Small Checks on Suits
The Next Big Thing ?
(VBC Fabric Academy 1)

Sonya Glyn NICHOLSON

SMALL CHECKS ON SUITS THE NEXT BIG THING? (VBC Fabric Academy)

The Design Team at Vitale Barberis Canonico

Today we introduce the VBC Fabric Academy–an educational collaboration between Vitale Barberis Canonico and Parisian Gentleman.

With around 4,000 fabric designs made by VBC each year,  choosing one cloth out of so many for a suit can feel overwhelming. To make the process easier, we went straight to the source— traveling to Pratrivero, Italy and interviewing each of the six Vitale Barberis Canonico fabric designers to ask the question: What are your  two personal favorite VBC fabrics and why ?

The Fabric Academy not only gives us a chance to announce the top two fabrics that each designer has chosen (out of so many choices!), but also gives us an opportunity to look at seasonal fabrics, tell lesser-known stories behind the fabrics, and offer cloth design ideas for suits and jackets.

To kick off the series, we begin by introducing VBC Style Division Manager, Maurizio Albertini.

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Maurizio Albertini: Small Checks–The Next Big Thing

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Maurizio Albertini, Style Division Manager at Vitale Barberis Canonico

There’s a quiet strength about Maurizio Albertini. While clearly modest about his position as manager of the Style Division of VBC, he is more concerned with emphasizing that a “group think” mindset rules here. He looks straight at us without blinking–giving us the clear impression that what he’s saying…is more than just words.

“Our design team works as a type of singular soul. We are at our best when every designer is involved in developing a new fabric—so there’s a unique type of togetherness [Gestalt] that takes place here, where the whole really is greater than its parts alone.”

Born in Biella in 1974, and graduated from the Industrial Technical Institute of Biella, Maurizio is Italian through and through, well-rooted in the Trivero territory of Italy. As a child, he was around fabric all his life, as his father worked for a local woolen mill up until the mid-1990s. Tradition, local ties and community spirit are important to Maurizio, and his 20 years with VBC have given him a strong foundation for pushing his creative limits.

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You never stop learning in this line of work, as the subject of design is practically limitless. VBC has started heavily investing in an intensive expansion of our sample collections, with designs and colors that stretch the imagination. So of course, this makes our work even more exciting.

When asked about his two favorite fabric choices, our eyes are quickly drawn to the gray woolen flannel sample in his hands.

See these small graph checks?” he says. “This fabric is due for a surge of interest, as we are already seeing orders increasing for smaller check designs. Large plaids like glens and windowpanes have been popular for a few years now, but many customers are more than ready for something that feels fresh. I predict that the smaller checked plaids (gun club check, graph check, shepherd’s plaid and mini-checks) could be the next big thing.

Maurizio’s two fabric choices:

#1. Gray and White Graph-Check Flannel – 340gr

vbc gray white grid check flannel

I think that this is the most fascinating fabric in the Vitale Barberis Canonico winter collection. Borne from the need to offer protection from harsh winter temperatures, it has adapted well to the modern world, reducing its weight without losing character and personality.

There’s a heavy demand for VBC flannels, in particularly, as we make around 200 different flannels to date and are currently selling at least 400,000 meters of VBC flannel a year.

The nonparallel weaving process and the reduced fiber lengths of the wool, as well as the particular finishing treatment, bestow an especially warm and soft hand…If you’ve ever worn scratchy wool, then you can appreciate this point.

This fabric is extremely versatile and can be ideal for  the classic double-breasted suit, as well as a deconstructed jacket and even sporty trousers. The versatility of our flannels makes them especially good for a variety of designs with different colours and patterns ranging from classic pinstripes to patterned overchecks.

The large threads and mélanges of yarn are created by mixing different shades of colour together, which conveys a deep and rich effect—particularly in plain-colored cloth. For those who love color, the milling process of flannel cloth produces a dynamic fabric surface, which is ideal for the use of bright, brilliant colors.

This fabric is becoming very popular in the European, British and Japanese markets.

Many Vitale Barberis Canonico clients use our flannels, including Cucinelli, Hackett, Suitsupply, Corneliani, Canali, Drapers, and many more besides these.”

Four Types of Small-Checked Patterns

The Graph Check :

Four small-checked designs that Maurizio sees as rising in demand include the above graph check, also called the grid check, which resembles the crossing lines on graph paper. Thin, single-colored solid stripes cross each other to form small and even sized squares or rectangles on the fabric. As shown below, a small check pattern can be paired with larger plaid tie and/or pocket square to create an especially good result.

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A progressive take on the graph check from the VBC Invincible Collection

The Gun Club Check :

As a pattern adopted by an American gun club in 1874, the gun club check has alternating colors of twilled bands running in one direction, while in the other direction, you will find either (1) a duplicate pattern of intersecting bands, or (2) a softer, single-colored broken/twilled band repeating itself in one direction only.

A completely different larger “check formation” in a dominate color often overlays the primary pattern of the gun club check, to give the fabric a dimensional look.

To recognize a gun club check, look for a subtle star formation where the lines intersect (this star formation is often confused with the telltale houndstooth pattern, but when you know what to look for, it’s easy to differentiate the gun club from the houndstooth).

After 1874, wearing the gun club check was a signal that you belonged to a gun club. However, before gun clubs adopted the pattern, wearing gun club checks meant that you were a gamekeeper or other worker in the Coigach District of Scotland’s Northwest Highlands. The original weave displayed black and red bands alternating evenly onto a soft white field. In fact, between 1847 – 1870, the pattern was referred to as Coigach, one of the “district checks” that signified a particular Scottish estate (reference: Gilt Manuel ).

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tumblr_lgwl5vrkpl1qbogufAlex Bolton with Oscar de la Renta (wearing a gun club check sport coat).

gun club check v.b.c.Vintage Vitale Barberis Canonico fabric, Super 100s

Shepherd’s Plaid :

Worn by shepherds from the hills of Scotland and one of the earliest fabric designs, the shepherd’s plaid is the precursor to the houndstooth pattern. A twill weave forms thick, even-sized “feathered” lines that cross each other to make small squares, with solid squares formed at intersection points.

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gary cooper gun check

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Vitale Barberis Canonico Shepherd’s Plaid, Saxony, 90% wool, 10 % cashmere, 230 g

Mini-Check :

The mini-check, or gingham looks like the shepherd’s check, except intersecting lines are unbroken (with no twill pattern at all), which makes the pattern appear stronger than the shepherd’s plaid. The mini-check is not as formal as stripes, but more formal than larger checks.

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Seersucker Vintage, 90% cotton, 10 % silk, 200g

#2. Classic Blue Summer Mesh – 280 g

vbc summerI think this fabric is one of the most perfect examples of how wool, the ideal winter fibre, adapts to use in the warmer seasons as well. The combination between the delicacy of the wool (21.2 micron), the twisting of the yarn and the hopsack weave creates a three-dimensional, responsive, aerated and dry fabric.

A blazer in this cloth is an absolute must in any man’s wardrobe. It is an article that can easily be combined with other pieces and is suitable for both formal and non-formal occasions.

VBC has an especially wide colour range, and my work is particularly exciting as I can rejuvenate the collection (in line with current trends) each season using many colours, either pure or mixed together. The mesh structure of this article and the mouliné yarn animate even the brightest colours.

We often associate this fabric with sunny, beachside vacations, and it is these very elements that are our inspiration for new colours, such as coral, turquoise and Naples blue, already a must for summer blazers. It is an international article, appreciated by most clients across the globe.”

RELATED ARTICLE : The Love Affair with Vintage Suiting (VBC Fabric Academy)