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Interview with Gaetano Aloisio

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June 20, 2018 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

GA: I am 54 y.o. and I am a tailor.

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VR: Your educational background?

GA: High school in Crotone, the city of Calabria, my birth region, and studies in tailoring.

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VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your tailoring enthusiasm)?
GA: My wife is the General Manager of our company. We have an 8-year-old-son. My wife is very proud of what I do. She not only sees the finished result of my work but also lives it from within. And when she talks about my work with admiration and enthusiasm, it’s the best compliment for me. My son grows up in the Atelier. He’s very curious about every step and detail. But sometimes he asks me to change my occupation because he sees me very little when I travel

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A Golden Shears-award from his younger days

 

VR: …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions back in the days when you began?

GA: My father followed me, step by step, from the beginning of my professional growth. He has always been proud of my choices and me. There is no other tailors in my family. I hope one day that my son becomes a tailor but I will let him choose. Any profession he will choose, he will have my maximum support.

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VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?

GA: I am a sailor, a lover of the sea, of good cooking and traveling.

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VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards learning tailoring?

GA: At the age of 11 I started to be interested in tailoring, after school I used to go to the “bottega”, the tailoring shop, to learn cutting and sewing. It was just a small tailoring shop in our village in Calabria, with no specific name.

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VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the craft — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?

GA: I learned my first notions in ateliers where I worked at the beginning of my career, first in Milan and then in Rome. In Milan I worked with Cesare Tosi, one of greatest tailors ever, who was called the “human architect”. He made suits for Umberto II of Savoy, the last King of Italy, and many other celebrities. Later I moved to Rome where I attended a tailoring school and at the same time worked at one of the tailoring shops.

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VR: How would you describe your own dress? How about your “house cut”?

GA: I would say that I am a tailor who creates elegance. My suit is principally an elegant suit. Although my garments are recognisable, I try to give to each Customer something unique created specifically for his body. So, if you talk about my “house style”, I would say that I create one style for each Customer, and it’s always an exclusive style, which improves the possible defects of the body and makes the man feel always at ease and unique.

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VR: Please tell us when you decided to set up your own store, and what goals you set for yourself in the beginning. How have you been received so far?

GA: When I started my career in Milan, I wished to become a great Master tailor and open up my own atelier. I set up my own company in 1991, in a couple of years I will celebrate 30 years of my business. Today I am considered one of the best tailors and my Sartoria is one of the biggest and the most important ones in the world. I would say my dreams have come true but now I have many other projects.

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VR: Why should my readers visit Gaetano Aloisio over other Italian tailors?

The gentlemen who are looking for quality, uniqueness and elegance must come to visit my Sartoria. Every detail is important, nothing is left to chance. In my tailoring the garments are made with the oldest traditions of craftsmanship but in the same time with the continuous and constant search for modernity, and the highest quality and with the most refined fabrics.

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VR: Who or what inspires you?

GA: I am continually inspired by my customers. I observe them a lot trying to understand their characters, the style of life and the tastes. From there comes my inspiration in creating the personal distinctive style for each client.

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VR: What’s your definition of style?

GA: If I think of style, surely I do not stop only at the way of dressing. It is a combination of choices in the way of living, the choice of savors, even the rhythms of a person are important to define his or her style. Those who follow fashion can have a certain style but most of the time it is plain and common with many others. Not many people have the courage to have their own unique style that fully expresses their personality and makes them feel at ease in every occasion.

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VR: Finally, in your view, how does Roman tailoring differ from the styles in other Italian cities?

GA: Roman tailoring is like the people of Rome. The people of the southern Italian cities are more creative and imaginative, they have a kind of fanciful way of dressing. The men love a soft-tailored jacket with very light structure. The people of the northern cities are more rigorous and have more rules in the way of dressing, therefore they prefer more defined jackets. Rome is located between these two realities. I would define the Roman tailoring as balanced.

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www.gaetanoaloisio.com


Andrea Luparelli and Sartoria Ripense

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June 19, 2018 by Ville Raivio


An interview with Francis Waplinger

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June 11, 2018 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

FW: I am a 31-year-old shoemaker.

Long Island Shoe Designer. Boyfriend of Megan K. Euell, Painter.

VR: Your educational background?

FW: I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a bachelor’s degree in interior design. After a short break from formal schooling, I enrolled in Accademia Riaci, an arts and craft school in Florence, Italy. There I completed the Atelier and Master programs in shoemaking, followed by an apprenticeship with Roberto Ugolini.

 

VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your shoe enthusiasm)?

FW: I have a beautiful and talented fiancé. We both share an intense passion for our respective crafts, as I am a shoemaker and she is a classically trained painter. Our appreciation for beauty, craft, and art play a large role in our lives and together drives us forward with our crafts. I have made her several pairs of shoes which gives me great joy. She has a great eye for design and I am always bouncing ideas off of her. My fiancé is a constant resource and most importantly she has always supported and believed in me even when I have doubted myself.

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VR: …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions back when you decided to become a shoemaker?

FW: My parents and sister have always been supportive of my pursuit of shoemaking. In this sense, I am very lucky.

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VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides footwear?

FW: My true passion is shoemaking. As for hobbies, I enjoy cooking, wine, coffee, and gardening.

