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Pal Zileri | Tailoring Masterclass

posted by on 15/11/2012

Few things in fashion hold the title of timeless classics…Trenchcoats, Tan Brogues and Italian Suits (to name but a few) so it was a privilege when we were invited to lunch by Italian Fashion House Pal Zileri followed by a tailoring masterclass hosted by master tailor Bruno Magnaguagno at Bicester Village.

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Left Marylebone station in torrential downpour…arrived in Bicester Village in sunshine…moral of the story = retail therapy can brighten up your day (excuse the poor pun). Designer wardrobes at affordable-ish prices…Bicester Village is a fashionista’s haven, my first visit began with a brief tour of the village’s boutiques before heading to VIP lounge for lunch.

Italian men are notorious for being some of the most stylish species on the planet. Upon being introduced to Pal Zileri’s master tailor Bruno Magnaguagno, this statement was confirmed. Born and raised in Italy and being a tailor all his life might also help explain his simple yet elegant sartorial form. After exchanging introductions, Bruno proceeded to give us a Tailoring 101.

Pal Zileri’s factory (one of the largest in Italy) has over 650 employees responsible for the sartorial workmanship, mostly done by hand unlike the machines used by similar brands that are able to produce the same output each time, their human counterparts can understandably vary in standard. With over a 180 steps required to make a suit, Bruno is tasked with overseeing end-to-end quality and ensuring all employees are of the same level of craftsmanship.

The majority of tailoring effort takes place within the unseen interior rather than the outside fabric. To illustrate this and help us appreciate the intricacy, Bruno walked us through the 4 week journey of a suit from the first measurements taken before a customer places an order to the final measurement taken to ensure the suit is satisfactory.

In addition to the art of tailoring, Bruno initiated us into the complex world of science which takes places behind the scenes, for example wool absorbs 30% of the body’s humidity as a result its expansion rate need to be considered when constructing a suit. Unsurprisingly a lot of research goes into understanding the different properties and how each of the 150 fabrics is affected in different weather conditions. The combination of fabrics is equally important, for example customers of Jewish faith do not mix vegetable and animal fabrics e.g. linen & wool so tailors also need to consider these factors.

Bruno surprised me by pulling out two props I did not immediately associate with tailoring. Horsehair and shells. Horsehair canvassing has traditionally been used for 100s of years as it allows for flexible & durable seams and the shells are the raw material for Pal Zileri’s mother of pearl buttons. Bruno had also prepared a box full of a more predictable materials – Cupro (cotton seeds), wool & cashmere. Whilst Bruno explained the complex (and expensive) process which turns the cupro seeds into a gel and then into strands of weave, we examined played with the different grades of cashmere.

Before our the workshop came to an end, I asked Bruno his thoughts on British tailoring, he replied “Partly due to differences in climate, British tailoring has always been heavier structure whereas Italian suits are required to be light and flexible..that is all”. Another member of the group asked how much a good suit should cost “The price varies but quality is the most important factor. The most expensive custom suit we have produced was €51,000 for an Asian business man, it was made using platinium strips and what is considered the finest hair (sourced from goats in the Himalayas)”. #Cray

Great insight into the world of tailoring, silhouettes and finish are usually my first considerations but I will definitely look beyond the aesthetics next time I’m picking out a new blazer. What are your thoughts?

Check out the rest of the photo story below

Sporting a shirt from Lab by Pal Zileri. A more contemporary range…perfect fit and colour

I look bleh

An italian traditon tailored to modern times