Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Viennese tailors: A definitive web introduction to Knize

Despite living in the age of Google with ostensibly ubiquitous access to information, I have been often surprised by the lack of information regarding bespoke tailors - specifically, by the lack of a visual record on the cut and silhouette of the major tailoring houses that survive today in England, Italy, Austria and elsewhere. When searching for a particular tailor on MSN, Yahoo and Google, one will often find a surprising lack of both text and visual information on the look and shape of a tailor's house style.
Knize storefront
This is especially true of the venerable atelier of Knize & Comp in Vienna. Established in 1858 by a Czech family, Knize currently is situated at Graben 13 in the original premises designed by the influential Viennese architect Adolf Loos. As a modern architect and designer, Loos famously equated architectural ornament with crime (not surprisingly he was philosophically opposed to Art Nouveau or Jugendstil). The store design is notable for its black Swedish granite edifice and the use of soft cherry and oak woods in the interior (link to interior and exterior pictures). Loos also designed the Knize stores in Berlin (1924) and Paris (1927).

Knize today carries high quality men and women's ready-to-wear (Konfektionsware) but it is most well-known for its bespoke suits (Maßanzüge). In Style and the Man, Alan Flusser praises the "three-button, side-vented, soft-shouldered house style" of the Knize suit jacket (or Anzug) with its "rounded-off shape".
Knize gray pinstripe 3 button
Flusser notes that Knize is similar to Anderson & Sheppard and Caraceni in its emphasis on a soft shoulder. Notice the very slight waist suppression in the photo of the gray pinstripe three-piece, three-button suit.

As Rudolf Niedersüß, Knize's owner, elaborated in a recent interview in Bank Privat Magazin, the Knize cut (Schnitt) is more comfortable and doesn't conform as closely to the body as perhaps some of the Savile Row silhouettes do ("nicht so knapp sitzen wie bei den Briten" und "vielmehr bequemer"). As a practical matter, this enables the Viennese gentleman to store more things in his jacket pockets.
Knize tan 3 button jacket Knize shop display
Another observer remarks that the Knize shoulder falls more naturally with the top part flaring down a bit (referring to the concavity of the shoulder and sleevehead I believe), the waist sits a little higher and the trouser legs are longer ("Die Schultern fallen natürlicher, das Oberteil ist nach unten hin ein wenig ausgestellt. Beim Maßfrack sitzt die Taille etwas höher, und die Hosenbeine sind extra lang."). Another unusual feature is a double-row waistcoat or vest as opposed to the more conventional single row.

Knize is also known for its men's and women's toiletries, specifically the Knize Ten fragrance released in 1924. If you're planning to visit Vienna or Central Europe, there is a very informative AskAndy post on recommended restaurants and shops (including a Viennese glovemaker and a former Imperial court jeweller). You might also find that this NY Times Style Magazine interactive map of Vienna may whet your appetite to plan a trip to Mitteleuropa. Lastly, Fodor's has a nice destination guide listing fine shops, restaurants and sights.


T4phage said...

I was wondering whether you actually visited the Knzie store and examined the cut, fit, and workmanship of thier tailors? It would be a bit difficult (in my opinion) to write a 'definitive' without actually seeing the garments.

btw. Interesting work you did on Beaman's blog.

sleevehead said...

Thank you for the comment. This is precisely why I qualify my entry as a "web introduction" not a customer's definitive guide or bible to Knize. The motivation behind my post was not to claim some prize or award but simply because I could find no commentary or photos of Knize on the web prior to my post. So I decided to fill in the gap with a little research on this great tailoring house. Perhaps this will inspire current and former customers to do the same.

sleevehead said...
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