Monday, September 01, 2008

Enzo Caruso: A bespoke tailor in Santa Monica

Earlier this year based on a couple of references in an AskAndy thread, I decided to drop by Enzo Caruso on Ocean Park Blvd in Santa Monica. For some reason, I had thought he was an alterations tailor but it turns out Caruso is a bespoke/custom tailor. He has a nice selection of Italian and British fabrics including: John Cooper, Taylor & Stewart, W. Bill, Harrisons, Holland & Sherry, Charles Clayton, Thomas Fisher, Gladson, Scabal, Dormeuil, Zegna, Loro Piana.

Enzo clearly loves fabrics and spent a good half hour or so showing me interesting fabrics: his latest H&S books (Eutopia) which UPS delivered while I was there, a lavender Zegna Cashco 91% cotton/9% cashmere blend that he's going to make up into a pair of trousers for a customer. I'm not sure I'd wear the Zegna Cashco myself but it was a beautiful fabric. He also showed me Zegna's 15 Milmil fabrics and a special H&S cashmere book specifically for scarves and throws.

M. Caruso advertisement c 1920sEnzo Caruso jacket label

Some background is in order. In 1895, the first of his relatives immigrated to US. His great-grand uncle opened a tailor's shop in Santa Monica in the 1920s. He showed me an advertisement for that shop that was reprinted in Fred Basten's book, Santa Monica Bay: Paradise By the Sea (see above). Enzo also worked at Moss Bros in London for a couple of years in the early 1970s. As a child he toiled away at his grandfather's tailoring business in Calabria. At that time, his small town of 20,000 had about 20 tailors - a remarkable number today but not unusual then.

Enzo has been at his current location opposite the Santa Monica Business Park for about 15 years. He's a fifth generation Calabrian tailor. Calabria is located in the deep south of Italy – occupying the apron, so to speak, of the boot shaped Italian peninsula. This makes me wonder if there is a specific Calabrian style of tailoring garments. He said he is the last one in his extended family (including his son) who has any interest in tailoring. He himself looks fairly young to me – in his 50s.

Enzo gives his advice freely – much of which is spot on – regarding fabrics, color and coordination. For instance, he recommended subtle, subdued patterns for me – to fill up my fairly lean frame a bit – emphasizing more of the horizontal than the vertical. He also felt, and I agree, that I would do well in three piece suits.

All the garments are cut, sewn and finished on the premises. As for his cutting style, Enzo is adaptive to the customer's build but his preferred cut seems to have a basis in the natural shoulder. He will vary the amount of shoulder padding depending on the customer's shoulder and preference. In my case (square shoulders), he said he would do minimal padding. For first-time customers, three fittings is the norm. Below is a picture from my third fitting of my first order with Enzo.

Caruso 3rd fitting (July 2008)

For those who require a thorough fitting process, I think Enzo would fit the bill superbly. He also knows his tailoring chops. During one of my early fittings, I wore one of my Neapolitan suits and he examined it with much admiration. For him it was a beautiful example of a deconstructed jacket. He picked up on that theme of a soft, natural shoulder and carried it over to the initial jacket he made for me. The armhole is handsewn and attached with an open seam, which is folded up into both shoulder and sleeve. The time he spent to make the shoulder speaks volumes about Enzo's love of his craft. He's interested in new challenges and spends a couple of days on alterations, the rest on bespoke commissions. Those interested in using Enzo should be comfortable with exercising patience. Although he used to have an assistant, he's now a one-man operation so commissions will take time.

I also learned that he makes a separate muslin/trial suit in certain cases (i.e. with large orders or an especially difficult fit). For example, during my latest visit, he was making a trial topcoat for a customer who placed an order for 4 topcoats. The making of a trial garment is a rare and time consuming service. I was under the impression that there was only one tailor in the US who still makes a trial suit according to one knowledgeable authority. Hmm, make that two tailors who do trial suits in the US.

Two piece suits start around $2,400. I was also quoted $3,500 for a three piece suit in one of the more expensive suitings (the name of which escapes me). Delivery of a first suit order takes at least 8 weeks. His hours are M-F 9:30-6pm and Sat 9:30-1pm. For new customers, he has an interesting payment policy: 1/3 initial deposit, 1/3 at first fitting and 1/3 on final delivery.

All in all, Enzo is the genuine article – a tailor's tailor. As I walked out of his store after my first visit, he ushered me out with some reassuring words, “The best things in life take time to grow. I think the same way with customers.”

Additional links
- Styleforum thread on LA bespoke tailors


Mary Beth said...

I have left a Prize for you on my blog!

Anonymous said...

That is a very beautifull jacket. Do you have any details on the fabric?

dandy356 said...

Zegna & LoraPiana both have splendid caschco fabrics, as I'm more of a "of the shelf" person my self. I must admit to having several cashco cords from both Zegna, LoraPiana & others. My climate is cooler than the typical Californian though.

Anonymous said...

Incredibely gifted man and very friendly. Knows his craft down to every last detail. A must for Custom buyers.

sleevehead said...

Mary Beth, thank you for the kind nomination!

sleevehead said...

My apologies for the late replies, I've been traveling quite a bit this month and last. The fabric is a Holland & Sherry wool, silk and cashmere blend. Having traveled with it, I've noticed it has very good recovery properties.

Anonymous said...

I think I saw you and your distinctive suit at Enzo Caruso's today. Was that you?

sleevehead said...

Indeed, I was at Enzo's on Wednesday to discuss and work out the details of a topcoat commission. I think you were the fellow who walked in near the close of business?

Anonymous said...

Any photos??? Thank you.

sleevehead said...

Yes, there is a photo of the gunclub sportscoat I posted in the final fitting stage which was very close to being finished. The only things that needed work were a couple of tweaks around the sleeve and buttons.

Anonymous said...

Of the tailors that you've used during the course of this blog, do you have a particular favorourite (clothes wise) and if so, would you care to say why. Cheers.

sleevehead said...

My favorite tailor? I'll have to put on my diplomatic hat and say each of the tailors I've used has his relative strengths, which I've grown to appreciate over time.

And to be perfectly honest I don't have a favorite tailor for all of my garments. As I describe in my recent singularity v. plurality post, there are different ways to think about the relationship with your tailor(s).

My approach is to think about the garment first and the various situations I would wear it under and then determine which tailor would best fit my needs.

Actually I've been working today on this very topic for my planned book.

Anonymous said...

I've had Enzo alter my suits, jackets and shirts for years, and he's the best. There's a another tailor down the street from him (who shall remain nameless) who's horrible. I've strayed from Enzo a few times, always with disasterous results. He's literally the only tailor I trust in LA at this point.

I've brought many ebay purchases to him, and his alterations make them look bespoke. He takes a while (like you said, he's a one-man operation), but his work is excellent and worth the wait.

sleevehead said...

Thank you for the comments. I'm sure Enzo would appreciate them!

sleevehead said...
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