Like denim, check patterns are one of the most ubiquitous sights in the world of menswear. And like the dyed yarn, its production is a dizzying combination of mathematical formulas, which directs the umpteen stages of complex production. The technicalities of its assembly line is a story for another day, but the cloth somehow ends up on the cutting tables in the hallowed workshops of Savile Row, Naples and Paris. Turning superior check cloth into bespoke masterpieces for countless French presidents and icons of the silver screen, Cifonelli's address at 31 rue Marbeuf is one of those workshops.
Under the stewardship of cousins Lorenzo and Massimo, they have extended the house’s legacy to produce prêt-à-porter collections with haute couture know-how. An extremely rare commodity in the ready-to-wear space, clients and menswear commentators have been eulogizing over their use of check patterns. Their legion of followers usually have to wait close to six months each year to clap eyes on their beautiful check creations. Whether it is a surprise or not, this year the wait has been pleasantly inturrupted by the launch of Lorenzo Cifonelli’s most personal collection to date – a Lorenzo-designed assortment in partnership with The Rake. If you’re a check fiend, have a penchant for elegant tailoring, and you’re yet to peruse the collection featuring Loro Piana fabrics – all we can tell you is that by reading on you will be in a state of graphic marvel. But to coincide with this visual rapture, it is worth delving a little deeper into the origins of these different types of checks.
Prince of Wales check (Glen Check)
Like most other checks it originated in Scotland and was actually first registered in 1840 as “Glenurquhart Estate Check”. It is widely accepted that designer, Miss Elizabeth MacDougall, came up with the original design in her native village of Lewiston, found at the bottom of the glen, but some believe it was the feat of Countess Caroline of Seafield, an accomplished weaver who was looking for something smart and durable to dress the grounds staff with on the Urquhart estate. For a while, the check remained a local fashion, but on a hunting visit to the estate, King Edward VII (who was then Prince of Wales) observed the estate’s staff wearing the pattern, and took an immediate liking to it.