Winter Flannel: A Lanieri Review

Alexander FREELING

Winter Flannel: A Lanieri Review

The menswear industry loves the classics, but it still continues to evolve. It’s easy to focus on the big changes: the new brands, the old makers falling into disrepair, the mixture of craft and noise that generates most press coverage. But often it’s the small changes that make all the difference: minor adjustments, made day by day, are almost imperceptible until you stop and observe.

Since my friend John Slamson introduced Lanieri to PG in 2015, the company has continued to refine its made-to-measure (MTM) suits, and I was recently given the opportunity to review them. This article describes my experience, and highlights some new options and improvements.

Choices, choices

MTM offers more options than off-the-rack products, which makes it more flexible but also more risky. Sometimes the lure of choice itself is the risk: many of us have, when starting out, picked the most daring pieces, the most dramatic options, and found the results beautiful but barely ever useful.

At the same time, too many “10 essential wardrobe options” articles have inspired extreme conservatism, so that any garment that’s even slightly interesting is discarded because it’s not a “classic.”

How do you make good choices? I’ve already written some guidelines on choosing great MTM, but the key answer, of course, is patience. Hugo’s impressive wardrobe has been ten years in the making—and remember that this is only since he “reset” his previous collection, of which only one suit survived (a Francesco Smalto ready-to-wear).

It’s also crucial to learn from experts: whether it is master tailors, RTW designers, stylists for magazines or the owner of a small shop who personally dresses the mannequins in his window, everyone who works in the industry is, for better or worse, teaching their customers something.

All this is to say that MTM can be wonderful, but it is important that any tailor or company guides their customers towards good choices, whether this is their first suit or their fifteenth. If you think that more choice is always better, the risk is that your customers have to flip through a hundred different navy basketweaves, and may well end up picking more or less at random.

The Lanieri fabric selections are carefully curated. In the latest summer offering, all the classic options were available, but also some thoughtful and uncommon choices such as a linen-mohair blend by Marzotto, luxurious brown super 150s by Drago and even a sustainable, naturally-dyed white cotton herringbone by Lanificio Subalpino. This season’s new winter collection has grey, brown and blue flannels, business sharkskins and pinstripes, as well as some more daring propositions. Some favourites of mine are the soft navy and brick red corduroys, made with 2% elastane by Tessuti di Sondrio; a deep green flannel with a blue overcheck by Vitale Barberis Canonico; and a pale beige flannel by Drago, from their “Rugby Flannel” collection (a very interesting collection of technical fabrics : natural stretch – with no elastane – stain and liquid resistant – including wine or oil!).

A Casual Winter Suit

Looking through the winter options, I decided in the end to try the beige Rugby Flannel.

My aim was to make up a suit that was effective as a semi-formal two piece, but also versatile to break up into casual jacket or trousers. I wanted something simple but relaxed, to complement the thick, textured flannel.

When you pick a cloth, all the typical MTM options are available: pocket style, full or partial lining, buttons, stitching and cuff style. My final jacket had natural shoulders, broad lapels, slim sleeves and a slightly pinched waist. I requested a two button jacket, a three button cuff and trouser turnups.

As I mentioned, there are also a number of new design options not previously available: I requested spalla camicia shoulder construction and wide lapels, as well as a straight buttonhole in the lapel (which, in my opinion, is superior to the keyhole style unless one is making it by hand). This is a special option, available by making a request to customer service.

The design options are offered in a clever way: if you pick a navy or charcoal twill with all the suggested options, you will end up with a perfectly good Italian business suit, which is what many customers need. If you pick one of the more interesting fabrics, and choose the options aimed at sartorial aficionados, you can buy a suit much more exciting than you could find off the rack. For PG readers who want something memorable, I strongly recommend the wider lapels. I hope that next they will offer larger trouser cuffs.

In terms of construction, Lanieri continues to offer a precise, industrial made-to-measure, half-canvas product at a good price. The canvas is soft, the stitching is careful (including the internal seams) and the horn buttons are tightly shanked. The finishing on the lining and pockets is excellent; the monogram is machine-made and neat.

Measurement and Fit

The house style is fairly modern: the Lanieri models wear their jackets shorter and slimmer than a conservative tailor. Their sleeves hug the biceps; their trousers are cut fairly slim all the way through the leg. (In fact, I decided to email the customer support with my thigh measurement and preferred ankle opening to avoid any confusion.) The quarters are fairly open and the patch pockets are large and wine glass shaped.

If you visit any of the company’s ateliers (five in Italy, plus Paris, Brussels and Zurich) you can be measured in person. Since there’s not yet a store in London, I elected for my suit to use the online measuring service, which uses a number of key measurements to extrapolate your overall body shape. I was initially quite sceptical: how can a few flat measurements provide enough information for a pattern-maker? But I dutifully took the measurements, and decided to send a few photos for extra information, especially of the hip angle of my trousers—a difficult thing to get right.

The trousers were, I think, the best fitting out of the box of any maker I have tried. I have ordered jackets before from Lanieri, and some alterations were needed in the first case. But since then, those changes have been incorporated into my pattern, and now the jacket pattern is ideal: comfortable but shapely, with plenty of room for movement. There’s enough padding to smooth out the shoulder line, but it still has a natural silhouette.

Service

In my experience with Lanieri the service was a particular highlight. Customer care is friendly and attentive, both during the ordering process and (crucially!) in after-care. Garments have been made and shipped on the promised dates. Sara, who advised me on my suit, made great suggestions for buttons and lining, and was able to provide photos of the button options to guide my decisions. And more generally, people in ordering and sales remain close to the manufacturing side: they know what can and can’t be done, and how best to configure a suit, jacket or coat. If you’ve ever talked to a salesman who has never seen a suit being made you’ll appreciate the importance of this.

Just as pleasingly to me, the company exudes a healthy work culture. If you email outside of office hours, you receive a reply that “we’re currently at home” and “Prenderemo in carico la tua richiesta non appena riapriranno i nostri uffici.” They recognise that people do their best work in good conditions and they protect the time of their employees. From talking with individuals, and from their marketing and copywriting, it’s clear that Lanieri people clearly enjoy the pleasures of a good jacket, just as they do a morning coffee or a negroni after work.

Their product photography is playful and unserious, their styling modern and unfussy. These are clothes for people who delight in smart MTM design and eye-catching, innovative and luxurious fabrics. As the days get colder in Britain, this suit will get plenty of wear, and I’ve also got my eye on this VBC overcoat.

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Lanieri website here : Lanieri

Also visit my blog for further sartorial adventures : Alexander Freeling’s Blog