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VR: How did you first become interested in shoes, and when did you turn your eyes towards artisanal shoemaking? Why classic models instead of fashion?

FW: As a kid I grew up playing soccer and later started skateboarding in middle school. With both activities, footwear is a key component of the culture. So, I was always interested in the latest soccer cleats and newest skate shoes. From there, I started buying solid color skate shoes and would airbrush them different color ways to make a custom sneaker. I was first introduced to the idea of actual shoemaking by a family friend who had heard of a week-long shoemaking course in the Seattle area (where I grew up). That first week-long course turned into a second week-long course the following year. After the second course, I did some shoemaking on my own but soon realized that in order to truly master the craft I needed to either apprentice in a shoemaking workshop or enroll in a shoemaking school. After that realization, I ended up in Florence, Italy, attending a shoemaking school and later apprenticing in a workshop.    

My initial interest in shoes was more a combination of practicality and fashion. Soccer cleats as well as skate shoes serve a particular function but are also constantly being updated with the latest trends and “technology.” This all changed once I began my journey into the world of classic handmade footwear. Making shoes was so appealing to me because it was a combination of timeless beauty and functionality. A well constructed shoe that fits properly provides support, in my case, eliminating the need for supportive insoles, and it is also a wearable piece of art. Classic shoes will always be stylish and it is a tribute and reflection of cultural heritage.

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VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the craft — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?

FW: My knowledge of shoemaking comes from formal schooling in shoemaking and apprenticeships with fellow shoemakers.

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VR: How would you describe the House Style of Waplinger shoes?

FW: As my business is still quite young, I’m in the process of defining my house style. I am heavily influenced by classic Italian footwear, as most of my training was in Italy, and I think that shows in my work. I’m currently working on new designs that I believe will set a foundation for a more recognizable house style and aesthetic.

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FW: Do you have a favourite shoe model (eg. monk, derby, oxford, balmoral boot) and leather type?

FW: I prefer Oxfords and box calf leather.

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VR: There are several fine shoemakers in America– why should my readers try you?

FW: Firstly, my company, Francis Waplinger, is only myself. I strive to incorporate all the knowledge I have learned to create a top quality handmade pair of shoes. My business depends on delivering shoes that fulfil my clients expectations and needs.

Secondly, my shoes are completely made in the United States from start to finish. I do all the work myself; I create the designs, click and close the uppers, hand-last, hand-welt, and hand-finish each pair of shoes. I am one of the only American shoemakers in the United States who has been classically trained in the art and craft of old world shoemaking techniques.

I offer made-to-measure and bespoke footwear for men and women. Each pair is handmade specifically to the client’s specifications. I have several house models that clients can choose from or I will work with a client to realize their custom design. I offer a selection of the finest American and European leathers sourced from world-famous tanneries. 

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VR: What is your definition of a well-made shoe?

FW: Proper fit, pleasing to the eye, and durable.


VR: Who or what inspires you?

FW: I am always inspired by my fellow shoemakers and encouraged by people who appreciate my dedication to the craft of shoemaking.

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VR: Finally, with the often mentioned lack of pupils for shoemakers, what’s your view about artisanal shoemaking in the US in the future?

FW: I think the future of artisan shoemaking is uncertain in the United States. Most, if not all, schooling in the States has turned its focus to design, rather than actual production and craft. This is the precise reason that I followed my desire to learn the craft of shoemaking to Italy.

With that being said, there is definitely a resurgence of interest in artisan made footwear from clients. Americans are becoming more interested in quality over quantity and are starting to get away from “fast fashion”. I am striving to reach that customer, and also hope that by sourcing the highest quality materials, and making my product in the United States, that it will spark interest and educate the American client. This interest is definitely encouraging even though there are still many challenges to face if shoemaking is going to thrive in the US.

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Photos: Francis Waplinger

http://www.franciswaplinger.com


Anatomy of Gaziano&Girling shoes

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June 5, 2018 by Ville Raivio

So much has been written of the Gaziano&Girling shoe factory already that I’ll spare my readers a re-read of the essentials. Suffice it to say that they make Goodyear-welted men’s footwear from very expensive leathers using old machinery, a combination of hand- and machinework, and features copied from bespoke shoemaking. The end result is a very high-end off-the-peg shoe. If this is not enough, they also offer a made to order service as well as full bespoke pairs for deep-pocketed chaps.

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The example pair is the model Warwick, a balmoral oxford made on G&G’s Art Deco-inspired Deco-last. The first-grade calfskin is dyed vintage rioja, or very dark red, and the oak-bark leather soles have that rare feature of bevelled waist. On first inspection, the last looks elongated and very curvaceous. The Deco is Gaziano&Girling’s most pointed last, just on the verge of being too pointy for my eyes…though not yet so. Looking from top down, the welt is cut so close as to disappear under the curves of the last. This makes the pair look more delicate than those with wide, burly welts. The curves are strongest around the arch of the foot, where the uppers are turned so inwards as to give great support. The heelcup is very rounded and hugs the heel tightly. Continuing about the last, I must say it is among the lowest I’ve ever tried. A true boon for men with low insteps and low toes, a very difficult fit for others.

