You may not know that the city of Vienna, Austria, holds a strong position in the world of European menswear with a vigor of artisanship which gives a wink to the French and Northern Italian style.
As for the capital of the Republic of Austria, there are about 1.9 million people living in 23 districts in the city. If you’re from London or Paris, close to 2 million people may not sound extraordinary, but Vienna holds more than a fifth of the country’s total population of 8.8 million.
To up the ante, Vienna was named the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—a “dual monarchy” teaming the Austrian Empire with the Hungarian Kingdom. Although the Austrian Empire began in 1804, the constitutional union of Austria and Hungary didn’t start until 63 years later, in 1867. Imagine the scope of this union, with 10 languages spoken in one place (including German, Hungarian, Italian, Czech and Polish).
During this time, the metropolis felt quite modern (not unlike the European Union), but in other ways the city’s mindset was old-fashioned and allergic to any sort of change.
What about dress codes? Well, the combination of a very conservative monarchy and the dress requirements of the court with a multi-ethnic population, dealt a dress code concerned with representing the Empire well, with attention to quality and function.
Austrian men also leaned on sartorial inspirations popping up from Bohemia to Poland to Italy–with sportswear inspired by Austrian folk dress, spiked with the influence of Scottish and English cloth.
ARTISANAL LIFE IN THE CITY
According to the highly recommendable book, Luxury from Vienna by Reinhard Engel (Czernin Verlag, 2001), three categories of tailors existed in Vienna during the 1880s up until the outbreak of WWI.
1. Tailors who made for the court and the aristocracy, and billed their customers once per year.
2. Merchant tailors who made for nobility and the upper classes, and sent invoices monthly.
3. Cheap tailors who made clothes for working class people (a category which became the first to disappear, when affordable ready-to-wear clothes became the norm).
Fascinating to note, Vienna became an extremely elegant place between the turn of the century and 1914. Yet the year 1918 marked the end of the Empire and the extravagant lifestyle associated with the times. Later, the 1920s and 30s became difficult years for Austria, yet men of the middle and upper class continued to dress in an elegant (even elaborate) way.
Jewish fashion houses and tailors played an important role in shaping Viennese style until 1938, when the Anschluss of Austria marked the start of the German rule, which meant the rule of the German Nazi party, the NSDAP. During this time (preceding World War II), Jewish businesses were looted and their owners either fled or were driven out of the country after losing big parts of their money and property to the government—just after the annexation of Austria, which was followed by the occupation of German troops.
Very few Jewish tailors and retailers returned after the war ended 1945, but other bespoke tailors ran successful businesses. Well-known names of post-war Vienna include Koschier, Prix, Denzer, Schwaller, Striberny, Kolowrat, Chlumsky, Silbernagl, Stross and Mikschitz, according to Reinhard Engel. Wealthy Gentlemen in Vienna continued to prefer handmade clothes and shoes over ready-to-wear, although more and more tailors disappeared between the years of 1970-1990s, as most everywhere in Europe.
Even today, a strong sense for style and quality remains, and during the past ten years, I would say that a menswear renaissance is visible.
Nowadays, Vienna is one the most important centers for the bespoke culture outside of Italy. While in numbers alone, Vienna may not be able to compete with London, it can still hold its own. I would dare to say, that while London tailoring is very much alive, mainly thanks to foreign clients, Vienna has a much larger local customer base.
Today, Americans, Brits, Frenchmen and Italians come to Vienna for their clothing because of its strong sense of style, quality, and fair prices—which can be higher compared to small Italian tailors from the south, but lower compared to London.
The centre of Vienna is fairly small, and like the iconic Savile Row, most of the Viennese shops which I’ll discuss are within walking distance from one another, beginning with shirtmaker Gino Venturini and progressing from that point.
The sequence in which the craftsmen and shops are presented is not a ranking. Nevertheless, I do insist on distinguishing between ateliers who have served customers for 50 or more years versus shops who have more recently opened. The big picture includes only the places I visited with Martin Smolka highlighted as an update to previously published data and images.
Disclaimer: Some shops weren’t interested in being included in the Sartorial Tour of Vienna, while others replied much too late for consideration. Of course I don’t know every tailor, shirtmaker and cobbler in Vienna, including the craftsmen who choose to work from home (for convenience, to save operating costs, and/or to evade taxation).
