Brioni and the Art of Tailoring
October 26, 2016
In 1945 two enterprising businessmen—Nazareno Fonticoli, a master tailor, and Gaetano Savini, a savvy tastemaker—opened a shop in the Via Barberini in Rome. Their mission? Replace the rigidity of English tailoring with something more supple and identifiably Italian. It was post–World War II, and their venture, named Atelier Brioni after an island resort in the Adriatic Sea, quickly became a powerful influence on Italy’s emerging fashion industry before hitting the United States.
Hollywood icons of the ’50s quickly switched their allegiance from Savile Row to the compelling luxury and classic sensibility offered by Brioni. Since then, the elite firm has continued to gain prominent customers, many of whom are major artists, heads of state, and award-winning actors.
It’s easy to see why the glitterati are drawn to the line. Brioni has expanded and redefined the concept of elegant menswear over decades. Change was gradual, starting with the introduction of nontraditional colors and innovative fibers and patterns. But behind the forward-thinking approach is a dedication to quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. “Hand tailoring is the foundation of Brioni,” says NM Vice President of Men’s Clothing Bruce Halus. “The hand sewing, fine fabrics, and numerous steps” [no less than 220] “that a suit goes through are truly the heritage of the house.”
In fact, each suit takes at least 24 hours of work, not counting the time it must “rest” between adjustments, since wool is considered a living material that breathes. More than 7,000 meticulously hidden stitches made by hand bring each suit to life. Sartorial expertise is such an important part of the company’s identity—not to mention a disappearing art form—that Brioni established Scuola di Alta Sartoria, a prestigious tailoring school, in 1985, ensuring the craft would thrive, even flourish, in an increasingly casual culture.
Through 70 years of fads, Brioni has balanced classicism and modernity with great agility. “They update the suit silhouettes without getting extreme,” says Halus, who has witnessed the brand’s evolution firsthand. “They offer fabrics that are luxurious but light—able to travel well.” This spring brings a truly modern assortment of soft jackets, a staple for today’s more casual lifestyle, in fresh colors “not too loud or bold, but that really say spring.”
3 Rules to Remember
NM Vice President of Men’s Clothing Bruce Halus shares his top tips.
1. Start with a navy blue suit. It works for business, evening, cocktail attire, and weddings. It’s always appropriate, elegant, and timeless.
2. Don’t save your suits for formal occasions. Wear to dinner without a tie, paired with a long-sleeve knit shirt or sweater.
3. Have your suits altered appropriately. Many men have their pants hemmed to the top of their shoe heel, which is too long today. Pants are narrower at the bottom and should be hemmed shorter.
NM Creative Director Tim Flannery on how to get the perfect fit.