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The leather looks flawless, no matter how close the eye comes. The surface is smooth, soft, the colour is even, the leather creases very little. The stitches are straight and clean all around, same goes for the brogue decoration. While the welt is not as closely cut and rounded before the heels as I’ve seen, it disappears thanks to the last shape. Around the heel and sock, the leather lining comes in a similar colour as the uppers, a feature I’ve rarely seen in RTW shoes. The toes and heelcups are slightly darker than the rest of the uppers, burnished for a more interesting look. The pair is also polished well at the factory before shipping. The toeline is nicely curved downwards from the top. Comparing the sole finish to my older pair from G&G, it seems that they’ve let go of their previous fiddleback waist, replacing it with a less cut in shape that’s still equally narrow. The uppers are cut lower around the ankle’s outer side to make the pair look more delicate. The pair arrived in an okay shoebox with extra laces, a cotton flannel polishing rag, and cotton flannel storage bags.

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These days, G&G asks for a bit under one thousand pounds for their pairs. In return, they offer what I feel is among the best damn made RTW shoes on the market. With the caveat, of course, that the customer can find a suitable fit among their strongly sculpted lasts. The leathers, finishing, last shapes, detailing, everything just looks and feels so fine. The only thing I’d change is the outer sole, which seems very thin to make for a long-wearing workhorse. All else is fine and dandy.

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Interview with Gabor Halmos from SARTORIALE

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June 4, 2018 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

GH: 45, I am the owner of SARTORIALE.

VR: Your educational background?

GH: After finishing high school in Hungary, I moved to New York, where I studied Fashion merchandising and design at FIT.

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VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your clothing enthusiasm)?

GH: I have two 2 boys (11 and 5), they’ve started sharing my interest in dressing and they are both very picky about what they wear, it can take some time in the mornings…They are also helping out in the office during their summer break.

My wife always looks great and she „accepts” my clothing obsession and understands when family vacations turn into “business research projects“ (I need to see all the interesting shops when we travel).

 

VR: …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions back in the days when you began?

GH: My parents couldn’t have a say. They are happy that I could make a profession out of my obsession. I have 4 younger brothers and they always appreciated the nice clothes they got from me.

 

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel? 

GH: MUSIC, regardless of genre! Thinking back periods in my life, I remember exactly what I listened back then. Good concerts I never miss, wherever I am. Seeing people like Miles Davis, David Bowie playing live was special, and I love small Jazz places in NY, like the 55 Bar…

I love traveling and prefer the Mediterranean climate and the sea.

I collect old things, they don’t have to be valuable, but they must be exciting, unique…

…and of course, my vintage watches; old Chronos, military and diving watches, regatta watches, they are all fascinating to me. Again, they don’t have to be expensive, just interesting and they sometimes surprise you when you check how their value has increased after a few years…

VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards classic style? Why classics instead of fast fashion?

GH: Growing up in Hungary in the 1980s there were not too many sources to getting great clothing, we often traveled to Vienna to see and buy quality stuff, well-made clothing. Trips to Italy at that time left the first impressions on me about classic style and sophistication, and watching old movies with Bogart, Cary Grant, Mastroianni had a big effect on me. I remember seeing Alain Delon in Le Samourai and Borsalino, he looked perfect, the definition of style. Later on, when I moved to New York this interest grew on me even more.

When done well, classic menswear has a timeless appeal, think of Paul Newman, or McQueen, their style won’t look out of place today. I feel buying the latest fashion pieces is a waste of money.

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the tailored look — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?

GH: I was fortunate to get to know some of the best dressed men in New York through my work with Vass Shoes and SARTORIALE. Two amazing lawyers: Ed Hayes and Paul J. Hanly have made a lasting impression, they are 2 of the best dressed guys in the world and I was lucky enough to get some vintage Savile Row pieces from them, which I had fitted for myself. I was fortunate to meet G. Bruce Boyer early in my career, he became a good friend over the years and always helped to define my way of looking at style, he is the nicest person you can meet, he has an endless knowledge of style, there was always something to learn from him. Dressing was so easy and effortless for these guys, no mystery, secrets, just put on the clothes you like and wear them, it is not a science and don’t take it too seriously, just enjoy it!

I have learned a lot from books, and later online sources like Styleforum and sites like Keikari always have something interesting and new.

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VR: How would you describe your style?

GH: What I put on mostly depends on my mood, fortunately I can wear what I want. A pair of nicely faded selvedge denim is a staple, which I wear mostly with long sleeve polo shirts or button-down collar oxford shirts and a handmade, tailored jacket, it has to be soft and draped; because of my build I love Rubinacci, and A&S, they are the most comfortable for me. For shoes: a pair of split toe derby, suede chukka boot or jodhpurs, or vintage US made boots, or something from my Vass collection, or from my finished shoe project Demeter&Halmos. I love vintage outerwear and mix them with current items.

 

VR: Have you always worked with menswear? If not, what lead you to change occupations?

GH: When I started out in New York I worked in the restaurants and hotels, I never loved it, but it was fun back then.

VR: When was SARTORIALE born, and what goals did you set for the company back then?

GH: I was lucky to be in the right place, at the right time. The online business was completely new, there was room to grow. SARTORIALE was born in 2000, I started selling some of my old clothes on eBay, then I realized that I could make a business out of this. Started searching thrift shops in NY, they used to be ”gold mines”, later I was getting consignments of very high end bespoke pieces.