A WALK THROUGH VIENNA
While walking the streets of Vienna, it’s inevitable that you’ll pass shop windows of small bespoke shoemakers, tailors and shirt makers which no one told you about and you had no clue existed.
The decision to walk though the city will render its own reward, as not walking would eclipse the chance for the adventure to glimpse many yet-to-be-discoved craftsmen; and, in the future, I’d be keen to uncover some of these potential gems.
This sartorial walk through Vienna highlights craftsmen and small businesses who produce in or near Vienna—with no outside manufacturers.
Omissions include Ludwig Reiter’s factory in Vienna who produces on a much bigger scale than those featured here, and Saint Crispin’s shoes who does have a showroom in Vienna but produces in Romania.
Also, I’ve omitted accessories and small leather good makers, although a couple of great ones are indeed active in Vienna. Time didn’t allow a visit to more tailors and shirt makers of interest, as well as four or five bespoke shoemakers such as Maftei Vienna, Maszschuhe, Stefan Maftei and Harald Kammel.
Gino Venturini may be the most well known shirtmaker in all of Vienna, and Venturini shirts are sold only in Vienna, so you must visit to have a look.
Each morning, Nicolas Venturini drives about 25 km from his apartment to the centre of Vienna to his workshop where he draws patterns for new customers and watches over production. After the cloth is cut and handed to one of the seamstresses, he then reveals the name of the shirt owner to the workers. “We don’t make shirts for numbers, we make shirts for individuals”, explains Nicolas Venturini, who believes this mandate makes an important difference.
Owner Nicolas Venturini is well-connected in Vienna (you could say he’s like the Maurizio Marinella of Naples, Italy). If you walk the streets at Nicolas’ side, you’ll notice that he’s often stopped by customers for a brief chat.
Nicolas Venturini studied economics with absolutely no plans to join his father’s business. Yet during his studies, he interned in a textile company in Hong Kong and became hooked on textiles. At that point he felt he had no choice but to become a shirtmaker too. Eventually, Nicholas succeeded his father, who founded Gino Venturini in the early 1960s–buying out shirtmaker Hemden Herzog, including the workshop.
The name Venturini sounds so completely Italian that you may imagine the name to have been conjured, but Nicolas’ Grandfather actually was Italian through-and-through, hailing from the city of Trieste.
Nicolas explains that he practically “grew up in the shop with his father Eugenio Gino Venturini, experiencing firsthand every aspect of the profession”. Thus, it’s second nature for Nicolas to have an eye for cloth quality, an intuition for manufacturing savvy, know-how of cutting and sewing techniques, as well as an understanding of the human side of the business–notwithstanding the art of dealing with customers.
While most of his clients visit for shirts, many have become friends over the years and drop in to catch up on family and local news. Nicolas is apt to handle any sort of customer or request—not limited to the strange and bizarre—wondrous stories which he may share, once you get to know him. He adores his trade and his customers, and will tell you that his personal aim is “to be a good man”, an aim which becomes apparent whenever you speak to him or observe his work ethic.
Nicolas and I agree that shirt makers from continental Europe like to argue about the definition of the term bespoke shirt. Some say a shirt can only be bespoke if it is made by hand after the fitting of a try-on shirt made of neutral cloth called toile or tela. Indeed, Venturini meets this definition of a bespoke shirt as he prefers to craft and fit new customers with a try-on shirt, followed by cutting the final shirt by hand, with the help of machines to reinforce many areas and to create buttonholes, while monograms are handstitched.
To me, a good fit is more important than hand sewn and hand-stitched buttonholes and I’d compare the quality/make of Venturini to that of Charvet in Paris, except Venturini’s prices are more moderate, with a starting price of 195 euros (with no minimum order).
Venturini has 460 cloths to choose from, with 390 of them in stock. There’s also the option for customers to select from a couple of “stock programs” from various weavers in Italy. Venturini likes to buy cloth by-the-piece, which allows him to offer a better shirting price. Patterns are well-aligned, collars are either fused or unfused, buttons are mother of pearl, including the trademark Viennese shape. Spare cloth is supplied with the finished shirt (for new collars and cuffs), as well as a pocket handkerchief made of the shirting.
Niedersuesz is a name which anyone interested in Viennese tailoring already knows; this is because Rudolf Niedersuesz is the owner of Knize–the most famous tailoring house and outfitter in Vienna.
However, it’s Rudolf’s son, Bernhard, who is standing guard over what many consider to be the essence of Viennese tailoring (even more so than the reputation of his father’s famous business).
