Japanese tailors: Anglofilo, Sartoria Domenica, Vick Tailor and Pecora Ginza

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The Japanese tailoring tradition is relatively short. After all, until the Meiji Restoration in 1868, almost no western-style tailoring was worn in the country.

The Restoration made western dress required for courtiers and bureaucrats, and increasingly popular among professional and ambitious men. However, the vast majority of Japanese still wore the kimono, and even those that wore tailoring during the day would change into the kimono at home.

That didn't change until the 1930s, and then only slowly. When it did the style was very much English, with the requisite structure and padding.

But interestingly, there have been different waves of Italian influence since then, creating variations in style among tailors.

We'll illustrate them here by looking at four: Anglofilo, Sartoria Domenica, Vick Tailor and Pecora Ginza.

 

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First is Hideaki Sato, pictured above. He has a tailoring outfit called Pecora Ginza in Tokyo and is the third generation of tailors, so going right back to the birth of tailoring in Japan.

Sato apprenticed not with his father, but with another tailor called Tsukumo Igarashi. Igarashi had worked at Cardin in Paris, and under women's tailor Antonio Montalto.

After a few years in Japan, Sato too went to Paris, working with Montalto before doing a year's pattern-cutting course at AICP in the city.

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Sato was weighing up whether to carry on with the women's cutting he was training for, or go into men's bespoke, when one fateful meeting settled it for him.

"It was in this Japanese restaurant I was working in," he recalls. "I saw this incredibly elegant man wearing a camel-hair polo coat, and it was just inspiring. I went and introduced myself, and it turned out to be Milanese tailor Mario Pecora."

After he finished his course, Sato went to Milan and asked Pecora for a job. He stayed there for five years, blending his knowledge of Japanese and French tailoring with a new Italian influence.

Back in Japan, Sato was one of very few tailors with foreign training, and became very popular. He also taught pattern cutting and launched a made-to-order line at department store Isetan.

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I find it particularly interesting how Hideaki has adapted over the years since then to offer a wide variety of styles.

When we met he was wearing a beautiful structured double-breasted suit - which was frankly a breath of fresh air after all the soft Neapolitan tailoring we had seen. You can see it above - a pale-grey glen check. 

But he also makes very soft tailoring, and many things in between - eg the brown and blue jackets also pictured above.

Like other tailors with a fairly small, captured market, he has ended up catering to everyone's tastes.

 

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That breadth is in sharp contrast to the new wave of Italian-trained tailors coming to Japan, of which we have first picked here Yusuche Ono, known as Anglofilo - pictured above fitting Masaichi Hasegawa of Gaziano & Girling.

Ono started his career in menswear sales, at Beams and Strasburgo. Then at the relatively late age of 26, he went to Florence and knocked on the door of Sartoria Marinaro.

(Perhaps surprisingly, all these Japanese tailors were taken up by their Italian masters at the first try, despite speaking no Italian. Often, the reputation for hard work preceded them.)

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After a while in Florence Ono went to Naples, and worked for Panico. Although it was a relatively big workshop, he learnt a lot, and developed a real respect for the Panico style. "I liked the fact it hadn't changed at all for 50 years, and never would," he says.

Back home in Japan, Ono endeavours to reproduce that Italian style and nothing else.

This is similar to others of this new generation of tailors, but in contrast to the previous wave epitomised by Sato.

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Ono operates out of a workshop in Ethan Newton's new store Brycelands (which again we will cover separately) and I have to say, I love his style.

The couple of times we met, he switched between tailored jackets and little vintage bombers, with increasingly voluminous chinos below the waist.

Disarmingly though, Ono still feels he can never quite replicate the great Italians he learnt from - even though he is more consistent. "I learnt to make Ferraris and I don't want to end up making Toyotas," he says.

"Although Panico's output could be patchy, the good pieces were incredible."

 

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Next is another Italian-focused tailor, Noriyuki Higashi, known as Sartoria Domenica. He works as an in-house tailor at Strasburgo, and was mentioned in our first piece on Japanese retail.

Higashi had a slightly different background to Ono, beginning his career at Ring Jacket. (The Japanese tailoring factory - the subject of another upcoming post - has been the starting point for several young tailors, including Kotaro Miyahira of Sartoria Corcos in Florence.)

