A couple of months ago Lorenzo Cifonelli asked me if I could introduce him to Joe Morgan next time Lorenzo was in London. Perhaps, he asked, we could even have lunch together. Finally – last Friday – we managed to make it happen.


“I’m such a great admirer of your work” they both said, almost as one. Perhaps I should have expected that, given Lorenzo’s request and Joe’s stated respect for Cifonelli product, but it was still a relief. This was clearly going to go well.


Indeed, most of the time it was hard for myself and Romain (Lorenzo’s assistant) to get a word in edgeways. Joe is loquacious at the best of times, but with the catalyst of Lorenzo’s child-like enthusiasm the conversation ran at double speed. There was feverish discussion of buttonholes, chest cuts, trouser heights, tropical cloths and the order in which a well-known client commissioned his 20 suits.


We talked about the direction in which Joe has sought to take Chittleborough & Morgan since Roy’s retirement, with a group of young craftsmen and a wealth of new ideas – such as his fabric boutonnieres, collared and cloth-backed waistcoats, and bespoke casual clothing. And of course the growth of Cifonelli, including its acquisition of small tailors and imminent expansion of ready-to-wear.


Joe was particularly interested to hear that the tailors at French houses are full-time employees, unlike English tailors that are effectively freelance. If you have a unique style and exacting requirements, as Joe has, it is hard to find and train tailors. Lorenzo has none of those problems; but then again, without the flexibility of the English system, small houses like C&M would find it hard to exist.


Other conclusions: men wear cloths that are too light (of course); the quality of RTW suiting has increased in recent years; and tailors must present their end product as well as a RTW outfitter, to survive – they cannot hide behind the label ‘bespoke’.


At points both men were embarrassed by the compliments of the other. Joe called Lorenzo’s restless approach “an inspiration”, while Lorenzo swore Joe should have the largest shopfront on the Row. I would go further. But I don’t want to embarrass them even more.



(Apologies for the terrible picture – iPhones, blinking, wine glasses…)
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Anonymous

“men wear cloths that are too light (of course)”
Of course, this is what the tailors think since it is much more difficult to work with lightweight fabrics. You cannot iron out any mistakes, the excess fabric in the sleeves must be perfectly distributed in the armhole etc etc.
It’s better for the wearer but more difficult for the cutter and tailor.
The Italian tailors swallowed the bitter pill long ago and now they have the advantage over the British tailors.

Anonymous

Would you say that, house style aside, that they are equally good tailors? I always find that the Italians are more liable to make mistakes, but I have never used Lorenzo nor Joe, but thinking about it!

Rupert Korsmeyer

Please expand? In what way is Cifonelli superior? Things such as Chittlebrough and Morgans ability to do Milanese buttonholes I believe a serious dedication to their labour! I have used Cifonelli and shan’t again, I found them rather loathe to tailor the jacket to my taste rather than their slightly bland house style…

Jeff Dahlmer

BAM! You owned him there Si.

Anonymous

‘the order in which Ralph Lauren commissioned his 20 suits’. What was this?

Seeing the photos of Purple Label Fall 2013, it seems like Polo lifted (or was inspired by) Cifonelli a bit too much.

Carmelo Pugliatti

Ralph Lauren commissioned his 20 suits to Cifonelli or Chittleborough & Morgan?
I joke,but in my opinion the Ralph’s style and taste for suits is more close to Chittleborough & Morgan that at more exuberant Cifonelli.
In which cut Ralph Lauren have ordered his suits? I non can se he with a “creative double breasted” or one button pink coat.On the other hand,i know that Cifonelli can cut irreproachable classic suits,if the customer ask for.

Anonymous

‘Men wear cloths that are too light (of course)’ – I know that this is an endless argument but, for me, it’s simple. RTW suits can use lightweight cloths due to their simpler interior construction. Bespoke suits have a lot going on inside which can show through on the outside when a lighter cloth is used. The look, drape and performance of a heavier cloth is far superior to lightweight cloth for business and formal wear. Tailors work daily with both light and heavyweight cloths for clients to wear in all climates. However, below a certain weight threshhold, say 9ozs, the aforementioned problems begins to present themselves. As for the Italians, their tailors are amongst the biggest orderers of classic English heavier cloths. Tailoring is universal.

Anonymous

Dear Simon, Very nice piece! Is there a way we can convince you to post a more elaborate version of this meeting between two giants of bespoke? I (and probably many others) would love to read the musings of these two gentlemen in more detail. Also, is there any chance this type of double interview of leaders in the bespoke industry could become a recurring feature on your otherwise already excellent blog?Cheers, Michael W.

Anonymous

I don’t like what these two tailors are doing…their work it is too much structured to my tastes and although a good bespoke product I don’t think it is not great nor unique…I preferred some other suits on you. BTW I knew Ralph Lauren was a customer of the caraceni in milano…??

Miles Lang

Fantastic piece, Simon. And the pic is great.

Thomas

I don’t suppose you know whether you can buy the buttonholes from the C&M shop, or another supplier?