Bernhard Niedersuesz received cultivated training in tailoring and textiles, but opted not to join his father’s business in favor of opening his own bespoke salon, under his own name. Located in Annagasse, just off the popular shopping area of Kärntner Straße you must ring the bell at the impressive front door and then go upstairs.
After entering, you’ll spy a spacious Viennese flat which has been converted into an elegant tailoring shop. One of the workrooms used to be a bathroom, but is now used as the place to wash cloths and interlining. While Knize is a basic albeit lovely outfitter for men, Bernhard Niedersuesz focusses on tailoring and creates an atmosphere of aristocratic elegance.
On the day of my visit, Bernhard wears a typical dark grey Fresco three-piece suit, cut in the style of Knize with a slightly lower notch and a natural shoulder. His black shoes are made by Scheer, in a trademark model with a middle seam. Mr Niedersuesz is assisted by a smartly dressed young man donning a navy three piece suit.
The atelier displays cloth and a number of finished garments, including three beautiful overcoats. The assistant explains that these are samples from the house’s own collection called C. M. Frank. At one time, C.M. Frank, the man, was the most prestigious tailor in Vienna who made civilian clothes for the last Austrian Emperor.
Bernhard’s father eventually took over C.M. Frank, and bought the brand name. Later, he gave the brand name to his son who crafts still today, a collection of handmade clothes under the name—cut in the Frank style in made-to-measure (MTM). In my opinion, the suit cut is above average for MTM (made by a sartoria incorporating several handmade operations) with each order fitted by Bernhard alone, and treated in the same manner as anything else he cuts and makes in his own workroom in Vienna.
The MTM Jackets are made without buttonholes to be finished in-house. The quality of the make comes very close to the bespoke garments from his own workshop, with the differences being of a technical nature and not visible for most customers.
Bernhard Niedersuesz runs and partially owns the tailoring workshop in Italy, with heavy involvement in quality control. The price for a single breasted two piece suit is 2800 € (plus fabric, C. M. Frank) while the same cut by Bernhard Niedersuesz and made on the premises starts at 6700 € (plus fabric). I have tried some pieces from C. M. Frank in my size and they looked and felt particularly similar to a bespoke garment with many of the same hand operations.
The knowledge gap between London and the rest of the bespoke world is still surprisingly wide.
The other day I met a young man who works for one of the most famous bespoke shoemakers in London. I was surprised that he didn’t recognize the name Scheer in Vienna. In contrast, when I speak to young cobblers in continental Europe, they are well informed about their colleagues in London.
A bespoke shoemaker who has not heard of Scheer is like a tailor who hasn’t heard of A. Caraceni (although I do know tailors in London who haven’t heard of the house).
I can say with confidence that today, Scheer is the most famous of Vienna’s bespoke shoemakers, and is well regarded as being outstanding in Vienna (where dozens of competitors worked in the late 19th century).
Founded in 1816, owner Markus Scheer represents the seventh generation of the Scheer family. He took the helm from his Grandfather Carl Ferdinand Scheer, in 2011, when he died at the age of 92. His Grandfather had run the business since 1935, and brought the company to great success after WWII. while advocating that a bespoke shoe “has to preserve the natural shape of the foot”.
Carl had an unusual and progressive view of the bespoke shoe. For him, a shoe must fit the fit of the foot…as well as the face of a customer, which could be a matter of intuition.
Scheer earned the honour of Purveyor to the Imperial and Royal Court in 1878–which attracted new customers from the aristocracy in Austria as well as many ruling houses of Europe. The lasts of Austrian Emperor Franz Josef can still be seen, displayed in a glass cabinet.
Yet, Markus Scheer blew away a mountain of dust which had gathered on the company name, as he introduced the concept of the open workshop to help justify the price of his shoes, demonstrating how shoes are made by hand, through the use of ancient tools and machines from the 19th and early 20th century.
There is an open invitation to walk in and have a look, with nothing to hide and everything to see. Markus Scheer broadened his product’s scope to include handmade bespoke leather goods which may be ordered separately or to compliment shoes. Trained as bespoke shoemaker and lastmaker, Markus also sought someone to run the department, and to his delight, found Thomas Hicker. Hicker who built his own name in the 1990s as a maker of excellent leather briefcases—among them the famous Viennese Schulz-Koffer.