With a friend we were the first to distribute Vass Shoes in the USA, placed them at Bergdorf, Louis Boston and some other high-end stores and got notoriety on Styleforum and Ask Andy.

My apartment was my “warehouse”. Shoes and suits everywhere…I soon outgrew it.

Then I started traveling to Napoli and source some of the best clothes: Kiton, Attolini, Rubinacci, etc.

I am happy, that I have the finest crew in the world, a group of multitalented guys, I am very grateful to them!

VR: How do select the makers you stock on the webstore?

GH: I am always on the lookout for brands, makers who create products with character, integrity and honesty. These are mostly small, independent manufacturers, who make by hand. I am proud to offer items, which were never available before online like Sartoria Chiaia, Rubinacci London House, Ambrosi pants, Seraphin France for leather pieces and Mario Talarico’s amazing umbrellas.

I always loved vintage clothing, 1960’s denim, vintage motorcycle jackets, riding boots, old Savile Row suits, etc. You can also find those on my site, along with one of a kind runway pieces from top fashion houses.

VR: Why should my readers visit SARTORIALE.COM over other online quality outlets?

GH: Possibly we have the best and most eclectic selection of handmade tailored clothing, shoes, accessories, vintage pieces and top fashion, which you cannot find in any other shop, online or offline, regardless the price. We take great pride to offer personal customer care, sizing and styling advise, timely deliveries from two EU and two US locations and an easy return policy.

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With part of the SARTORIALE team, from left: Mark, Les, Milan

VR: Who or what inspires you

GH: My family, every day.

VR: What’s your definition of style?

GH: The expression of your inner self and the conglomeration of the material decisions you made. One can only lie about it, but it will show.


Raul Ojeda from Willie’s Shoe Service

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June 4, 2018 by Ville Raivio


Interview with Frank Shattuck

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May 29, 2018 by Ville Raivio

I became a tailor because it is a craft. I have always worked with my hands. Tailoring is an old, forgotten craft. An ancient craft. I started tailoring in 1982 with the Cesta Bros, Frank and Carlo, in their dimly lit shop in downtown Syracuse, New York, when it was still a fine town. My great grandfather’s patterns were still in the shop. They taught me old world ways. Hand work. Fitting. Pattern manipulation. When they retired I moved to NYC to continue my learning. And that I certainly did. I landed with The Great Raphael Raffealli, who took me under his wings and taught me old old secrets. Toninno “the genius” Christophoro worked for Raphael and took a liking to me, and took time to teach. He worked seven days a week and so did I. Sunday was the day he dedicated only to my learning. They liked me because they loved to laugh and I was a hilarious Irishman. We had a grand time for years. They taught me with love. I know of no other tailor today who knows how to apply a facing by hand. It takes eight hours. It’s the only way I do it.

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I did a stint with the cantankerous but masterful master Henry Stewart. I learned from him his version The Mitchell System of drafting. He himself had many more secrets than in the book. I was a sponge full of roiling interest and desire to learn all old world methods. All and only. And I did. My hands also learned to know cloth. Good cloth. As only an old tailor can know because he works with it. All of the old cloths are gone. X bought the old houses — H.Lesser, Harrison’s and so on and he ruined them all. I’d love to tighten his neck tie for him. I did not open my first shop until 1997. 15 years after I started. I’d still be working and learning from the old men if they were around.

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I use vintage cloths for my customers. Cloths worthy of old world ways. When old tailors retired I would buy out their stock. So I have a good store of old cloth. I also have access to a basement full of old thornproof tweed somewhere in Scotland. Ant there are two books I use today for suiting. When I find old blue book H. Lesser I buy it. The blue book are before X bought them out. Old cloths are higher twist. The yarns are twisted tighter. This makes for a “dry” hard, durable cloth that drapes and wrinkles not. Old cloth could easily last for years and years and then be handed down. Not in today’s throwaway world. Get an MTM with crap cloth and toss it in a year. Even the H. Lesser 7-1/2oz draped like a brick. Cloths today wrinkle and pill. Good old cloth is, to me, like rich topsoil to a farmer.

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I do all [the cutting, sewing, making] myself because the finished coat is MY pride. MY life is in it. Like a bee makes honey I make suits. I am what I do. I have no house style that I have ever thought about. My style is what happens. How to make a functional suit along with the lines to make my customer an elegant man. I use the customers structure along with the given lines in my drafts, and I make him a pattern. I use forgotten pattern manipulation. All suits are pleasant surprises for us both.

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What inspires me is an enthusiastic respectful customer and me making his trust in me pay off for him. I also get inspiration in telling disrespectful customers to go to hell. My definition of style is a well fitted suit, with no style purposefully added, worn by a confident man. I wish more people would realize the the new skinny suit style looks like PeeWee Herman, especially on overweight middle-aged men. I have stumbled upon the most amazing thing. I now do Skype fittings all over the world. I just finished a stunning suit for a gentleman in London using Skype. He likes it better than his Row tailor’s suit. And it is better. Pattern making is lost. I am also making for a gentleman in Finland. And it’s picking up steam. People want old world ways and hand work. and the feel of a well-fitted, tailored suit. I always have room for new clients. I love it when a new customer goes through the authentic fitting process and they realize that they are part of the suit too. And the feel what a coat and trousers should feel like. I love when, for the first time, they can sit down in their trousers and be comfortable.

