There Is Nothing Fat About Lardini

A few months ago, I placed a suit order from a reputable online retailer. When the package arrived, imagine my dismay when instead of a suit I ordered, the package contained a midnight blue, solid, two-button suit by a company called Lardini. After a moment of confusion, I called my tailor: “Daryl, I am coming over.” Five minutes later, I was trying on this mystery label. To his and my surprise, the suit fit really well. While half canvassed and machine made, the suit was made from light Cerruti 1881 wool, had minimally padded shoulder and draped nicely. I needed to investigate further.

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Lardini was established in 1978 and made its claim to fame by making suits for Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, and Ferragamo. In 1993, however, the company began to make suits under its own label. At present, Lardini is a growing Italian manufacturer that has over a thousand employees, produces 1,600 garments a day and has ten boutiques around the world. The bulk of company’s business is derived from its ready to wear line, but recently Lardini began to offer made to measure service to its customers.

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Lardini keeps a nice looking website (www.lardini.it) that caters mostly to business professionals who prefer a sophisticated edge to their clothing. The Lardini label tends to stay away from the whimsical and trendy, but makes elegant and affordable garments. Suits retail in the average for $600 but can be found online, heavily discounted, for $200 or less. For that price to quality ratio, Lardini presents a viable option. I was so pleased with my new suit that I not only kept it but ordered another suit and a blazer. My Lardini purchases fit true to size, required minimal alterations and look as good as my higher end garments yet at a fraction of cost.

Canali PR Effort: The Olympics in “Style”

In its August 11, 2008, press release, Canali announced that it has partnered with NBC Sports to outfit the on-camera personalities for coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  The Canali / NBC partnership was the initiative by the Olympic Primetime host Bob Costas.  As part of the sponsorship, NBC personalities each received several complete outfits including custom made suits, sportswear, and accessories, and will wear Canali for the entirety of the three weeks of Olympics coverage.  “We are proud and excited to have been selected by NBC Sports and the Olympic Games,” said Elisabetta Canali, Global Director of Communications. “We worked closely with NBC and each Olympic broadcast anchor to find the right fabrics and styles that would make them feel comfortable and pleasing to the eye.”

Watching the U.S. Olympic coverage, I cannot help but think how uninspiring the NBC sportscasters look.  Bob Costas’ outfits, in particular, are incredibly dull.  Black suit, blue shirt, red tie or black suit, white shirt, and black tie with white stripes.  How boring.  The jacket fit also leaves much to be desired as evidenced by a  piece of loose fabric on the back when Mr. Costas is sitting.  On the other end of the spectrum is the gymnastics commentator Bela Karolyi who, flamboyantly yet catastrophically, tries to match gingham shirts, odd colored blazers and solid ties.  This leads me to the following question: did Canali provide these men with any guidance on fit, color and pattern matching before allowing them to put the clothes on?  Arguably, even Cesare Attolini provided outfit would look like a mess without proper fit and guidance.

Another minor flaw, although this is more of my personal quirk and probably why I don’t own any Canali suits, is because I am a huge fan of a soft Neapolitan shoulder.  Canali jackets, on the other hand, are too structured for my liking, and the shoulders, in particular, look too boxy.  But I digress.

While I find Canali to be a good maker of mid-upper level Italian clothing, I think the label is trying to become another Armani by its latest attempts to gain popularity in the mainstream media (in 2007, the label provided George Clooney’s suits in Michael Clayton).  Could this trend potentially lose Canali some appeal with the more discerning buyer?  I am not sure.  Whatever Canali decides to do, however, I  hope it does not follow the Armani formula by charging ludicrous premiums on mediocre articles of clothing.  And if it does, so be it; there is always Corneliani, which is as good, if not better.

Men’s Ex – In a League of Its Own

Before a recent trip to visit a friend, while waiting for my flight to board, I decided to pick up the latest issue of GQ magazine, my first in almost five years, and was appalled by what I read. Apparently, a lad named Shia LaBeouf in an interview confessed that he used to crap in his pants until he was 12 years old. Did I just read this? Really? In GQ? As I continued to read on the plane, it became apparent that GQ had deteriorated into a fashion equivalent of MTV: a fashion magazine without the fashion. Page after page of sponsor driven drivel on topics I could care less about, and more importantly, with almost no pictorials.