The Hicker-Scheer alliance has prospered, even if bespoke shoes remain the core draw of the house…handmade, pair by pair. Markus Scheer does indeed know his competitors, noting that many have added ready-to-wear collections to their product range, but for him this consideration is out of the question. In the mind of Markus, a ready-to-wear collection would dilute and dim the light of his beautiful bespoke.
The concept of the open workshop reassures clients that everything is made onsite. Customers appreciate this reassurance, which helps justify the decision to invest in high level bespoke.
Markus Scheer insists on sticking to the ancient canons of bespoke shoe making, but is ready to test new materials and methods, only where it makes sense, as in the improvement of the sole of the shoe. Yet he insists that measuring and last making should always respect the time-tested methods.
Feet are measured with the help of a pencil, paper, tape measure and an old wooden measuring device, while Markus makes mental notes on foot morphology, the physics of bipedalism, pronation, and overall style. During a fitting, Markus Scheer may observe how a customer walks down the street and into the shop to study his stance and pronation. After a try-on shoe is made and used by the client, the final leather is then cut and made into uppers.
Scheer’s shoes are arguably among the most comfortable bespoke shoes in the world. Each customer receives a unique pair of shoes made only for him, with no preexisting models to consider (which can bias the process). For example, if a client wants an Oxford, he may end up with a slightly or even completely different model…if his feet make an outright demand another creation.
The first pair is 5,000 euros, which includes the making of the the lasts, with following orders at 4000 euros (exotic skins being more expensive of course).
If you want a pair you must come to Vienna, as Scheer chooses not to travel but to stay at home to practice the old and time-honored tradition of shoemaking–with even the Emperor of Austria frequenting the shop.
Knize is a name of Bohemian origin, pronounced “KEY needge”, which rhymes with “Dege”. You may know the name because of the success of the eponymous men’s fragrance Knize Ten, created in the 1920s (and still considered to be one of the best men’s fragrances of all time).
What you may not know, is that Knize is a famous Viennese tailoring house and men’s outfitter whom once owned branches in Carlsbad, Berlin, Prague, Paris and New York City.
Many knowledgeable about sophisticated dress and tailoring are also familiar with the Knize name. Alan Flusser wrote about Knize in his book “Style And The Man” in 1996, and praised the house as one of the world’s giants of old-world tailoring. In my opinion, Knize is equal in many respects to A. Caraceni, Camps De Luca or Henry Poole (among a few other “giants”). Yet, upon first sight, you may be surprised to see shop windows decorated with conservative RTW clothes and accessories, with few hints of bespoke tailoring detectable.
Yet, upon ascending the stairs, you’ll discover famous rooms designed by Adolf Loos and a huge shelf filled with clothing, the very notable famous saddle used for fittings for riding breeches—along with at last, the familiar ambience of a traditional bespoke tailoring shop.
Rudolf Niedersuesz the man, doesn’t seem to age. In fact, he bears a striking resemblance to photographs from 20 years earlier–sustaining the same slim figure with well-trimmed thinning hair, and a tailor’s eye that catches the most subtle detail of his client’s morphology. He continues to craft in the same unfailing manner, with familiar soft shouldered three-piece suits cut from Knize’s trademark, dark grey Fresco cloth.
A portrait shooting and client fitting awaited Herr Niedersuesz, and so our talk was a snap, as he is in the habit of handling countless interviews and visits from journalists. I found his mannerism to exude the same polite and charming manner as I recollected upon my first visit to Knize in 1999, and a few times since.
Five years ago at Pitti Uomo in Florence, walking from the railway station to the fairground, I noticed a gentleman ahead of me in a beautifully cut sports jacket—likely bespoke, paired with tailored cotton trousers. Immediately, I recognized him as being Rudolf Niedersuesz, and decided to greet him. It turned out he had no clue who I was, but nonetheless I found him to have a natural grace and inherent charm.
This visit was no different. Herr Niedersuesz invited me to see the workrooms, although only one tailor remained in the house since it was closing time. I saw a large number of fittings suspended and several suits that looked like “requests for alterations or repair”.
Knize has long (long) list of customers, including politicians and industrialists—with one of the latter allegedly owning a different Knize suit for every day of the year! The price for a two-piece suit (excluding cloth) is an eye-opening 8500 euros. Yet, rumor has it that some customers continue to pay the same price as they paid when they first began ordering at Knize—which means longtime clients have a great arrangement. Although I had no chance to confirm this rumor with Mr Niedersuesz, he did share a little of the Knize history:
Knize was founded by a Bohemian tailor in 1858, who took over, and replaced another established business in the town centre.
