I've linked this video before, but here it is again.
Sometimes promotional material can push the envelope a bit in order to look good, and I admit that a few moments during this video I found myself thinking "Oh, really?"
Well, yes. Really.
Thanks go out to Des Esseintes for donating this coat from Francesco Smalto.
A few posts back I remember lamenting the fact that certain houses get way overhyped and others don't have anywhere near the recognition they deserve. Well, this is another of the latter. Perhaps because they have fallen to the all-too-common over-licensing of their name that they are more known for their scents; one is also tempted to think that the quality may not be the same as it was when this coat was made back in '91, but the video was posted in 2008 and shows identical techniques.
You can find a bit of background info on Smalto here
Men's tailoring is often focused on the understated, the invisible, but in this garment the details call attention to themselves; in this sense it is very influenced by haute couture whose finishing and execution are often shows of virtuosity rather than self-effacement. The main label, as shown above, has been incorporated in a clever pocket which would be just about impossible to replicate in a mass-production setting, and is just one of the many indications that this is a very special garment. That said, most of those clues are on the inside, not the outside.
Something less obvious, but which should be pointed out, is that this garment had spent several weeks crammed into a shipping box. It is not a heavy, sturdy cloth but rather something more delicate, and yet this is how it looks straight out of the box, no pressing or steaming-
The shape of the lapel and collar is rarely seen outside of France.
Readers are, by now, aware of my thing for buttonholes and these are very good, worked using finer thread than I have ever been able to find; note the pickstitching along the vent and the little bar tack. Note also that the gimp ends have been worked inside the cloth rather than being concealed under the ends like I do.
This buttonhole on the front is as close to perfection as I have ever seen
and oddly, the second buttonhole is straight rather than keyhole, an acknowledgement of the fact that this button must never be fastened.
The lapel is sporting the "milanese" buttonhole, the mechanics of which I have finally figured out (it came to me while driving home, of all places).
The pocket jets have been sewn by hand, something that is almost never seen anymore.
The inside pockets (there are four of them) have also been bound by hand. Notice the hand pick stitching along the edges of the lining and flap, and the hand-made buttonhole on the flap.
The lining has been inserted entirely by hand. While most English tailors prefer a small, invisible stitch to fell the lining, it is more common in Italy to use a decorative top stitch, like this one, however they are usually much wider in their spacing. These are very tight, another way of saying "we have spared no time nor effort in the creation of this garment". I, personally, prefer a neater, more discrete finishing stitch, but this is actually a more solid stitch.
A few diagnol stitches
The pleat at center back has been finsihed with a big S for Smalto
I was astounded to see a two-piece top collar, something which is rarely, if ever, seen on bespoke work because it requires a bit of engineering in the pattern. The blurb I linked to did mention his visiting clothing factories in the U.S. so he may have borrowed a technique.
To the right of the personal label is the name Georges (I obscured the client's name). I imagine that this was either the cutter or the person who created the garment.
As I get the lining open, we see then vents have been reinforced with wiggan.
The large inlay has been pick stitched to one side
And the smaller seams in the body and sleeve have been lightly overcast by hand to prevent fraying, a detail I have never seen on a men's tailored garment but would be more common in ladies' couture. This is more commonly serged or pinked on men's garments.
Rather than a loose basting stitch, the facing and pockets have been secured with a cross-stitch.
The lapel's underside is heavily dimpled which would indicate hand pad-stitching. And since, until now, virtually everything has been done by hand, one has no reason to suspect otherwise. So I was quite surprised to find that the lapel and collar had been padstitched by machine.
It is perhaps not apparent in the photo, but the chest has been padstitched by hand the entire length of the felt.
Likewise, the shoulder pad is entirely hand made.
The edge tape has been sewn in by hand as well.
Considering the amount of work done by hand everywhere else on the garment, one can assume that they see no added value in padding the lapel and collar by hand. Liekwise the sleeve setting and shoulder seam have been done by machine (have we seen enough proof that this is really not necessary to do by hand yet?)
Here we can see the reverse of the pad stitching of the chest, as well as the seam that was taken to build some shape into the shoulder, instead of teh more common vees. Note the direction of the grain in the upper piece.
I could feel a nice amount of structure in the chest so was not at all surprised to find two layers of haircloth, one on a slight bias (refer back to my drape experiment) and the other cut out of the scye , à-la Anderson and Sheppard. Smalto had clearly seen a lot of things in his carreer.
I can honestly say that it's been a while since I saw a garment with such a personality. One might not agree with all the choices made, but it shows a definite point of view and I can certainly respect that, and find it refreshing for some reason. What was even more fascinating to me in discovering a lot of these very distinctive details was that, a few weeks later, I recieved a garment made by another French tailor which resembled the Smalto in many of them. There is certainly a strong link between the two and I am hoping that readers in Paris (or elsewhere) who may have more knowledge of the history of these two tailors will fill us in on them, once we have had a look at the second garment.
A la prochaine!