Thirty thousand feet up in the air, I began to panic. I wanted to be taken back to that happy place when I was a little kid staring at my coloring books. I wanted to see pictures! It was also then that I inadvertently discovered how much I have longed for a magazine that spoke to my inner child and showed me nothing but pictorials of clothing and allowed me to decide whether I liked the fit of the jacket or the combination of a tie and a shirt. Fortunately, with the help of my fellow pundits at Style Forum, that magazine exists and I found it! Let me introduce you to Men’s Ex.

This Japanese magazine with the motto “Nice Look Nice Life!” is one of a handful Asian fashion magazines slowly gaining popularity in the United States. Yet, what makes Men’s Ex different from the likes of Zino, Leon, and Uomo, is its emphasis is on high end Italian clothing with immaculate emphasis on detail. Roughly ninety percent of this two hundred page magazine consists of photos of clothes, with brands like Ermenegildo Zegna, Brunello Cucinelli, Cesare Attolini, and Kiton featured in almost every issue.  The other roughly ten percent is dedicated to cars, food and men’s lifestyle.

Men’s Ex is presented in a rather simple format. The magazine is divided into multi-page sections on suits, jackets, shirts, ties, shoes, bags, watches, combinations thereof, and other accessories, just to name a few. Often, there is a side by side comparison of brands. For example, in the March 2008 issue, there is a side by side comparison of Boglioli and Rafaelo Caruso suits, Isaia and Belvest suits, and Kiton and Cesare Attolini suits. In addition, in every issue, there is a section that deals with picking the right color combination to accompany shirts, ties, and suits.

Every time I get my hands on a new issue of Men’s Ex, I spend hours browsing through it. Months later, I keep coming back for more. Simply put, there is nothing quite like Men’s Ex on the domestic market and my inability to speak Japanese is not a handicap because the brand names are in English. Moreover, the fact that the magazine is in Japanese works to my advantage, as it makes me pay closer attention to detail. In addition, since Men’s Ex is oriented toward the Asian market, there are brands that American consumers are not familiar with, like Mark Bladog shoes, Albertelli shirts, or Stefanomano bags, just to name a few. Hence, reading Men’s Ex is also educational, leading to further discovery of new, interesting brands.

My only slight complaint about Men’s Ex is how difficult it is to get a copy in Florida. If you live in a metropolitan city with a large Asian population, many Asian convenience stores will carry Men’s Ex, but be prepared to pay as little as $8 or as much as $20 per issue. Some of these vendors may even offer you a yearly subscription that will set you back as much as $200. For the rest of us, places like eBay or friends in big cities are the only way to get our hands on this spectacular magazine. Once you do, however, you will understand what the fuss is all about, and will never again go back to rubbish being touted as a fashion magazine.

Say It Ain’t So, Massimo


As the misleading and whimsical title may suggest, this is not a Kiton bashing post. On the contrary, this writer is of the opinion that Kiton makes the best “ready to wear” suits, shirts, and possibly even shoes on the market. The brand’s popularity in North America is largely due to the efforts of its U.S. President of Operations, Massimo Bizzocchi, whose hard work not only made the United States the largest consumer of Kiton in the world, but also helped to put Massimo’s own brand of fine clothing on the fashion map. As a result, in March 2005, Massimo Bizzocchi opened his first stateside clothing store in New York’s meatpacking district.

Massimo Bizzocchi’s best known product are his ties. The silk is luxurious to rival Stefano Ricci, the construction is on par with Brioni, and patterns, while on a conservative side, are as interesting as anything made by Nicky or Valentino. Massimo did not stop there, however, as he took the construction of his ties to a whole new level by creating a “spine” stitching system to eliminate the wrinkling problem. By pulling a special string in the “spine”, the fabric wrinkles and then relaxes the tension for a permanent flat look. In addition to ties, Massimo Bizzocchi brand makes suits, jackets and shirts, just to name a few. Extremely satisfied with my Bizzocchi ties, I decided to give his shirt a try. Sadly, it is not as nice as I had imagined.