He was also slightly different in that he was directly inspired by Ciccio - so part of a growing wave of Italian-inspired tailors, rather than an early adopter.

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But the results are similar: clearly Neapolitan tailoring, resulting from his brief training with Antonio Pascariello, with a particular fondness for barchetta-style pockets with a longer outer edge (below).

The name Sartoria Domenica, by the way, was created when Higashi first came back to Japan and had to have a weekday job to support himself - and so only made his suits on a Sunday.

 

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Last in this four-way Japanese comparison is Takuya Kondo, or Vick Tailor.

Kondo is different to the other two in that he had no foreign training. Instead, he apprenticed at Ichibankan, the biggest and most famous traditional Japanese tailoring house.

Ichibankan has trained many of Japan's tailors. Kondo served a six-year apprenticeship there, learning a very English, structured style.

After that he moved to Takahashi, another large Japanese tailor, and was there for three years.

"Again the style was very English, although they were quite versatile. The traditional Japanese suit is relatively loose, for example - influenced by comfort and a little by the American sack suit," Kondo says.

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Thirteen years ago he set up on his own, and has run a small atelier ever since. In that time he has had several 'apprentices', although this is what all artisans call their assistants - it doesn't necessarily imply a structured apprenticeship system.

"People tend to leave after a few years, which can be frustrating. One went to Milan, one to another tailor," he says. "Although there are so many young tailors these days that it's very hard to set up on your own."

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The turnover of apprentices is something Hideaki Sato too has suffered from. He has only recently started taking on young people again, after years of only employing older staff.

Sato and Kondo are also similar in catering to a variety of styles, though being smaller, Kondo is a little more fixed. He also has style points like Milanese buttonholes and curved internal ticket pockets that he is particularly fond of.

 

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To an Englishman, the influence of Italian tailoring in various stages of Japanese is fascinating. Although Armani and other Italians changed the face of our ready-made tailoring, Savile Row has always been strong enough to resist.

As with many areas of craft, you can't help feel that the future for tailoring in Japan is very bright, given the number of young tailors and the level of sophistication among customers.

It is those strong fundamentals that might allow tailors such as Ciccio and Anglofilo to retain their narrow focus - and create perhaps the greatest variety of bespoke tailoring styles in the world.

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Prices:

  • Pecora Ginza: ¥350,000
  • Anglofilo: ¥400,000
  • Sartoria Domenica: ¥370,000
  • Vick Tailor: ¥350,ooo 
  • Unfortunately none of the tailors travel to Europe or the US. Some do trunk shows within Asia

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

There will be a separate piece on Ciccio, probably the best known of the Japanese tailors, in a couple of weeks.

This trip could not have happened without the extensive help of Masaichi Hasegawa of Gaziano and Girling while we were in Tokyo, and Jason Yen of Gaziano and Girling/Camps de Luca in advance. Thank you both.

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JDP

Dear Simon,

first off, thank you for being such a indepth resource on our beloved subject matter. Regarding the Japanese tailoring, would it be possible to have some price ideas? Also, the garment bag in the last picture, since it has initials, can I assume it is yours therefore made in the UK?

Again, thanks for the very interesting reads, have fun in Tokyo, I am off in a couple of days.

Leather Bags

Japanese tailors are very creative

Jeff Smith

I found this interesting. It never occurred to me to check into Japanese bespoke tailoring. Which I find odd given the fact half my closet (casual side) is “workwear” stuff primarily from Japanese makers which I favor in that genre. I love reading about things like this.

David

That garment bag is a thing of beauty

Masaichi Hasegawa

That was an interesting week Simon! Great article for all those above, thanks! The following day after your departure, I was at Ciccio, only God knows why!!! I loved your dark coloured polos you were wearing whilst you were in Tokyo, I did not know you sold them here! I am contemplating on the long sleeve ones in dark brown and navy………………….Next week is G&G trunkshow time!

Tola

Nice piece of writing Simon.Do you happen to know where Yusuche Ono got the beautiful silver bracelet he is wearing on his wrist?Thanks

CC

The two suits I’ve made with Noriyuki-san of Sarto Domenica are my favorite.

