THE TRAILBLAZER: Lorenzo Cifonelli

For Lorenzo Cifonelli, the world is a crucible of change, in which travel and the urban environment have redefined the technical underpinnings of modern tailoring. Originally published in Issue 50 of The Rake, our Founder, Wei Koh writes that Cifonelli’s response has been visionary, forging a way to make bespoke jersey jackets with the same sharp shape as those made from traditional cloths. Like the early jazz greats, he is bending and redefining the rules of his medium…

Lorenzo Cifonelli wears a grey Prince of Wales three-piece suit with iconic double-breasted shawl lapels waistcoat, 100% wool (worsted flannel) by Vitale Barberis Canonico. Lady San Felice collection. 340g.

To slip on your first jacket cut by Lorenzo Cifonelli and reflect upon the man starring back at you from the mirror is to be filled with the same emotion that Senator Giovanni Falier must have felt when he stepped onto his gardens in 1777 and witnessed the statues of Orpheus and Eurydice sculpted for him by Antonio Canova. As with Canova’s expressive ability with stone, Cifonelli is a man so unique in his ability to bring forth life from inanimate cloth that he seems to breathe the Ancient Greek concept of anima, or spirit, into his creations. And, like Canova, who was considered the greatest sculptor of the neoclassical period, Cifonelli’s influence in shaping the prevailing aesthetic of the global sartorial revival over the past decade has been so major you could even say he has defined it.

Look at the majority of stylish denizens plugged into the social media nerve centre and you’ll see innumerable examples of Lorenzo Cifonelli signature leitmotifs. He single-handedly reintroduced us to the wide full-bellied, high-gorged lapel. He is the man behind the greatest resurgence of the 6x1 double-breasted coat since Armani in the 1980s. The signature Cifonelli shoulder, which was invented by his grandfather to reconcile immaculate shape with mobility, has become so imitated that priapic facsimiles are found in pages of magazines and on websites and Instagram feeds the world over, as well as on the shop rails of multiple ready-to-wear brands. But at the same time it is Cifonelli who, like the first generation of jazz greats, is bending and redefining the rules of his medium. He is introducing streetwear materials and sportswear details and adaptability into the previously dusty realm of bespoke tailoring, and in doing so is connecting its values with an all new generation while also showing existing customers previously unimaginable possibilities.

     

     

    “My tailoring has evolved as a direct response to my customers and how they live their lives,” Cifonelli says. “For example, one thing they share in common is that they all constantly travel. So comfort and adaptability of their jackets has become extremely important. They want to wear something with a beautiful shape. They don’t want to compromise in style. But at the same time they don’t want to feel the jacket on their bodies, they want something almost weightless and unrestricted. They want to forget they have their jacket on. So we had to innovate in terms of the construction of the jacket, using lighter and more supple canvases and find new fabrics that could allow a greater range of mobility, all the while maintaining their appearance. It’s a very interesting time at Cifonelli in terms of this innovation. We are doing a lot of garments in jersey or a lot of things in blends of cotton linen and polyamide and moving away from things that are too heavy. And at Cifonelli we are very excited to develop this part of this business.”

    Perhaps Lorenzo Cifonelli’s most defining characteristic, and the way in which he has most influenced modern men’s style, comes from his inability to be constrained by the past. For him the world is a crucible of change, where travel, and rapid movement through the urban landscape, is redefining the stylistic vocabulary and technical underpinning of modern tailoring. And it is at the epicentre of this change where he is most alive. Discovering new fabrics, like lightweight Japanese jersey or even denim, and creating ways to incorporate them into bespoke tailoring to provide garments with increased comfort, adaptability and utility are his passions. And though he calls himself a tailor, he is as influential as a designer as any in the pantheon of contemporary menswear greats — so much so that he is creating the suits for fashion’s most revered designer and the man who introduced American luxury to the world and classic menswear to soft tailoring, Ralph Lauren.

      Published

      January 2021

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