Later, a business war would ensue between Knize and the children of his partner, Albert Wolff from Berlin, who founded the international branches.
Wolff had sought and found refuge in the USA after fleeing Austria with his children because of their Jewish decent. Around the same time, Marlene Dietrich was exiled in the US, and when she heard that her tailor had left Austria, she immediately ordered from the New York City branch.
After the war, Wolff decided to stay in America, while at the same time, getting his business back on track in Vienna–working with the same partners who ran Knize during during his absence.
From the onset of his career, Rudolf Niedersuesz has been trained only at Knize. In 1963, he decided to buy another tailoring house, “C. M. Frank”, which had been in operation since 1838, and whose former tailor crafted for the likes of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph.
Then in 1976, Niedersuesz bought shares of Knize and became Managing Director. In those days, the bespoke business was huge, but by the 1980s and 90s, the focus shifted from bespoke to ready-wear, with suppliers like Chester Barrie and Brioni working with Knize over the years.
Today, the shop is filled with a strong RTW collection, all cut with house patterns and crafted with numerous hand operations. You can find a complete tailored wardrobe, with suits, sports jackets, trousers, formal wear and a great selection of overcoats, including capes for evening wear.
Martin Dellantonio is the owner of the bespoke shoe atelier, Materna. Although the name Dellantonio sounds Italian, upon first glance he looks more Irish, with light skin and reddish-blond hair.
Established in 1907, Grandfather and founder George Materna took over the business in 1972, by acquiring the workshop of famous Viennese bespoke shoemaker Nagy, who left no successor after he died. Nagy was quite famous in Vienna after the war, and George Materna bought his complete workshop including his client list, tools and the lasts.
Then in 2008, Martin Dellantonio took over the business, entering Materna with good and qualified hands, as he had been trained by his Grandfather.
The shop is located just around the corner of the Bristol hotel and close to the Opera. Shop windows are decorated with shoe samples, including originals made by Nagy or George Materna, while the inside is dominated by a glass cabinet with more (and more) shoes.
The cost for a pair of bespoke shoes is around 1750 euros. Since no trial-shoe fitting is required, Materna is less expensive than Scheer.
Martin Dellantonio claims his shoes fit well. If major improvements are needed, he’ll remove the sole. take the shoe apart, and rebuild it over a corrected last. Dellantonio argues that this method is better than relying on a try-on shoe because the finished shoe will always feel different from the try-on pair.
Materna also has RTW shoes, handcrafted as bespoke, on preformed lasts in different sizes and three different widths. Shoes are made onsite in a workroom behind the shop, including rafting the uppers–which is notable, since it’s not unusual for bespoke shops to use outside sources for uppers, while making the lasts and closing onsite.
The collection of bespoke lasts is impressive, with only the lasts of “late customers” on display. I hoped to see the shoes of Dr. Bruno Kreisky, Austria’s first Socialist Chancellor after the war. Dr. Kreisky was born into a wealthy family and was well known to wear bespoke clothing. In his memoirs, he tells a story about his shoemaker Nagy (Materna’s predecessor).
Nagy told Dr. Kreisky that one day soon, he must close his business for lack of customers.
Dr. Kreisky had an idea. He grabbed a stack of Nagy’s business cards, and set out to give as many cards as he could to fellow cabinet members, after pointing out the sad state of affair of their current footwear. Of course, Dr. Kreisky wanted to keep Nagy in business just as much as he wanted to help the cobbler.
Materna made shoes for yet another man of fame—Falco, likely the most famous Austrian pop star of the 1980s, whose last could not be located during our visit.
Materna is one of the few bespoke makers remaining in Europe crafting unspectacular shoes, but in a wonderful way. As a bespoke suit may be more elegant by “not standing out as overtly elegant”, the same school of thought can apply to bespoke shoes. However, for the more daring, Martin Dellantonio does make a slightly slimmer silhouette which contradicts the house style, but may satisfy more customers from the likes of Italy or France.
Wilhelm Jungmann & Neffe
You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to 19th century Vienna, as you enter Wilhelm Jungmann & Neffe, one of the world’s most beautiful cloth shops. More than 1,000 of the finest cloths from English, Scottish or Italian mills can be found here, as well as custom designs woven exclusively for the shop. There is also an impressive range of ties, silk squares and handmade Maglia umbrellas sold in the store.