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http://www.frankshattuck.com

https://www.instagram.com/thefrankshattuck/

 


The Art & Sole of Silvano Lattanzi

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May 25, 2018 by Ville Raivio

Back in 2010, the American Express Platinum card’s complimentary magazine Departures published a little something. The documentarist Jo Durden-Smith placed an order for a bespoke pair of Silvano Lattanzi shoes, and wrote about the ordeal, the company, and the artisan.

 

Art & Sole
The handmade shoes of Silvano Lattanzi display unparalleled craftsmanship and a singular aesthetic

By Jo Durden-Smith

The first thing that you notice about 49-year-old Silvano Lattanzi is his hands. Powerful and gnarled, they seem to belong to someone other than the immaculately suited man who greets me outside his shop on Rome’s Via Bocca di Leone. It’s the feast of the Epiphany, and the whole of the city seems to be out on parade in the late-morning sunshine, browsing through the windows along nearby Via Condotti and then gathering in groups like actors at a full-costume rehearsal debating (with the curtain still up) where to have lunch. Lattanzi ushers me inside through a decorated wrought-iron gate and introduces me to his current manager, Cecilia, a young Frenchwoman, who gallantly insists that she has had to come in to the small shop today “for a stocktaking.”

Lattanzi only has time to tell me, quite matter-of-factly, that he left school at the age of 14 before the telephone rings and he is called away. So I turn aside to inspect his shoes, although I don’t know quite where to begin. For there are astonishing numbers of thematics, far more than at any other bench-shoemaker I’ve ever visited. They’re in small glass-fronted lockers along the one wall, in the windows, laid out on every available surface; they compose a series of contemporary meditations on the classic designs of the 20th century ”the full brogue, the half-brogue, the country shoe, the loafer” in calf, suede, and cordovan: some exquisitely light; others much heavier, with a double-welt, a midsole, and two rows of decorative bottom-stitching. The patterning, the shape, and the curves of handsewn detailing differ from pair to pair; there are variations in color, in patina, and burnish. These are the shoes not just of someone who has already foreseen every conceivable demand a custom-client might make of him, but of an experimenter, a man who is restlessly working his way through all the possibilities (for personal statement, for fashion) of traditional forms.

It’s this restlessness ”this constant need to get on, to do more” that’s the second thing you notice about Silvano Lattanzi. In the end we spend a couple of hours in his shop, talking about his career: the long road that’s taken him from his apprenticeship to the heights of Rome and Milan, where he has an outlet on Via Montenapoleone. But I soon sense that this elegantly laid-out store is not his natural environment, and that he’s quietly uneasy talking about himself. He only seems happy, in fact, when he’s involved in something practical, like bending low to measure me for the pair of shoes I’ve come to order, or explaining the intricacies, shoe in hand, of the double-welt or of reversing the fiendishly complex process, forgotten now by many English custom-shoemakers, in which the upper part of the shoe is sewn inside-out and then reversed so that the stitching is barely evident. It’s only when he speaks about his work that he becomes both personal and, in a simple, self-effacing way, almost lyrical.

“I produce about 50 new models a year,” Lattanzi says, “and I take inspiration wherever I can find it, from nature, from my travels. It’s important for me when I travel to see beautiful places, beautiful women, museums, fine carpets, and fine palaces, because I want to reach out to that whole world and absorb it into what I do. It’s also important that I meet through my work men of intelligence and culture. When I go to the United States I like to take photographs of my custom-clients there, so I can remember and respect them. Without that memory, that respect, the soul goes out of the work: It does not come out well.”

Later, over lunch at a nearby wine-bar, he adds: “Passion is another basic element in what I’m trying to do. You know, people don’t appreciate what it takes to make shoes by hand. They don’t understand it’s physically tough work: dirty and exacting. They think that it’s automatic, repeatable, a sort of instant magic. But I’m there every day, side by side with my workers, discussing, comparing, experimenting and not only do we work very hard, we work with passion, we have to. We work with love. Hand-making must be perfect, absolutely perfect. You cannot do it if you are neurotic; you can’t do it if there are other things on your mind. You have to have a happy atmosphere and total, total commitment.” So it comes as no surprise to me when he announces as the meal ends: “You must come and see it for yourself!”

Soon after lunch, then, we jump into his Mercedes-Benz and spend the late afternoon driving across the spine of Italy, stopping only to gaze at a snow-capped mountain transformed into pink ice cream by the last flourish of the sun. And next morning, after a night in a hotel on the coast, I ring the front doorbell of the little balconied house on Via Mostrapiedi (literally Show-the-Feet Street) in the hamlet of Sant’Elpidio a Mare, about a half-hour drive from the Adriatic port of Ancona. I don’t exactly know what I’m expecting. A place with the same sort of methodical, meditative calm, I suppose, that I’ve found in the custom-shoemakers I have visited in London. But what I find, though driven by the same craft imperatives, could be on another planet. The front door opens onto a stairwell; off to the left is a tiny office that’s piled with papers and files; and beyond the office there’s a buzz, a whirl, a hubbub of activity. Fourteen or 15 people are crammed into a relatively small space, along with tables and racks of finished shoes, antiquated machinery, and an extraordinary contraption of movable, tiered metal baskets filled with lasted footwear of every color, which snakes up and down one side of the room. Near the door, in a space of their own, two seasoned old “bottomers” are sitting on low stools, calmly stitching on welts, the thin strips of leather which hold the “upper,” the lining, and the insole together. But everywhere else in the room workers, darting from station to station, variously pincer, staple, water, hammer, nail, and measure in what looks at first to me like organized chaos.

