Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Barcelona revisited: Bel y Cia & Santa Eulalia

I was in Barcelona recently and visited a couple of shops that offer RTW and MTM/bespoke: Bel y Cia and Santa Eulalia.

Bel y Cia

At Bel, I met with Sebastian, the salesman I met three years ago during my last visit, for another order of their classic Teba jacket. As I described in earlier entries, the Teba jacket is a made-to-measure order. Over the last three years this has become one of my favorite go-to jackets for weekend or casual occasions.

Bel y Cia 01 Oct 2010

They do have an updated set of fabrics for the Teba jacket: classic knitted jersey (a material which has a nice, easy give and stretch), more traditional worsted fabrics (cashmere and wool) and summer fabrics. The summer book contains just a couple of linens in brown and tan, tropical weight wools and wool/silk/linen blends (43% / 37% / 23% respectively). For some reason, linen is not as popular as the other summer fabrics.

Bel y Cia 02 Oct 2010

My new order will be in one of the summer fabrics and will look a little bit differently than the traditional Teba. Recently, in the past winter season, Bel added a new option of rounded fronts (or quarters) like a regular sportscoat or suit jacket. The rounded front Teba will come with a normal chest dart whereas the classic Teba has squared fronts and no dart.

As before, I'm happy to report the excellent service and attention to detail by Sebastian. The current price for a Teba jacket is 745 euros (18% VAT included). For export of course, VAT is taken out and shipping added.

One more note on footwear. Bel still carry an extensive collection of Edward Green shoes. They also recently started to sell casual slip-ons with Bologna sole construction in suede (blue, camel, black) at 350 euros. The store worked with a small workshop near Rome and developed four shoe prototypes before selecting their final design. If you like casual slip-ons like driver-style moccasins, you may want to check these out.

Santa Eulalia

After my visit to Bel, I walked a few blocks north up Passeig de Gracia to Santa (or Saint) Eulalia. The store is outfitted in cool, blond woods and whose rectilinear edges and shapes provide a small antidote to a city steeped in the curves of Catalan modernism. Santa Eulalia sells both men's and women's RTW as well as bespoke clothing. In men's RTW, they carry a nice selection of soft tailored suits and jackets by Boglioli, Cantarelli and Etro and Zegna KEI. Ironically, the jackets of these brands were all softer than Kiton's offering.

Saint Eulalia bespoke dept 01

I also had an extended chat with Angel in the men's bespoke department. Like Liverano in Florence, Santa Eulalia makes all manner of bespoke garments including suits, shirts, ties and even boxer shorts. As of October 2010, suits start at 2,600 euros, shirts at 400 euros, ties at 100 euros and boxers at 80 euros. At the high end, a vicuna overcoat will cost 14-16,000 euros. Suiting and jacketing fabrics are sourced by the likes of Dormeuil, Scabal, Holland & Sherry and Harrisons.

Angel made the point that 3 fittings is the norm, even for repeat orders. In terms of construction, everything is handsewn except long straight seams. Annual suit production is about 800 suits per year and all garments are made on premise or through outworkers who work at home.

What do Santa Eulalia suits and jackets look like? Above is a photo of one of their bespoke morning coats. They do a natural shoulder, slight roping of the shoulders and cut a close fitting jacket and trousers. I'd also recommend going to their website, click on the bespoke section to see samples of their suits and view the bespoke video clip, featuring their head tailor Marc Munill and short interviews of their clients wearing the shop's creations. One of the clients offers up a quote on the ritual of bespoke - "The suit is like a child. You grow fond of it over time." The clip gives a glimpse of the workrooms in the basement of the store as well as the bespoke client area of the shop.

The website also has an informative text section on wedding dress options for men covering the differences between English and Catalan customs in this area.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ambrosi in Asia: Neapolitan trousers travel East

A public service announcement for my Asian readers. The friends of Neapolitan trousermaker Ambrosi have let slip that he will be visiting Asia this month. In particular, Seoul, Korea from October 18 to 20 and Singapore on October 22.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kilgour update: Luxe Savile Row and rethinking cottons

As you may have heard, the classic Savile Row tailoring house Kilgour was recently acquired by new owners and new management often brings changes. One of them is a deliberate effort to go even more upscale in their bespoke and RTW offering. This has meant a couple of things. One is that Kilgour's off-the-rack or RTW clothing is priced at a premium - a RTW suit starts at 2,500 GBP which is already in bespoke pricing territory.

The other is that Kilgour's popular entry-level bespoke offering has been discontinued. This is a pity since it apparently did quite well in the American market given the superb value for money it represented. A few years ago an entry-level two-piece suit in a top-notch English fabric could be had for 1,600 GBP. If you ordered entry-level suits before their discontinuation as I have, consider yourself lucky since entry level pricing is not coming back anytime soon. There are now 4 price points based on the type of fabric with prices starting at about 6,000 USD.

I scheduled an appointment this week in New York City with the visiting cutters of Kilgour and chatted with Will, who was a cutter under the previous owners as well. I was there for some simple waist adjustments on some trousers.

While I was there, Will showed me some brilliant new cotton suitings and jacketings by an Italian mill called Michele Solbiati, which specializes in linen production (claiming to be the first to produce linen crepe) and cottons, mostly for large luxury houses until very recently. This is the first time I've run into this mill. The Solbiati 200g cottons are distinctive because they are finished so that they look and feel more like a wool fabric. In particular, the Solbiati cotton has a more heathered look than traditional cotton (e.g. I saw a cotton sample that looked like a Donegal tweed). My impression is that they also seem to hold up a touch better against wrinkling than typical cotton suitings.

At the highest end of the pricing spectrum were the two books of Lumbs Golden Bale by Lesser. If you can afford it, I think every fellow should have at least one suit in this special worsted fabric.

For those who are interested, you can schedule a time to chat with Will and his colleague Paul who are in NYC through October 12, then in Chicago (13-14) and Los Angeles (15-16). Their USA mobile number 646 785 0592.

Additional links
- Sleevehead entries on Kilgour

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mitteleuropa style: The new Budapester

Below is Hungarian shoemaker Koronya's reinterpretation of the sturdy Central European shoe style known as the Budapester.

Additional links
- Styleforum thread on the new Budapester

Monday, October 04, 2010

One size does not fit all: Even and odd size ranges in RTW

The New York Times recently featured an article on the original Filene's Basement store built in 1909, which showed a photograph taken of two men's suit racks. The date is uncertain but my best guess is that it dates back at least as early as the 1940s or 1950s.

Today it appears most mainstream American men's stores carry a jacket size range of 38 to 48 in even numbers (European equivalent is 48 to 58). A handful of specialty stores cater to smaller and larger sizes. What I found interesting is the photo shows jacket sizes starting at 33 and going sequentially to 34, 35 and 36 (and presumably increasing through the larger sizes as well). In other words, RTW jackets were offered in more precise sizing some fifty or sixty years ago.

I think I've only seen an odd-sized jacket in mainstream retail stores a handful of times. So it appears that a full range of even and odd sizes in RTW went out decades ago. If it exists today, I would guess the only retailers and makers who might go for this level of precision are the Japanese.

Additional links
- New York Times article on Filene's Basement
- Men's clothing size converter between US, UK, Europe and Japan