WJ&N has built a relationship with most weavers of their cloth for decades, which has given the store access to spectacular (and at oftentimes rare) out-of-stock weaves. Any fabric request is welcome. Founded in 1866 by Mr Wilhelm, the shop began by selling trimmings, but three years later nephew Wilhelm Dukes introduced cloth for ladies’ dresses and robes. At this point, the shop name was christened Wilhelm Jungmann & Neffe (Neffe means nephew).
Nephew Wilhelm Dukes had been trained as dressmaker in Paris and managed to turn the business into a fashionable supplier of the absolute finest cloths around. To my delight, in the shop basement, old swatch books are still on display with the most expensive silks, velvets and laces of the time.
In 1881, the premises were moved to where it now stands, at Albertinaplatz, a small square behind the opera house. This same year, Wilhelm Jungmann & Neffe were granted two Royal Warrants: one by the Austrian Emperor and King (at the time, the Austrian Monarch was Emperor AND King) and another one by the Italian King.
Many lady aristocrats frequented WJ&N, among them the famous Empress Elizabeth known as “Sisi”. Accordingly, the premises exude an exclusive decorum with well-appointed furnishings. Court carpenter Johann Paulick received the commission for the interior, adding to his resume the interior design of the Opera House (Staatsoper), as well as the famous Burg theater. Notably, the ceiling, painted by Fanz Lefler displays an allegory of the textile trade.
Fortunately, the premises have survived both wars. However, after WWI, the demand for ballgowns and court dress shrunk (due to the abolition of Monarchy in Austria) and the in-house workrooms with 150+ women tailors and seamstresses had little work. Thus, the owners shifted their focus to men’s tailoring cloth—a growing business after men returned from war. Instead of supplying ladies, Wilhelm Jungmann & Neffe now catered to the gentlemen of Vienna, among them, many artists and writers.
The shop has been owned by Mrs. Magda Neunteufel and her children Andrea Gaugusch and Georg Gaugusch, since 1977. But today, Georg Gaugusch is Managing Partner, and is now co-managing with his sister (since 2005).
Cloth is sold to ateliers, and also to people who want to take fabric directly to their tailors who accept to cut-make-trim (CMT) the fabric provided by the client.
Fabric can also be picked up by one of the tailors who regularly visits Jungmann. For example, Zdenek Hartl from Prague visits the shop each week by car. The tailor charges his client an unusually low cost of 1000 Euros to make a two-piece suit, adding onto the cost the cloth from Jungmann and the price for buttons and linings.
It is quite a special experience to buy cloth from this shop, not only based on the huge variety of fabric available, but also because of the spectacular beauty of the interior. The staff and Georg Gaugusch help customers by sharing vast knowledge and experience, and will go as far as to dig up rare pieces which have waited for years to be appreciated.
Just a 15-minute walk from the Opera, and you can reach the small shop of bespoke tailor Netousek, founded in 1935 by Viktor Netousek.
In 1974, Viktor’s son Hans took the helm of the atelier alongside wife Renate Netousek, a ladies dressmaker—although the focus of the shop remains on men’s bespoke tailoring.
In 1991, their son Thomas joined the atelier and has been in charge since 2013, with his parents still showing up for work each day. Hans Netousek loves to help his son with all kinds of advice and, of course tailors never seem to retire completely.
The style of the family business is Viennese, slightly less conservative than the cut of Knize and Niedersuez. In the shop and adjacent workroom, a large number of fittings await customers—mainly dark blue and grey business suits, but also morning coats, evening tails and a three piece tweed suit.
In addition to bespoke tailoring, Netousek offers made-to-measure clothes for clients who wants to spend less or have no time for fittings.
The smaller bespoke tailors in Europe tend to do either bespoke work exclusively, or bespoke plus made-to-measure (with many MTM customers eventually evolving to bespoke). Netousek seems to get along well doing both bespoke and MTM, although he sees himself primarily as a bespoke tailor.
The price for a two piece (excluding cloth) is 2980 euros. At Netousek, bespoke shirts are also made in the traditional Viennese way with unfused collars and handmade buttonholes, with a try on shirt fitted before the first shirt is cut. Bespoke shirts start at 270 euros including fabric (the price depends on the quality of the shiriting of course).
Netousek makes for locals and customers abroad, taking only about four weeks to finish a suit, if the customer is available for fittings.
