Gaetano Aloisio : A Summit of Bespoke Tailoring in the World

Hugo JACOMET

Gaetano Aloisio : A Summit of Bespoke Tailoring in the World

Gentlemen,

Since the inception of PG in January 2009, we’ve visited, with Sonya, close to 200 tailoring ateliers around the world, either for the writing of my books, interviews, PG reports, or for personal pleasure–since even when we’re not “working”, visiting bespoke operations is one of our passions.

Without touting ourselves as the ultimate experts in the field (our friends G. Bruce Boyer and Bernhard Roetzel being, in our opinion, at the summit of the men’s style writers pyramid), I believe we can transmit a few things from our extensive experience in the field.

As you can imagine, doing our work almost full-time for this many years, sometimes we think we’ve seen and witnessed almost everything the bespoke, almost-bespoke or not-so-bespoke tailoring world has to offer. Our mesmerizing, yet sometimes obscure and vastly misunderstood world can be at times discreet or exuberant, humble or pretentious, joyful or depressing, clean or dirty, expert or amateur, honest or misleading…and it is through these life experiences, that we have developed a capacity to almost immediately feel “where we really are” at almost any given moment…

With Sonya we lived times of immense joy when we took delivery of some out-of-this world bespoke garments that required, upon occasion, more than one hundred hours of handiwork and four or five fittings. But we must confess that we also went through some difficult and highly deceptive moments when a suit with high expectations, ended up being a parody of bespoke in both the ill-fit and the quality of the garment. This kind of deception can come with a poor human experience which is, by essence, the contrary of what bespoke should be. Bespoke tailoring is about experiencing the most beautiful and unique garments in the world which will, most of the time, change the way you view life. But bespoke is also, and perhaps mainly, about engaging in a human, “larger-than-life” culture all its own.

During all these sartorial tribulations and journeys, we eventually developed, mentally and mostly unconsciously, a sort of “ranking method” to help us discern the sort of bespoke atelier we were visiting–I must qualify that we are referring to authentic bespoke ateliers and not hidden, under-the-radar operations… So to make a long story short, we have evolved to being able to classify bespoke ateliers in three different leagues :

1The small honest ateliers delivering decent work at a honest price. A few dozens of these ateliers are active around the world (our rough estimate is around 50-75 overall). They typically employ two or three workers and often use outside “helpers” (working by the piece at home) for sewing, trimming and for trousers. With these small yet respectable ateliers, you may not end up with the suit of your life or with a bespoke masterpiece, but you’ll be able to enjoy the bespoke experience firsthand without wiping out your savings account or lying to your spouse…Be cautious though, when some tailors work under the pretext that everything they do is 100 percent handmade, and even compare themselves to some world-famous bespoke institutions. Probably the first thing I learned during my sartorial journey : a good tailor is quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to sing his own praises. Or, to put it differently, if after a few minutes, a tailor explains to you that you’ll never find his quality of work anywhere else in the world, or worse, he begins criticizing the suit you are wearing (e.g., made by another tailor or off-the-peg), it’s a bad sign. This ludicrous situation happened to me several times although I was wearing fantastic bespoke suits from Cifonelli Paris. So open your eyes, but also your ears and if you find yourself in such a situation, I recommend you think twice before ordering.

2 – The good mid-size ateliers, delivering excellent work, far above anything MTM or off-the-peg—including excellent service, making the bespoke experience a real treat and a joy. These houses will help your level of personal elegance progress in a spectacular way and will probably change your life for real. After a decade of sartorial journeys, I estimate that there are around 20-25 houses that are part of this league, the world over.

3 – Than eventually, you have the great bespoke institutions which we will discuss here at length and who can, in my humble opinion, be numbered with the fingers of one hand or maybe two (let’s be generous).

A NAME WHO DESERVES INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION

For once, and at the risk of sounding peremptory, I think that Gaetano Aloisio is indisputably one of the best Master Tailors active in the world. And oddly enough, outside a very small circle of true bespoke connoisseurs, his name remains underrated and immensely lesser known than the likes of Cifonelli, Rubinacci or Anderson & Sheppard (even if Gaetano possesses a very high level clientele which many covet, without question…)

In this Instagram era where fake celebrities and self appointed public figures reign supreme, it’s about time to right this wrong and to direct the spotlight onto a Maestro whom many of readers and friends, like Florian Sirven of the eponymous Parisian bespoke house or Quentin Planchenault who works with Frederic Costa at Howard’s in Paris, consider to be “the new Francesco Smalto”. For the untrained ear, let us clarify that comparing a tailor to Francesco Smalto in the men’s style arena in Paris is like comparing a great musician to Mozart…

Personally, I think that Gaetano is indeed part of this league of exceptional “larger-than-life” tailors who will leave behind a heritage, a legacy and a style which will survive them—whether or not they have a successor in place.

