Not long back I was lucky enough to visit Biella, a beautiful town nestled in the foothills of the Italian Alps. This generous invitation came from my good friends at bespoke tailors Clements and Church.
Many of you will recognise several of my most notable looks through collaborations with them in the past – I’ve included a few personal favourites below.
In fact, you may also have spotted them sharpening the looks of Anthony Joshua, several England footballers and several other high profile celebs.
Setting themselves apart by choosing a premises that doesn’t conform to the norm of ‘the row’, they’ve carved out a niche for themselves as one of Britain’s best kept tailoring secrets. Building and maintaining a prolific clientele looking for something more than just a good cut, they subscribe to the ethos that the tailor is your friend. I can personally attest that I’ve spent more time outside the store with them than in, and I know several other clients have too.
When you think that they are there for many of the landmark moments of your life – new jobs, special nights, weddings, etc. you can see why it’s worth investing in the relationship. That said, you can see why some may disregard the luxury tailor, but my personal belief is that there isn’t a full understanding of their true value – aside of course from the sleek surroundings and personalised service of course, what else is giving you the bang for your buck you don’t get on the high street?
The main thing that sets them so far apart is the quality of the fabrics used, and in fact the production quality, care and skill involved before it even makes it to the tailor’s hands. Not just that, often the price point of the suit is affected by the rarity of the raw materials.
Sourcing these raw materials, particularly in the case of Lanificio Cerruti, will take them all the way to Australia for wool and Mongolia for cashmere, where the world’s best raw materials thrive. Being the thorough chap I am, I travelled to the Cerruti Mill in Biela, Italy to see things first hand.
Aaron John, Director, Clements and Church was there to explain things; “A fabric mill will first source the raw materials from Australian Wool to Mongolian Cashmere and bring it to Italy. Then it all starts to take shape, combing, spinning, warping, weaving, finishing and dyeing all occur before the material goes for final product control.”
I’ll do my best to take you through the various steps that each piece goes through.
Raw Materials – Here’s a little story about Vicuna. Not a chap, but a goat breed, bred by specialised farmers in Mongolia that are used to create suits that are so rare they fetch upwards of £30,000 each. Justified? Well I was lucky enough to be able to feel this fabric with my own hands, laid side by side in its raw state with cashmere and baby cashmere and I have to say, there was no contest. This was literally the softest fabric I’ve ever held in my hands, significantly more so than the others. Difficult to imagine, but you’ll have to take my word for it.
Combing – Operating on a minute scale, the gentle combing action operates specifically on the fibre staple to obtain a homogenous soft wool/cashmere Sliver. Each millimetre of the product is thoroughly monitored through a quality control system to ensure the very highest quality.
Spinning – Exactly as a spinning wheel does, it twists and winds the combed silver delicately to ensure the necessary yarn resistance and make the thread.
Warping – Preparing the thread for weaving, this part specifically focuses on the longitudinal part of the fabric (where the number of threads varies between 3,000 and 11.000). Due to the complexity in this process, even a single error may lead to a defect in the fabric. Care and accuracy is crucial to create the incomparable quality of the finished product, ready to be adapted to any stylistic need.
Weaving – This is where it comes together, literally. The warp and weft threads are flowed together to create the fabric itself. Throughout the process designers and technicians monitor the jacquard patterns, colours, and process. In this way the ‘birth’ of the Cerruti fabric happens, combining technical skills with highly sensitive taste and style from the very first moment.
Finishing – The raw fabric is gently finished to reveal the inner beauty from the raw product. Through several specifically studied stages using water, steam, pressure and heat the lightness and softness is brought out.
Dyeing – The final stage where the fabric is infused with colour. Each fibre can be coloured specifically to meet consumer choice or desired effect. The Lanificio Cerruti is able to dye flock, combed sliver, yarn, and raw fabric. Over the time it has specialised in the use of colour at mélange level, in a skillful reproduction of any kind of colour and it is characterised by a restless innovation that leads to the realisation of over 8,000 new colours every year.
These are the processes that happen before it even touches the table of Clements and Church, with the tailors selecting the specific fabrics to meet their client needs. Aaron John comments:
‘We like to visit the mills as often as possible to see new fabrics processed and to order for the season ahead. We have a few partners, such as Lanificio Cerruti, Loro Piana and Ferla.
We only select the best qualities, when you see what is involved in the production of such luxury, we are able justify the pricing of the final product’
The artisan nature of the process of these fabrics, the attention to detail and the hand selection process by the tailors, explains why premium tailoring is priced as such;.
I’d like to profusely thank Umberto at Lanificio Cerruti for showing us around the Mill, and to the tailors at Clements and Church for answering our persistent questions.