Lattanzi, who is now wearing a grubby white coat, introduces me to his workers and then says, “All right. Today, just to show you, we’re going to do something that we normally wouldn’t do: We’re going to make you a pair of shoes in only twenty-four hours!”

The tan leather town-shoe that I have chosen, a model called Barkin, combines utter simplicity, the minimum of sewn decoration with supreme elegance of form. Once more Lattanzi measures me, carefully turning my feet into two outlines and a series of figures. Then, with a set of pre-made patterns in hand, he leads me past the buffing machine and a group of “finishers” to the cutter’s, or “clicker’s,” bench.

What follows over the next few hours is a virtual master class in the art of shoe-making. While the clicker is busy selecting a skin, Lattanzi explains the fundamentals of hide preparation. For ordinary leather he uses the top layer, which has a grainy texture created by the animal’s pores and the bases of its hair follicles; the layer beneath it, made of collagen fibers, is napped into suede. Most of his calfskin, Lattanzi says, comes from England (“absolutely the best in Europe”), and the leather used to make the soles comes from Düsseldorf. Cordovan, which is made from horse muscle, comes from Chicago; ”crocodile, lizard, ostrich, and snakeskin we import from all over the world.”

The skin that the cutter finally brings down for my shoes is handed to Lattanzi who turns it over and pulls at it. “First, it has to be the right color, of course,” he says, “to take the particular coloration I’m after. But it must also have, in the parts that we use of it, a fine texture, a good grain. It must be elastic,” he says, stretching it again, “and it must have a uniformity of thickness. If the skin is too thin, I won’t use it at all.”

He nods at the cutter, who lays the patterns down on the skin one after another and cuts round them with his long “clicking” blade (the name comes from its sound), sometimes leaving space at the pattern edge and sometimes adding through the pattern what seem to be chalk guidelines for the stitcher. When he is done, he repeats the process with a thinner piece of leather for the lining, and then he hands the pile of cut shapes across his bench to a young woman sitting at a punch press below him.

Her first task, which she starts without pausing for breath, it seems, is to chamfer down the under-edges of some of the leather pieces, a process called skiving, “so that wherever they are put together for stitching there will be only a single thickness,” says Massimo Bizzocchi, Lattanzi’s American agent, who has joined us. Then she takes other sections and punches out a line of holes, the eyelets for the laces, and carefully fits metal rings in some of them. Finally she gathers together the pieces, puts them in a plastic bag, and takes them upstairs. Lapsed time so far: 35 minutes.

Bizzocchi and I follow her to a room overlooking a garden planted with lettuces, herbs, and arugula; farther down the hillside we can see the beginnings of the huge new workshop Lattanzi is building. For the next hour we watch as his sister, Fabiana, painstakingly assembles the incoherent pile of leather snippets into something that finally looks like a shoe. She goes downstairs once to replace a section spotted by wax from the candle she uses to burn off loose fibers. She twice unravels a whole section of stitching because she is not satisfied with the line. (“Silvano is a very tough critic,” Fabiana says.) But by the time she’s done we have a finished lining and upper, which resembles a shoe in the same way a face would if it were peeled off and laid down flat.

Downstairs, we introduce ourselves formally to Lattanzi’s mother, Delia, a quietly cheerful, bespectacled woman who is finishing off shoes for Jil Sander and Brioni (while outside, her husband, Angelo, hoes and weeds the garden). Lattanzi himself we find crouched on the floor whittling away with a piece of broken glass at a last, which he’s already built up at the sides with what looks like plaster. “No machine can do this,” he says, looking up at me. “Only hands, knowing where you want to add and where to take away.” What he’s been doing, he says, is creating the shape of my feet out of standard-size lasts. (Normally Lattanzi makes a custom last for each client.) He’s even added a bridgelike leather prosthesis, to represent my high arches. “There,” he says, standing, satisfied with his scraping. “Now we can begin.”

He briefly inspects the uppers for any sign of blemish. Then he splashes water on them and, using two different brushes, glues the uppers and liners together in preparation for the lasts. “Regular glue and mastic glue,” he announces. “The mastic dries quickly and becomes soft where you want it to be soft, while the regular glue takes longer to dry, so that you can manipulate the surface of the shoes on the last.” He puts temporary laces through the carefully aligned eyelets and ties them tight. Then, one after the other, using no more than pincers, a hammer, and nails, he forces the two upper-liner assemblages down onto the lasts.

It takes no more than a few minutes. But it is an extraordinary performance, a combination of strength and an absolute certainty of eye: strength, to pincer the leather smooth and tight round the last’s edges before nailing the fringes onto the base; and certainty of eye, to make sure that the alignment and symmetry of the shoes are not skewed in the process. When he’s finished Lattanzi compares the two covered lasts with a pair of calipers, and he finds that they match exactly. I feel like applauding his accuracy. He simply gives a small grunt of satisfaction, and then passes them on to one of his workers, who splashes water on them and then begins to hammer out the leather.