If my personal ethics and obligation of reserve forbid me to reveal my selection of the Top 10 of Bespoke Tailors in the World (such a ranking would be rather absurd as the choice of a tailor remains – thank God – eminently subjective and a matter of personal taste), I think I can be granted the right to establish my own personal Hall of Fame of the all-time best tailors, in which Maestro Aloisio would have a seat, alongside the likes of Colin Hammick, Frederick Scholte, Roberto Combattente, Domenico Caraceni, Joseph Camps, Arturo Cifonelli, Francesco Smalto, Claude Rousseau, Vincenzo Attolini or, more recently, Lorenzo and Massimo Cifonelli, Antonio Panico, Richard Anderson, Joe Morgan, as well as very promising cutters like Davide Taub or Michael Browne (and I deeply apologize for the other great deserving tailors I fail to mention here, as these are names which are from the top of my head at the moment).

The first time I met Gaetano Aloisio in his magnificent salon located in the breathtaking Villa Malta (in the historic quarter of Rome), we had a very long discussion about a subject close to his heart : the defense of the word “bespoke”. This problem, that we have discussed at great lengths within these columns, since a decade, is a recurrent problem that consists of finding a way to separate the wheat from the chaff in the tailoring world and give a precise description of what the word “bespoke” should envelope.

This continuous trend of ascribing various meanings to our beloved word “bespoke” is disastrous because it drags everything down with it, inducing confusion, and is more times than not, a ploy to sell mass-produced products disguised as genuinely crafted products.

In an attempt to stop this “semantic theft”, some reputed tailors from Savile Row made their case almost ten years ago to the AAA (Advertising Standards Authority) to point out that the use of the word BESPOKE needed to meet precise criteria in order to be used properly, including the essential condition of making a 100% unique pattern which yields a unique creation. But as you have probably noticed, this incentive did not succeed in preventing the blatantly dishonest misuse of the word from becoming common practice. Most all of us have seen ads for “bespoke suits” at the bargain price of 300 euros ! Of course, the case by the Savile Row advocates was dismissed under the flimsy pretense that the word “bespoke” had slid into the category of other uses, and further, that “nobody buying that type of product at that […cheap] price would expect a product that is entirely handmade”. Outrageous.

This crucial problem Gaetano decided to discuss with me during our first meeting continues to haunt him. And this point alone speaks volumes about the personality of this true Maestro who, instead of singing his own praises, extended the invitation to ponder the defense of the word bespoke to help people, and the younger generation differentiate between real master-tailors and wannabe tailors (with the contamination of false claims and bought fame on Instagram, confusing the issue even further).

Even more perplexing for the younger generation is the battle of bespoke now being fought with lopsided firepower by multibillionaire brands surfing the “bespoke” and su misura wave [like Hubo Goss and Bolce and Dabbana]; but on this matter, never fear : David has always been more splendid and stylish than Goliath. So let’s continue to fight the good fight.

The bespoke salon and the atelier in Rome

What overwhelms the senses at Sartoria Gaetano Aloisio, is the bespoke salon : majestic, regal, spectacular, meticulously furnished and decorated with exceptional artifacts like a towering sculpture of Italian artist Paolo Guitto rightly named “Absent Body” which reigns in the middle of the venue with walls which speak tradition and multi-centenary history.

The client is thus caught between a luxurious and a non-ostentatious universe which happens to be the very definition of Aloisio’s tailoring style. As you make your way to the entrance of the building and wind around inside towards the private lift to access the salon, a splendid formal attire is showcased like succulent bread crumbs directing the path to the ateliers quarters . This is a rare thing to be seen nowadays, notwithstanding the most famous tailoring houses in Paris or on Savile Row. The message is direct: you are now entering a masculine “haute-couture” house, a universe dedicated to aesthetes.

[Click images below to enlarge]

On the second floor is located the Holy of Holies : the couture atelier in which not less than 35 tailors are studiously working.

Other than the Cifonelli workshop in Paris and the Rubinacci atelier in Naples, which are of comparable size, here is the busiest and most crowded bespoke atelier I’ve witnessed, with all the tailors working and concentrated in one place.

Hence, we address one of the most sensitive problems of bespoke tailoring : consistency and quality control.

Having all the atelier team in the same place makes a gargantuan difference in terms of being able to count on consistent work and spot-on quality for each piece crafted.

Some very famous – and expansive – ateliers (especially in the South of Italy where working from home  by-the-piece is a tradition) are using armies of outside workers and collect work from homes each day, before transporting crafted items back into the atelier. This way of doing things, while being traditional and respectable, can pose a significant quality control problem, often creating delays, mistakes and dramatic inconsistency. With Sonya, we must confess that we experienced this problem a few times with items coming from the same tailoring house, yielding some fantastic garments and some other  actual disasters…

At Gaetano Aloisio, everything is crafted at the same location with trusted employees solidly in place, and all the work directly controlled in real-time by the Maestro himself. Not exactly the same world.

Something which  is not always understood in the world of bespoke, is the meaning of the word “Master Tailor” or “Maestro“. Gaetano has earned the title of Maestro because he has served many years putting his hand to the needle and his fingers to the shears. Indeed, he is both a cutter AND a tailor, meaning that he is able to craft a garment from A to Z (down to the most hidden stitches inside a jacket), unlike many wonderful superstar cutters we know today. This “double-hat” of cutter-tailor is more uncommon than you may imagine and can make a true difference in terms of quality consistency—making this place in the heart of Rome, a unique “out of-this-world” atelier.