Jerrell

Hello Simon,

Any word on pricing or whether or not these men travel to the US/UK?

ANM

Simon,

You didn’t mention (unless I missed it) where the Japanese tailors got their fabric from.

Italy? The UK? Belgium , etc? or Japan Itself.

Does it vary depending upon the shop? Is there a favourite fabric source, and if so, why?

John

Hi Simon,
This is a very interesting piece! I’m looking forward to reading the next ones.
John

Benjamin

Interesting regarding not using Japanese textiles. I visited Ring Jacket a few times while in Tokyo (and very much look forward to your separate post on it) and some of the most innovative fabric mixes were proudly made in Japan. They were also better value than the Italian fabrics.

Masaichi Hasegawa

http://www.miyukikeori.co.jp Kuzuri Keori,Co.Ltd
This probably is the only prominent mill/merchant in Japan. In Miyuki’s case, Napolena bunch’s general quality is superlative. However the colours, patterns and finishing are considered outdated by most tailors. With regard to the finishing there is only one finisher called Soto. Hence, the finishing of the most of the Japanese made fabrics look the same. There could be 5 cloth out of 10 that has truly bad taste to most everyone’s eyes which make them unsellable whilst Loro Piana or Holland and Sherry generally look mostly rather sellable although there could be some odd pieces. Those ones that are in bad taste truly look utterly awful which leads everyone to believe that the Japanese fabrics are generally not good.

Having said there could be a few beautiful pieces. 1 out of 10 may be.

In terms of values, they are probably the same or more expensive than the English/Italian cloths, in the case of Miyuki’s Napolena line (anything lower quality is irrelevant at Permanent Style.

The problem is simple. There is a lack of good fabric designer and lack of interest amongst the management in their trade.

It is interesting that European RTW designers such as Prada occasionally use a fabric or two from Kuzuri a season but just one or two and that’s it! I hope you get the picture.

Another factor is history. English cloths have always been the cloths of quality since the Meiji restoration. Japanese cloths were always considered second rate.

Ring Jacket or Isetan could occasionally develop something rather beautiful and interesting but in most cases a few choices, 3 to 5. That is seriously not enough to up the game. Again, it comes down to the lack of interest amongst the top management of those companies.

shem

Hey Simon,

can i ask what shoes you were stomping around Japan in?
Asking as I have issues with wearing GYW footwear (mostly carmina loafers) – My feet will either get sore quickly and I’m tired of being too careful with where I step.
What are your thoughts on wearing sneakers with tailored clothings on such trips and what brands/models would you recommend (other than common projects)?
Many thanks

Reuben Johnson

Thanks so much for a great piece on Japanese tailoring. This and the post on shoe makers in Japan are fascinating – most inspiring stories I have read about these art forms for a long time.

Alex

Hi Simon,
Really enjoyed this article, thank you!
At the end you mention that you’ll be posting a standalone article on Ciccio, and I was just wondering if you still plan on posting that article? I’m planning to travel to Tokyo soon and would love to hear more about Ciccio.

Alex

Thank you, Simon!

Chris

Hi Simon, belated thanks for the informative post. If you ever have the chance to revisit the Japanese tailoring scene, please consider speaking with Kubuta san at Blue Shears. I’ve not commissioned anything with him (so can’t offer any comparison to the others you mentioned), but understand he was at Gieves & Hawkes for several years and cuts in an English style. Thanks again.

Jay

Hello, I really enjoyed reading your piece about Japanese tailoring. Do Japanese tailors like Hideaki Sato from Pecora Ginza speak English? How did you arrange the appointment?

Dan

There’s a funny story where Yusuke Cabuto (of Sartoria Cavuto) was hired on the spot by Antonio Liverano because the latter was expecting an arrival of a certain Yusuke from Japan that ardently applied for an apprenticeship. Cabuto was shocked by his fortunes, but Yusuke Ono – the man who actually wrote to the Italian – had to look elsewhere for training because his spot was already taken by the time he landed in Florence.

Speaking of which, Cavuto looks great. He deserves your attention as well, although he’s no longer based in a metropolis, but in rural Japan.