“This is the next stage,” Lattanzi says, standing over him, “the tapping in of the fibers, starting the process that is in the wear of the shoe. Water is very important here because leather is a living material. It absorbs water, and when it dries out, it will keep the shape that is being hammered into it. After this the shoes stay on the last for two more days, we’ll water and hammer them again, and then they’ll stay on the last, acquiring the memory of their shape, for another two to five weeks, depending on the humidity, the weather.”

As I’m led through the subsequent processes, the heat-flattening of the base of the shoe, the setting of the insole, and the interposition of the shank, which supports the foot’s arch, I begin to understand why the 4,000 pairs of shoes Lattanzi makes annually command such high prices, $3,000-$5,000 for the first pair (which includes the making of the last), and similar prices for subsequent ones, though selecting an exotic leather can make the cost even higher. And then I am led to the central mystery of custom shoemaking, the hand-sewing of the welt.

Most shoes made today don’t come with a welt but are instead held together by being cemented or injected with hot plastic. The welt, by contrast, is stitched onto, and through, upper, lining, and insole. But in Lattanzi’s hands, it becomes a sort of fugue. He is a virtuoso of the single welt; the double, which will be used for my shoes (with an extra midsole for strength); and even the triple, which when I get back to London is described to me by a custom shoemaker as “used only for rigid, waterproof ski-boots, and then not really worth the trouble.” And yet Lattanzi shows me women’s shoes of an extraordinary delicacy that are triple-welted. They are rigid, certainly, and as water-resistant as it’s possible to be, but with the platform of the shoe a showplace for a variety of intertwining, decorative cross-stitching.

When evening falls, it is time for my first fitting. Lattanzi searches out my shoes from the racked baskets, unlasts them, puts a temporary sole and heel on them, and then, when I’ve put them on, bends down to feel my feet through the leather. “The lacing isn’t quite right.” Then: “Too tight,” he announces. By the time I come back in the morning, on my way to the airport, both lasts have been changed; and a toepiece on one of the shoes, which had somewhere along the way been slightly discolored, has been replaced. The whole workshop now seems to be involved. Lattanzi is still not satisfied. He says that he’ll change the last once more, and that I’ll get my shoes, ”Perfect!”, in six weeks.

After I say goodbye to everyone, to Lattanzi’s mother, to his sister, to his father, who comes in from the garden, Lattanzi drives me to the airport. And I say to him that I’ve never seen a group of people work so hard together in my life. He’s pleased. Then he says to me: “You know, in 1981, which was the year of the birth of my son Paolo, I realized that I was broke; my company, Zintala, was going nowhere; and it was then that I was forced to grow up. I understood that the cemeteries were full of undiscovered geniuses, and that if I really wanted to succeed, I’d have to work. Ten years later I opened the shop in Rome.” And since then? “Whatever has happened to me, I think,” he says slowly, “I owe to other people: to my clients, to Cecilia, to Massimo Bizzocchi, to people like you.”

At the little Ancona airport Lattanzi buys me a coffee, and then we say goodbye, promising to meet again. Six weeks later, my shoes arrive. I unwrap them, take out the shoetrees, and put them on. They are like a second skin; and I finally realize the truth of something that all custom-shoemakers have always told me: “When you put on your first pair of bench-made shoes, you will never be able to wear anything else again.”


Bespoke shoes by Saskia Wittmer

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May 25, 2018 by Ville Raivio


Interview with Patrick Hall

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May 24, 2018 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

PH: I am 35 years old, and an Episcopal/Anglican priest. I currently work as the Episcopal chaplain to Rice University in Houston, Texas, in the United States.


VR: Your educational background?

PH: I took a bachelor’s degree in history and philosophy from the University of Texas, and a Master of Divinity from the Virginia Theological Seminary.

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VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your tailoring enthusiasm)?

PH: I have no children but have been married for two years to a wonderful woman who is something of an aesthete herself. She is almost as invested in my wardrobe as I am. She has endearing attachments to some of my clothes, and always mourns when the seasons change and seasonal pieces go into “hibernation.” We are mutually invested in each other’s delight with clothes. She also wears a fair bit of vintage clothing, and we are each other’s first opinion whenever we are thinking about buying things. I am really grateful for a spouse who is neither threatened by nor annoyed by my eccentric love of tailored clothes. My wife has a keen sense of taste that compliments and informs my own. I know that not everyone is so lucky.


VR: …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions to style back in the days when you began?

PH: I am an only child, so I have never had to contend with the opinions of siblings. My parents are befuddled by aesthetics, and my love for the tailored wardrobe in particular. They epitomize the sentiments of many Americans who came of age in the 1960s. They regard tailored clothes with a vague disdain because the tailored wardrobe represents a political/economical/cultural milieu that the “baby-boom” generation rejected in favor of what G. Bruce Boyer calls “prole gear.” My father dutifully wore the American uniform of worsted suit/button-down shirt/repp tie to work for most of his career but seems never to have taken any joy in it whatsoever.

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VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?

