Honey, I’m Home: Tom Chamberlin visits Brioni for a Summer Bespoke

Summer means la bella vita, and la bella vita means Brioni. THE RAKE’s Editor-in-Chief jumped at the chance to restore some colour to his days.

Honey, I’m Home: Tom Chamberlin visits Brioni for a Summer Bespoke

On cold days, the average man feels a sense of relief, for seasonal clothing favours autumn and winter, with its layers of garments and fabrics allowing you to dress as a professional, or at least with appropriate bearing. It’s much harder in summer. Tailors prefer the former, too, for tweed is a more forgiving fabric and is perfect for England’s inclement weather. They are — tailors, that is — descendants of a vocational class whose output steered towards thick and austere fabrics and colours. The Victorian era ushered in the modern-day suit, but it wasn’t until after the Second World War that fabric and weaving technology could make the cloths considerably lighter and more bearable in the heat.

‘Il boom’ in 1960s Italy played its part. The industrialists churned out cars and more modern needs in a manner that gave the country an unexpected economic resurgence, but the old guard, the fabric and garment makers, revived a sense of optimism in the world with riviera chic and the joy that beautiful clothing can engender. One of the brands founded just after the war was the Roman titan of Italian fashion, Brioni. Their ethos was to conjure up the colour and excitement of beautiful clothes to enthuse the new wealth of the world. The name even refers to Brijuni, a popular Croatian holiday spot for the jet set. 

It was armed with this context that I visited Brioni, who, since their founding, have innovated and challenged contemporary menswear norms while retaining their bespoke heritage. Part of this heritage includes James Bond. As much as I flinch at the idea of a non-British brand dressing our most British export, what Brioni did with Pierce Brosnan, especially the naval blazer in GoldenEye that got too short an outing, was remarkably chic. Who could forget also the first tuxedo Daniel Craig wore — the “there are dinner jackets and dinner jackets” piece? The audience gasped when he appeared in the left-hand side of the frame — the silhouette magnificent, a natural shoulder line, hourglass waist, lower-than-usual buttoning: it was all there. 

Consultation: The first meeting with Angelo was both a meet-and-greet and a chance for him to observe Tom’s shape and posture. Then measurements were taken and design, fabric, lining and buttons selected. 

But what could I request in order to discover the skill and dexterity the brand has been practising since 1945? No need to repeat what Bond did so well; indeed, these are garments I already have. What I wanted to do was pull at colour and fun, releasing my English stiffness to relax into some Italian vitality. So I chose a fabric that I have fallen in love with again: corduroy. I wore it every day at boarding school between the ages of eight and 13, and until recently hadn’t worn it since. I have been missing out: it is a wonderful fabric, which, despite its regal etymology, straddles the line between formal and casual.

The Brioni Townhouse is their flagship store in Mayfair, on Bruton Street, and this was where I met the master tailor Angelo Petrucci. The townhouse is a vast, bright, spacious store, with evidently excellent visual merchandisers on staff, but as this was a bespoke experience, all that was needed was me and Angelo’s 30- plus years of experience. He is a quiet and unassuming man, and he had the rather unenviable task of flying to London and quickly striking up a rapport with someone fairly set in his ways. 

What Brioni don’t have in their townhouse windows are bespoke suits on mannequins, à la Savile Row, where you can get a good taste of the house style. So I was going in rather blind, save for a few images of the lovely actor Glen Powell, who was an ambassador for the bespoke programme. There is a myth that every tailor should be able to produce the same garment so long as you explain it to them, which, if it were true, would eradicate the need for a house style. You should always choose a tailor based on what they offer, and see if you can incorporate your needs into that. 

What Angelo offered was pure Italia. His own suits, which he wore throughout all our meetings, provided a sense of the nation’s magic: in Italy, a suit is ostensibly a formal garment but worn in a relaxed way. This is a compliment, by the way: Italians have the same capacity to wear a tie in the same way that they don’t wear a tie — it’s all just as immaculate, but without the structured formality of a British suit. 

With measurements taken, we went through the various styling details in the piece. Angelo spotted the half-belt on my sports jacket and rather liked it, so he wanted to add that to the process. We also intended to put in patch pockets, as corduroy should be worn in a loucher way, and these pockets not only contribute to the silhouette but place it in that more relaxed, summery vibe. And that vibe was only enhanced by the honey corduroy we selected. 

What I wanted to do was pull at colour and fun, releasing my English stiffness to relax into some Italian vitality. 
First fitting: Jacket and trousers were partially constructed — enough to see what needed adjusting. The jacket was taken apart again and re-worked to incorporate the changes. 

The first fitting was exciting. One arm off, another on, so Angelo could double-check the armhole height. The lapels without facings looked proud and wide. We opted for a fairly modest four-inch lapel, though it wasn’t too slim for my frame. The patch pockets had a beautiful curve at the bottom. The British way is to be straight. 

All tailors have certain elements they want to get exactly right. For Angelo, he wanted the perfect vertical line down the edge of the jacket to follow the pattern of the corduroy. At the first fitting it was slightly off, and he was quick to make the necessary adjustments. The darts underneath the lapel brought the balance forwards so that it sat flush to the chest and followed the line of my nape, the top of the spine and neck, which, like many tall people, slopes forwards. The trousers were too slim for someone of my size, so we let them out, and extra room allowed for the, ahem, seat. 

At the final fitting there was very little to change. The jacket sat beautifully, and while Angelo hadn’t removed the baste stitching, he could have done. The length of the jacket is perhaps a little short for my taste, but the idea was to make sure it sat flush against my waist. (My British jackets have some intentional flare to the skirt, so can be longer). The trousers needed some tweaks, again to allow for more room, otherwise the double pleats would not have attained their full effect. But the turn-ups, which I always think are advisable for corduroy (remember, though, you can’t have them with flat-fronted trousers), looked wonderful against my brown Gaziano & Girling loafers, and with exactly the amount of break needed. One thing we forgot were the brace buttons inside the trouser, but I will have them added. Braces are important with corduroy, as the fabric expands, so it will look smarter when held up by my shoulders rather than my waist, where it will inevitably slip. 

I want to be clear about one thing before I conclude. There are many fashion houses that disguise a made-to-measure service as bespoke, giving customers the idea that the garment is made with them in mind. But this is a falsehood, and rarely do you see true bespoke emerge from this. Brioni are not one of those false prophets. The final suit is distinct from other pieces in my wardrobe, and with the summer ahead couldn’t have come at a better time. It is a bespoke suit in the understanding that I have of it, and Angelo even added some cigar pockets in the lining without my having asked for them. 

You can tell the genuine master tailors from the joy they take in completing a project; from the joy they take in the work; and from the joy they derive from seeing how the shape across the waist flatters the wearer — and how, therefore, their suit will stand out in a crowd. 

In this instance, we are not just talking about the colour — Brioni remain true to their creed in releasing sartorial joy into the world, and of doing so while not compromising on the artisanal traditions of their home nation. 

Many fashion houses disguise a made-to-measure service as bespoke. Brioni are not one of those false prophets. 
Final fitting: Angelo checked the finishing on elements of the jacket, such as the balance, as this affected how the collar sat (top right) and the sleeve length.