The Aloisio Style

With Sonya, we have spent several occasions with Gaetano and his charming wife Svetlana (who welcomes clients, manages the salon, and knows English). One observation we’ve made is that the Calabria-born Master does not like to speak of a “house style”, unlike many Neapolitan tailors who rarely stop promoting and selling their house style, with some tailors unable to successfully make any other suit construction other than the type he is accustomed to crafting.

Aloisio explains that, according to his vision of the craft, the idea of a “house style” is not compatible with the notion of bespoke, and that he does not want to impose any house style upon his clients, but on the contrary, his wish is to make clients look as elegant as possible. In his view, it is obligatory to take into consideration their taste, lifestyle and, of course, morphology.

However, when I see or, even better wear a suit by Gaetano Aloisio, I can’t help but think of what I’d call the “clean line” school of tailoring (of which Smalto, another Calabria-born tailor, was the most famous adopter). This school is very different from other schools, like the Neapolitan method (somewhat sloppy and even somehow messy, on purpose, with untamed pick stitching and non-disciplined shoulders with the famous shirring), as well as the Parisian school (using much more wadding, padding or roping around the shoulder) or the soft tailoring school with the famous chest drape (like at Anderson & Sheppard).

Aloisio’s style is clean, neat, and almost geometric with a fastidious method of isolating each part of the garment and respecting its proportions. This is an uncompromising tailoring system which does not suffer any approximation while staying lighter in weight and feel than Parisian tailoring : the shoulder is structured but natural and the lapels are simply a work of art. The quality of the stitching is also breathtaking and the level of finishing on par with the best of Parisian tailors.

My first bespoke suit at Gaetano Aloisio

For my first bespoke suit with Gaetano, I decided, one more time, to go double-breasted and opted for a classic 6 on 2 (six buttons, two active).

As for the fabric, the Maestro insisted that I choose from a bunch of a mill which I did not know very well at the time and which I’d never used : Drago.

Since the time of this first appointment we met the Drago family, visited their mill in Biella and are, with Sonya, completely in awe with their fabrics which feature an incredible drape and a very “nervous” hand. Exactly the stuff I adore. The Drago company is well rooted in Italy and began as thread spinning virtuosos, evolving to become fabric experts by literal ground-up experience, and later to the delight of tailors around the world began to sell direct, their delicious cloth. Thus I was convinced, and chose a magnificent Super160s blue fabric with very faded stripes. A fabric that reacts beautifully to light…

I had three scheduled fittings–among them one very special fitting, during which I was offered an excellent Italian wine which I did not know (Montefalco Sagrantino, 2008) while Gaetano worked on my jacket (this is what we call going-the-extra-mile my friends!).

When I took delivery of my first Aloisio bespoke suit, of course the suit was stunning, but I also discovered a Gaetano “secret”, specifically, the way he crafts his hand-stitched canvasses. At first, when you wear the new  jacket it may feel a little stiff. Not uncomfortable, but stiffer than all the Italian suits I’d worn. But after two or three wears, the magic appears : the canvas starts to literally marry the lines of your thorax, and the way the suit drapes is nothing short of extraordinary (even for an untrained eye) and the comfort is fantastic.

According to Gaetano,

“The uniqueness of the jacket is a result of a special working method using only the highest quality of canvas and horse-hair cloth. In fact, the jacket can seem a bit stiff at first try, but it immediately begins to adapt to the wearer’s body, becoming more and more like a favorite glove. This is one of the peculiarities of the Alosio  jacket. And each wear will become better and better with time!”

Even my good friend Jean Manuel Moreau, whom I visited while wearing this suit and who always tells his mind boldly, said the suit was, in his opinion, one of the most beautiful suits of my wardrobe.

Personally, I can testify that this suit immediately made it to my top 5 alongside three Cifonelli suits and one Nunzio Pirrozi.

In conclusion, and even at the risk of repeating myself, I want today to stress the extreme quality of the work of Gaetano Aloisio which deserves the utmost attention of all the sartorial cognoscenti around the world, because he is probably one of the most gifted Master Tailors of his generation.

Moreover, visiting his salon, as well as his stupendous boutique located Via Francesco Crispi (just under the building of the Sartoria) where you’ll witness rare exotic skin garments and hyper luxurious cashmere sweaters, is a great experience which every sartorial-minded person should treat himself to, at least once in his lifetime.

And, if you live around New York, please note carefully that Gaetano Aloisio is visiting the Big Apple more and more often, in order to meet and fit his fast developing clientele of gentlemen who have fallen in love with his extraordinary tailoring.

Gaetano’s next visit will take place at the end of next week from September 30th to October 4th.

For an appointment, question or request, don’t hesitate to send an e-mail (on behalf of PG) to direzione@gaetanoaloisio.com

Cheers, Hugo

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Sartoria Gaetano Aloisio

Via di Porta Pinciana, 1, 00187 Roma RM, Italie

Tél : +39 06 808 1621

E-mail : direzione@gaetanoaloisio.com

Instagram : @gaetanoaloisioofficial