PH: I am also passionate about historic preservation. My hometown of Houston, where I still reside, is ritually sacrificed to the god of the wrecking ball every ten years. I believe history should obligate and constrain us, that we are made wiser when we are forced to grapple with edifices from the past, rather than always choosing the easy out of designing for an empty lot. I am part of a community of people here in Houston who give voice to the memory and taste of dead men, though our activism is often futile.


VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards the tailored look?

PH: I have two early memories of tailored clothes – wearing a morning suit as an attendant in a family wedding at a very young age, and dressing for church each week in a blazer and flannels. I was immediately enamored with the dignifying properties of tailored clothes and have unrepentantly preferred them as long as I can remember.


VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of clothing — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?

PH: This is a really important question, because most men suffer the results of the aforementioned mid-20th century rupture, where the knowledge of how to deploy the language of classic menswear was not inter-generationally communicated. My father could not explain the casual utility of patch pockets or demonstrate how a button-down collar was supposed to roll, or what kind of shoes to wear when. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible now to find salespeople or tailors in the United States who are trustworthy guides in classic menswear, unless you live in New York. So, like many of my peers, I have filled up what knowledge was lacking through the internet and books. Like many Americans, I am particularly indebted to Alan Flusser and G. Bruce Boyer, and vintage enthusiasts like Marc Chevalier, whose collective work has kept alive an American perspective on classic menswear that was in danger of being entirely lost on account of widespread neglect.Interview_with_Patrick_Hall_at_Keikari_dot_com3

VR: How would you describe your own dress?

PH: I wear a personal uniform, in that my embrace of classic menswear is total. I have built my wardrobe to be entirely interchangeable, and I wear all my clothes in rotation, with the exception of ties and pocket squares and socks which are chosen intentionally to harmonize all the other randomly sequenced pieces. I like to juxtapose colors and patterns. My hope is that my compositions toe the line between good taste and dandyish narcissism. I also mix vintage and modern pieces, as a way of critiquing the disposability of modern fashion. My hope is that my compositions also toe the line between good taste and period costume.


VR: Who or what inspires you?

PH: Old photographs offer a great deal of inspiration for me. I try to learn from the effortless way tailored clothing was worn by anonymous men before the ascendency of prole-gear made the entire language of classic menswear antique. I love the anonymous snapshots of men in tailored clothes that overflow baskets and bowls at antique shops. They are my teachers. I am also inspired by the taste of public figures both past and present who speak the language of classic menswear proficiently – Prince Charles, Gregory Peck, Tom Wolfe, Robert Lowell, Anthony Eden, Julian Bond, T.S. Eliot, George H. W. Bush, Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Jr., and so on.

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VR: What’s your definition of style?

PH: As it relates to the wardrobe, style is an eye for clothes which suit one’s body and communicate an idiosyncratic sense of taste. Because style must be self-aware, it is always unique and particular. People with a sense of style may opt into fashion trends that suit their proportions and taste, but are not buffeted about by the endless, tacky churn of fashion brands. In this sense, style has a permanency to it.


VR: I see that you have a passion for vintage garments. Why take this extra mile when the shops are full of everything?

PH: Ah, would that the shops WERE full of everything. Economies of scale have not been kind to the tailored wardrobe. As a result, going vintage is one of the easiest ways to get garments of exceptional quality and faultless fit with unique detailing for less than the cost of bespoke. Furthermore, pre-1960 cloth is simultaneously more robust and more breathable than today’s, being heavier than modern cloth but less densely woven. This resulted in garments that endured more shaping by the iron, and tailors were able to offer their customers clothes with incredible shape – swelled chests and nipped waists that could be cut close at the button point without buckling under the tension like modern fabrics do. There were also a myriad of patterns and colors that are just not available today, because demand for tailored clothes is so much diminished. I have handled swatches of worsted wools from the 1920s with a depth and surface interest that dwarfs anything put out by today’s mills. Also, because a man might have two suits that saw daily wear for almost every circumstance, vintage clothes were designed to live and move in – invariably, my vintage pieces are the most wearable in my wardrobe. Finally, we all need to be thinking about sustainability in our lives. Wearing vintage clothes is an easy way to signal that we are reducing our reliance on disposable products that deplete natural resources during production and end up in landfills after just a few months or years of wear. Our cultural obsession with “newness” is a relatively recent fad and is doing our world no favors.

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VR: Finally, given your ecclesiastic background, what do you feel we should know about dress in Christianity?

PH: This is a difficult question to answer, as Christians represent an unfathomable diversity of perspective, and are often appallingly bad at doing justice to our faith. But I believe that the Christian Gospel is a dignifying message, a story that makes human lives and human community more beautiful and more meaningful. Tailored clothes have a similar aim – every man will need something particular and unique from his wardrobe, depending on the specific idiosyncrasies of his physique. Tailored clothes broaden, they slim, they lengthen, they shorten, they draw attention to the face. In short, tailored clothes are designed to uniquely dignify each man who wears them. The tailored wardrobe is the raiment of western civility, and it disposes its wearers to their neighbors. Tailored clothes harmonize best with judicious kindness and respectful comportment. Christians have, at their best, always worked for just such a community, where every person is dignified through their relations with every other, and judicious kindness and principled respect are the celebrated. I wear tailored clothes to signal my respect for the public square and for the other people who I find there. It is my Christian faith that has fostered such respect in me.

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"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell