I've asked many an acquaintance, at the kind of soirée where sartorial distinction is as crucial to proceedings as oxygen, to nominate a single establishment as the world’s bespoke atelier nonpareil. Almost invariably the four-syllable response is the same, and uttered with a level of reverence that sees the speaker’s pupils snap into focus, and which induces slow, appreciative nods by all in earshot.
So why exactly is an atelier founded in Rome by Giuseppe Cifonelli in 1880, and these days entered via a staircase and a large wooden door in a Haussmannian building on Paris’s Rue Marbeuf (the house’s home since 1936) the Mecca, the Mount Sinai and the Mahabodhi Temple of international tailoring?
The reasons are manifold. Cifonelli’s storied folklore helps. It is surely one of the only top-tier ateliers in the world in which first-time visitors are greeted by members of the family who still helm the business — cousins Lorenzo and Massimo, the fourth generation of the Cifonelli tailoring dynasty. For a house that has welcomed Paul Meurisse, Lino Ventura, Marcello Mastroianni, Cary Grant, Karl Lagerfeld and François Mitterrand (whose Cifonelli collection was recently auctioned at Drouot), that’s an efficacious antidote to the soulless banality of corporate fashion.