe of bespoke tailoring. Paolo belongs to a category of consumers that praises quality, above quantity. These special clients are attentive to details and very meticulous and picky in terms of materials, patters, textures, and colors.
Paolo asks me if I notice anything particular about his pants. I focus so hard, but my minute long silence gives it all away. It turns out that the buttons of the pants are made of animal horns. Paolo describes the fascinating yet cloistered universe of bespoke tailoring. It is a world of endless selections, allowing customers to “be playful with the stitching, the threading and the material”. The captivating bespoke domain concretizes all fashion fantasies and makes them realities. Clients can have whatever item of clothing they desire, all made to measure. Everything is possible, but time is an essence in bespoke tailoring.
Just like everything in life has two extremes, bespoke tailoring definitely has some. Paolo lets me in the world of “billionaire’s couture”, where some people ask for gold or diamonds buttons. He narrates the story of a man he knows who had a tailored umbrella. He demanded that the cane ought to be made out of bamboo. The client ended up waiting for two years to have his bespoke bamboo cane, and he paid, just for the cane, without the umbrella, 800 euros. I was in awe. Astonished by the character of bespoke tailoring fanatics, I probe Paolo’s childhood, and the origin of this costly and time-consuming hobby. He reminisces on his childhood, stating how different he was from kids his age. Whilst most of the young boys wanted to be fire fighters, Paolo dreamt of being an investment banker just so he could wear a decent suit. Paolo did eventually work in banking, but he did not like it. “Once thing I liked though for sure: that idea of wearing a suit.” There was no doubt that bespoke tailoring was Paolo’s calling. His graduation present from his parents was a made to measure suit. Talk about true passion.
I still did not fully grasp the aura behind bespoke tailoring. If it were a matter of luxury and expensive materials, why wouldn’t a client go to high-end stores where they could instantly purchase a ready to wear tuxedo? The Suit Master explains that the world of bespoke tailoring is not about materialism and luxury. The essence of the universe of bespoke is its human dimension. What differentiates ready to wear from bespoke tailoring is that bespoke is not a mechanical act of purchasing a suit where a salesperson just wan to sell the product to win some commission. “Bespoke is a lot about relationship”, states Paolo with enthusiasm. “The word bespoke itself comes from the verb bespeak. This insinuates a human interaction and dimension to the entire tailoring process. When you do bespoke tailoring, you see the tailor a lot. There are constant ongoing meetings for fittings.” Another prime value of bespoke tailoring is authenticity. It is a genuine experience. Customers are active participants in the tailoring process where they handpick materials, cuts, colors, textures, and designs and witness the entire fabrication made-to-measure procedure. Patrons and tailors share an intimate relationship and collaborate to create a unique personalized masterpiece. Bespoke tailoring is the epitome of craftsmanship.
Bewildered by Paolo’s vast knowledge on the domain of bespoke tailoring, I ask him for his expert opinion on where to get excellent tailored suits. He praises a close friend of his, Gennaro Annunziata, from Naples. Gennaro works with his family in their generational and local bespoke tailoring brand called “Chiaia Napoli”. Paolo buys most of his suits from him. A visit to Napoli is not complete without Paolo visiting the “Chiaia Napoli” for fittings. He describes how in the same building there is a manufacturing area, where he sees how all the hard work unveils. “There is no room for bullshit”, states Paolo. “I see this old Italian lady sewing and threading the button holes, I see the threading process, the stitching. It’s fascinating.”
If Paolo does not go to Napoli, Gennaro comes to London. The tailor/client relationship has been fortified over the years, and both men are really good friends today. Not only are they both roughly the same age – 27 years old – but Paolo and Gennaro share common personality traits in the sense that they are both anti-traditional. Paolo is not much of a crowd follower, and this is why he gets along with his favorite bespoke tailor. [Gennaro] “Is open for new ideas and suggestions and experimentation”. He praises his skillful friend’s designs for a good fifteen minutes, sharing with me his most creative masterpieces. “Once, he tailored for himself a suit entirely made from denim. He had the denim fabric soaked in water for two days in order to make the stitching easier. Of course it was all hand-made. It was really cool. I love how he is open minded and open to new ideas.” Paolo explicates how Gennaro’s tailoring is different from any tailor he is acquainted with. The suit expert has tried tailors in London, in Northern Italy and in Germany, and confesses that he has had his fair share of disappointments. “The problem with old bespoke tailors is that they are usually one dimensional, and refuse criticism”, states Paolo.
Paolo shares his expertise in worldwide bespoke tailoring; describing how each tailor has his own style depending on the region. South of Italy tailors customize light suits from the inside because of the canvas. The selling point is that the comfort of the garment flatters its sex appeal, instead of jeopardizing it. Most tailors in London are not flexible, as has experienced Paolo over the years. He explains that in London, suits are mostly heavily padded and geometrical, and the pants are high-wasted, as everything has to be very proper.
On a lighter note, and one chocolate fondant and two lattes after, I ask the Suit Master how he usually gets his fine suit addresses. “Usually it is word of mouth, or recommendations from other people. I also personally like to walk around a lot and discover for myself.” I finally ask him what advice he would give to people who just moved into town, and who would like to get his hands on good bespoke tailors. Readers, I leave you with the wise advice of the Suit Master, also known as Suitology on Instagram: “I suggest taking all the time they can. This is essential. There is never instant satisfaction with bespoke. Usually you meet with the tailor for a first fitting, then you see him three to five weeks for another fitting, it can be okay and it can be not, if it is not then there is another fitting three to five weeks later. It is therefore really difficult to demand a suit to be ready in three weeks times after a first time meeting, unless the tailor is really flexible and organizes his workflow around you and travels to meet you. Sometimes client wait for over a year or a year and a half for a suit because of travels, meetings, ongoing fittings”.
Time is quintessential, but it is a small price to pay – or not – if you are willing to penetrate the fascinating world of bespoke tailoring, and of endless possibilities. This is the world that turns dreams into realities. If you have the luxury to indulge, I recommend you don’t hesitate. Gennaro’s game seems quite on point I must say.