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Craft / July 2017

How Cifonelli has Mastered Ready-to-Wear

No simple diffusion line, Cifonelli’s ready-to-wear collection shares the attributes and qualities that have made the house’s bespoke operation so renowned.

A beige windowpane check linen jacket by Cifonelli. Photo by Gentleman Chemistry.

Founded in Italy in 1880 by Giuseppe Cifonelli, transplanted to Paris by his son Arturo in the 1930s, and today helmed by Giuseppe’s great-grandsons, cousins Massimo and Lorenzo, Cifonelli is one of the world’s great tailoring houses — and certainly among the finest in France.

Another legendary Parisian import, Karl Lagerfeld once famously stated, “I could recognise a Cifonelli shoulder from a distance of a hundred metres,” and indeed, it is the distinctive shoulder line that is a Cifonelli jacket’s defining feature — whether the garment be cut bespoke, or taken from the recently launched ready-to-wear line.

“Our armhole is very high and sits close to the body,” Massimo once explained in an interview with The Rake. “We create a soft, natural shoulder with very little padding, and shape the sleevehead using a form we call ‘Le Cigarette’.” Though, to the untrained eye, ‘Le Cigarette’ cosmetically resembles a British roped shoulder, its curvature is created using nothing but a little structural hand-wadding and the painstaking stretching and pressing of the cloth (rather than the actual rope insert that forms the basis of a rigid Savile Row roped sleevehead), resulting in not only a handsome raised line but greater freedom of movement — the perfect combination of form and function.

That signature sculpted shoulder, with an exceptionally high sleevehead angled in toward the sleekest chest in the sartorial universe; an abbreviated skirt; and majestically high-gorged, figure-hugging lapel… These iconic characteristics of a Cifonelli bespoke coat are shared by the house’s pret-a-porter jackets, designed by creative director John Vizzone.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.