Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cifonelli revisited: Experimentation with exactitude

In February 2008, I visited Paris and did a little tour of Cifonelli and Camps de Luca. I happened to be in Paris again last weekend and had the very good fortune of meeting a fellow blogger, Hugo of Parisian Gentleman, probably the most well-known men's clothing blog in France. Hugo very kindly invited me to join him for a few appointments during his busy Saturday schedule, which included Cifonelli and Marc Guyot, whom I'll write about later. I had a marvelous time and would like to thank him again for his time and hospitality, as well as Lorenzo Cifonelli who tended to our visit. Both are true Parisian gentlemen!

Massimo & Lorenzo Cifonelli

First, a quick update from my initial description of Cifonelli last year. I was under the impression that Cifonelli did not travel but I discovered that Lorenzo in fact visits NYC several times a year. In addition, this past year Lorenzo and Massimo have been designing a series of sports jackets rooted in traditional tailoring and construction, but are styled to be intentionally hybrid, intentionally inventive...and intentionally fresh. These designs may challenge our more traditionally minded readers who favor only the classic looks and templates of men's clothing. But I think it's healthy to stretch our imagination and boundaries every once in awhile.

The designs certainly do look different and the 10 or so odd jackets represent perfectly the hybrid philosophy of Cifonelli. Their core is a fusion of classic templates with a focused experimentation in the details: type and weight of stitching, pocket shapes, back/shoulder details. A fusion of correctness with experimentation on top of a sound base of uncompromising tailoring.

Here are a few jacket examples:

Travel jacket (note the wonderfully shaped patch pockets on the chest and side)
Cifonelli travel 01

Travel jacket interior
Cifonelli travel 02

Safari jacket (note the flared cuffs)
Cifonelli safari 01

Safari jacket interior
Cifonelli safari 02

Key west linen jacket (note the unusual pocket button fasteners)
Cifonelli key west 01

Denim jacket (material is Japanese raw denim if I remember correctly)
Cifonelli denim

"Dandy" model
Cifonelli dandy 01

"Dandy" model closeup (note the buttonhole detail)
Cifonelli dandy 02

The attention to detail as I noted in my previous visit last year comes out very clearly. This is especially evident in the clean, precise finishing of the self-lined jackets, which expose the interior construction to anyone who cares to look. I point out a couple of examples of this unusual exactitude for the benefit of those fixated on the minute details of construction.

First, the Cifonelli workshop produces a very fine and neat fell stitching on the inside shoulder lining seam of their jackets (see examples of pick v. fell stitching in this Styleforum thread). They also do very neat “Milanese” style buttonholes (see the lapel buttonhole on the "dandy" model closeup). Both are among the cleanest and most precise I've seen anywhere. Finally, you can see the distinct chest (poitrine) construction, small and swelled, in the picture of Lorenzo and Hugo sitting at the table below.

Hugo & Lorenzo Cifonelli

The attraction of Parisian tailoring houses like Cifonelli and Camps is simple. Both provide a story and familial history of tailoring that is connected concretely to the garment created for you. So the history and the story comes alive when you wear your suit. That's the definition of authenticity in a brand - living up to the promise that is marketed to the customer. But it is also refreshing to see that Cifonelli does not rest solely on its history and tradition but strives for inventiveness and novelty when the opportunity arises.

Additional links
- Parisian Gentleman post on Cifonelli


Fatto a Mano said...

The Milanese buttonhole- that's with the purl underneath and just a very smooth, raised appearance on top? I've been trying to figure those out.....

sleevehead said...

Yes, the appearance on top is extremely smooth and precise. I'm pretty sure I flipped the lapel over to take a look at the underside. But unfortunately I've forgotten what it looks like since I was spending most of my time marveling at the outside view!

Fatto a Mano said...

They're gorgeous. You don't see them often; strangely, the last time I saw some were on some Tom Ford garments.