The Saarplatz is a square in a residential area, about 15 to 20 minutes by cab from the Opera. You may also use public transport, which is excellent in Vienna, or a bus can take you directly to the shop.
The shopfront is painted white, displaying a green “P” for Possanner, with the tiny shop window is decorated with a navy Cashmere overcoat on a mannequin, along with some ties. The shop is narrow but long, with the workshop at the rear and a window overlooking a yard.
Upon entering the shop, Michael Possanner was speaking to one of his tailors as he turned to meet me, wearing a grey two-piece suit similar in cut to the suits of Rudolf and Bernhard Niedersuesz (no coincidence since he was trained at Knize). Possanner is in his early 40s, but his blond hair and boyish smile makes him appear younger. Even though he became a tailor after spending a few years in journalism, nevertheless, he has close to 20 years of tailoring experience. His suit was an early piece he’d made for himself with the grey flannel a bit worn, but still in decent condition.
After his training at Knize, Michael visited the Meisterschule–part of a tailoring training system in Austria and Germany. After a three-year apprenticeship, one can enroll at the Meisterschule (which means School for Masters) to take courses on cutting. Upon passing the final exam, one receives the title of a Schneidermeister (Master Tailor), which includes the permission to train apprentices. Michael Possanner recollects bringing along his huge old-fashioned iron to the exam, because it “included a practical part”.
Despite the fact Possanner’s shop has been in operation for only six years, the house appears to be an old established business with antique furniture, rugs and paintings. The style of cutting and tailoring is similar to Knize, although Michael Possanner claims to make a softer and lighter coat. The fact that he was trained at Knize has lured a lot of customers to the shop. He charges less than Knize (which is easy) but more than most of smaller tailors. A two-piece suit is 3800 euros (2900 for the coat and 900 for the trousers).
The tailoring house employs two tailors and an apprentice. Possanner also offers bespoke shirts with handmade buttonholes, hand stitched monograms and unfused collars, at around 350 euros, depending on the cloth (too cheap, according to Michael Possanner, but shirts are meant to be offered as an additional service for his customers). Delivery time for the shirts is four weeks, while suits take around six months.
Another smaller tailor is Zoltan Roeszler who speaks German with the same charming Hungarian accent which is so often heard in Vienna. I have been to Vienna several times since 1999, and frequently since 2016—but never heard of Zoltan Roeszler until his name was mentioned by Nicolas Venturini, who described him as an almost obsessive stickler for detail and a true artist.
When I contacted Zoltan Roeszler, we learned that we’d already met in 2003, at a workshop I’d organized for tailors with John Coggin from Savile Row, to demonstrate his technique of cutting and making.
Zoltan Roeszler was trained as a men’s tailor but also worked for the stage, so is knowledgable about cutting techniques and patterns from various periods. Because of his connection to the world of theatre and film, he makes for a number of actors well known in Austria and Germany.
Roeszler crafts a very Viennese suit with a slim silhouette and natural shoulders, although he is open to experiment. At the moment, he is fond of Northern Italian tailoring in the style of A. Caraceni, and was almost surprised that we loved the suits which he had made in his own style.
A couple of half-finished and finished garments awaiting fittings were hanging on a nearby rail, with some of them being close to my size. A few try-ons gave me a clear impression of the softness of his tailoring. For a two-piece suit, he charges 3000 euros, excluding cloth.
Founded in 1948, you can enter the shop of this shirtmaker to find an original 1960s interior, a welcome change from the usual style found in Vienna.
Some ateliers mentioned here were founded in the 19th century and even more before WWII. Yet shops which have only been around for a decade try to create the typical ambiance of a bespoke tailoring shop with antique furniture and oriental rugs.
Wäscheflott really stands out with its shop design, and claims to be oldest shirtmaker in Vienna who produces “in this segment’, and “in town”. If the word ‘segment’ means price bracket, the claim is probably true, since prices here can be easier on the wallet. In regard to making “in town”, tailors like Knize, Niedersuesz or Netousek offer handmade shirts made in Vienna, but often use tailors who work from home. On the other hand, Venturini is not as old as Wäscheflott, and his workshop is located outside Vienna in the countryside.
When we visited Wäscheflott, we witnessed an elderly lady who brought in two identical shirts for repair. She wanted collars and cuffs replaced on both shirts (if the cloth was still available). If not, she asked to cut up one of the two shirts to create the replacement parts. If you order a shirt here, you’ll pay at least 250 € for the first shirt, because your pattern must be drawn. Once the pattern is drawn, a shirt will start at 180 €. Wascheflott also makes nightwear, boxer shorts and dressing gowns, which are also sold online.