I bought my Massimo Bizzocchi shirt online at very deep discount – over 80% off the original price of $275 dollars. What appealed to me, other than the price, were the colors: subtle yet vibrant white, orange, blue and light blue stripes (as seen in the picture). After receiving and trying on the shirt, I am happy with my purchase. The shirt, while nice, however, is not on par with the higher end brands like Kiton, Borrelli, or Cesare Attolini. It fairs well with the middle of the road Italian shirt makers like Lorenzini and Zegna.

Those looking for handwork found on Kiton shirts will be disappointed – there is none to be found here, as the shirt is completely machine made. The shirt, however, has sturdy seashell buttons, nice fabric, and a handsome design. It fits fairly roomy, although not as boxy as Zegna. For size 16/41, it has a 48 inch chest, is 20 inches from shoulder to shoulder, and is about 33 inches long. And, while currently not a perfect fit, with about $20 worth of alterations (sides taken in by half an inch), it will fit well.

Massimo’s press release states that the “shirts are cut shorter and tails are not extended so they can be worn as dress or sportswear.” I, however, can’t imagine wearing my Massimo Bizzocchi shirt with a tie, as it is strictly a casual shirt due to its color combination. At around $80, Massimo Bizzocchi shirts are a good deal. Anything higher, and there are better alternatives to be found. His ties, however, are pretty awesome.

The Overlooked Gem: Gravati Shoes

Amidst a pantheon of high end men’s shoes, Gravati is one brand that often gets overlooked. Yet, anyone who owns a pair will tell you that Gravati is the most comfortable shoe in their collection.

Gravati was founded in 1909 in Milan, Italy. While the brand maintains a cult following in Europe, Gravati was relatively unknown in the United States until the late 1990s when it began raising brand awareness by hosting trunk shows. These attempts, however, never caught on with the stateside shoe loving crowd largely due to uninspiring designs and relatively high prices. Truth be told, Gravati collection examined as a whole leaves much to be desired. While on the eclectic side, Gravati is not as interesting when compared to other Italian shoemakers like Sutor Mantellassi or Santoni. Some models, however, look quite nice and are incredibly comfortable as I recently discovered.

My introduction to Gravati came in November 2007, while shopping with my mother in one of her favorite shoe stores. While I knew nothing about the brand, two shoes really caught my eye. After trying on both pairs, the shoes looked and felt impeccable, and for the price – a little over $200 each – they became an easy purchase (I bought another pair since then).

The tan wingtip is called “Bolet”. It is made out of betis leather, which in the words of a fellow sartorialist “is an aniline calfskin that has been treated with alcohol to disrupt the finish and then had neutral polish worked in with a buffing wheel to effect the antiquing.” As seen from the photos, the shoes are heavily brogued and could pass for a model out of a Sutor Mantellassi catalog. I wear them with a summer tan suit, but they could also work well with jeans or slacks. The black wholecut is called “Sera”. It is made out of Nappa leather, and is a versatile pair of dress shoes that can be worn to any formal occasion. Both shoes are blake constructed and have a leather outsole. A heel toplift if made from rubber with a stamped Gravati logo – a Gravati trademark for leather soles. It adds support on slippery surfaces.

When trying on a Gravati shoe, one cannot help but notice how supple the leather is. Hence, my main concern before the purchase was how much wear they could take. Yet, almost nine months later, both pairs look as new (I must add, however, that I only wear each pair three to four times a month). While I am not familiar with Gravati lasts, the shoes fit true to size. In addition, wearing Gravati is an experience all in itself as they hug your feet and give you great comfort and support unlike any other high end pair of shoes I own.

The three retailers that carry the largest selection of Gravati shoes in the United States are: Wilkes Bashford in San Francisco, Harolds in the Heights in Houston, and Zappos.com. These retailers’ prices, however, are a bit on a steep side, as Gravati can often be found on eBay or in a number of independent retailers for almost half the amount as the brand is still relatively unknown. Thus, if found in the $200 price range, Gravati is a great investment, as the leather quality and the overall comfort will leave one a very happy customer.