Another well known and well-established shirtmaker/tailor in Vienna is Zum Jockey Club, owned by Robert Ruzicka and his son Gerald. Ruzicka’s uncle bought shares of the company between the two World Wars, and the company has continued to grow since that time. The name was chosen because the shop was established opposite an exclusive Gentleman’s club of the same appellation.
The interior was designed in 1913, and the shopwindow is decorated with shirts, knitwear, ties and dressing gowns in a style that wouldn’t look out of place in Milan. We arrived late and were greeted by a shop assistant in a checkered jacket. The assistant then called for Gerald Ruzicka, who emerged from the backrooms after a few minutes.
With a huge customer base with lots of regulars from Vienna, only around a quarter of his orders are sent to foreign customers. Bespoke shirts are machine made in Vienna and start at 160 euros. Handmade buttonholes cost a little extra at around 20 euros.
Zum Jockey Club also has bespoke tailoring. For a two piece suit, they charge 2,130 euros + cloth. These prices are moderate by Viennese standards.
If you love silk dressing gowns, Zum Jockey Club is your place, as the shop is well known for its big selection. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to visit the tailoring workshop, but the suits and jackets we saw looked well made and softly tailored with a natural shoulder line.
Overall, my impression was very positive while visiting this small and slightly old fashioned shop, with the odd name of Zum Jockey Club.
Josef Blecha runs a small business in a narrow space spanning two floors. He is a tailor, like his father and grandfather before him. Unfortunately my e-mails hadn’t reached him, so when we rang at the door of his workshop, he was completely surprised to see us.
The door was closed because of construction work so we were lucky he was there finishing some paperwork. He welcomed us nonetheless, although he’d never heard my name, nor had heard of Parisian Gentleman.
Josef showed us some garments ready to be fitted. They were quite well made with some unique details, but Herr Blecha didn’t want us to photograph any of these garments “because his customers wouldn’t want to find their bespoke clothes on the internet”. This attitude was very charming, although we would have loved to include some examples of Mr Blecha’s work.
In summer, the facade of the house he works from will be finished and we’ll definitely come back for another visit. Meanwhile, a short film about Josef Blecha can be found on YouTube.
Hedi Rochowanski is one of the younger bespoke tailors of Vienna who has slowly but steadily made herself known in the past two to three years.
A reader from Vienna gave me her name, and judging by the photos he sent, I decided to have a look. Hedi works from her apartment, tastefully decorated with a mix of of early 1920s furniture with a 1960s Scandinavian style. She uses two rooms for her business, the first is a sitting room with a cutting table and the second is the fitting room with a huge shelf for cloth.
Heidi was trained at the Savile Row Academy in London under Andrew Ramroop. Her style is classical and Savile Row inspired—an interesting mix of English and Viennese style.
From personal experience, female bespoke tailors tend to be very good but also reluctant to advertise their skills. Usually the standard of cutting and making is excellent and from what I have seen in the workroom and judging by feedback from customers I know, she seems to be very competent.
Hedi Rochowanski charges less than most other better known tailors. A two-piece suit is 1950 euros, excluding cloth. I think this price is fair, as I’m very much against young tailors charging too much when they start out. For customers, it is always a risk to try a new tailor, and so the price needs to be attractive. If the result is good, then the customer will order again, and likely order more than he would from a more expensive tailor.
Trained as a dressmaker and originally specialized in knitting and making Dirndl dresses, Nina Kainz also makes men’s suits in her apartment/workshop. She has trained both as a dressmaker and as a men’s tailor. Her website is “Ninas Needles” as a reminiscence to earlier days in the sartorial world. Nina’s apartment is filled with fabrics, knitwear, Dirndl dresses and fittings.
Customers are served a coffee at her dinner table which is also used for cutting. Four wooden logs are placed on the floor next to the table’s legs, and when she is ready to cut out a cloth, the table is placed on top of the logs to make it higher. I had heard of Nina Kainz from an acquaintance from Vienna who had a bespoke Loden jacket made by her, and was especially pleased with the result. In her workshop, another jacket of this type awaited a fitting. Nina Kainz charges 1280 euros for crafting a jacket and 320 euros for trousers.
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All photos © Martin Josef Smolka for Parisian Gentleman.