Musella Dembech: Growth at the ‘soft Milanese’ tailor

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Monday, October 2nd 2017
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It doesn’t feel like over three years since I covered Musella Dembech, but apparently it is.

Of course, there was the Young Tailors Symposium in the middle of that, which featured Gianfrancesco Musella (above), but I haven’t written anything exclusive about him and his family for a while.

I recently had my first suit made by them, and will review it in more detail next week.

Right now, I wanted to explain in more detail why I find this Milanese tailor one of the most impressive around.

The first interesting point is the melding of styles.

Gianfrancesco’s father, Francesco Musella (above), trained initially in the south of Italy, in Caserta, and his style is naturally quite light and soft as a result.

But the second half of his career was in Milan, working for Baratta, then Giuseppe Colavito, and finally the hugely influential Mario Donnini and Augusto Caraceni.

There he learnt the squarer, more formal lines of Abruzzo tailoring - rarely with any more structure, but with more emphasis on a strong, square shoulder.

Gianfrancesco today leads the evolution of style at Musella-Dembech, keeping some of the Milanese lines and double-breasted lapel, but preferring the softer southern shoulder.

You can see some of that style above - even though this is a trial jacket and too short in the body for me. 

Gianfracesco particularly likes the 'transformabile' double-breasted, where the softness and cut makes it easier to fasten the jacket on the middle or bottom row of buttons. 

Even though his father oversees all the work, it is Gianfrancesco that spends his time digging up old tailoring guides (particularly English ones) and experimenting with the techniques.

As an example, on my trousers he deliberately cut more fullness in the back of the trouser than the front, to help them sit cleanly and keep the single pleats closed.

“Many tailors try to get this balance with ironing, but those old books say it needs to be in the balance through the cutting, and I think they’re right,” Gianfrancesco says.

The house of Musella-Dembech has done well in recent years, partly due to the support of Armoury employees.

Gianfrancesco still does his only overseas trip to The Armoury in Hong Kong - he was there last week in fact - and is very popular.

He has been asked to travel elsewhere, but is keen not to expand too quickly - quality is the cornerstone of what he enjoys doing, and there isn’t capacity for too many more customers.

Alongside Gianfrancesco, his mother and father, there is one apprentice in the atelier who has been there two and a half years.

Outside the house they use two trouser makers, a waistcoat maker, a buttonhole maker, and one old colleague of Francesco’s.

Another apprentice, a Korean (above), had to leave recently so they are looking to hire another.

This expansion has led to them trying to find larger premises.

The atelier is still inside the family home, and you walk through their hall and sitting room to get to the small workroom.

This is charming, but impractical.

“We need more space. Our techniques are so specific to us that we can’t just take on more outside workers - we need them here next to us,” says Gianfrancesco.

He gets particularly frustrated, he says, with how trouser makers deal with pockets - not getting the balance right and therefore causing them to pull backwards or forwards.

Returning to style, Gianfrancesco comments that he wants to be able to offer customers a range of options.

Nothing as strong as the traditional military English cut, but different things for different occasions.

“If you look at all the most stylish men in history - Onassis, Agnelli, Loro Piana - they all wore different styles. It’s more interesting, and allows you to express yourself more in what you wear,” he says.

I find this interesting, as very few tailors appreciate the range of styles a modern man might need - from a casual weekend jacket to a super-sharp boardroom suit.

It’s one reason I consistently use the likes of Edward Sexton, Anderson & Sheppard, and Elia Caliendo.

It’s encouraging to see Musella Dembech doing so well.

Gianfrancesco is not only talented and interested in style, but the product is always top notch - beautifully finished and very consistent.

(The latter being a problem for many Italian tailors, as we have noted recently.)

His order book is full, and he’s recently been able to put up his prices - from €4,500 to €5,000 (for a suit, €4,300 for a jacket).

When the family do move, it will be to a large space in the centre of Milan, with their name on the door. I can’t wait to see it happen.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man (making a rare appearance above - in a navy double-breasted)

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Burt

This is a very friendly article, in a way it almost reads like an advert. Looking forward to the review 🙂

Parker

5k? Seriously? For Dembech? Many examples of his work are less than stellar. Too big or tight in the chest, arms too short and unflattering trousers. I know better tailors in the south who charge lass than a third of this. Leave the overpriced superstar tailors to the Chinese, Indians and oligarchs of the world.

Parker

When you talk about the world’s best you mostly mean famous names in cities reknown for their tailoring. There are many tailors all over Europe who are highly trained and produce fantastic clothing on par with these big names or even better. They simply don’t operate in the spotlight of blogs and instagram or in cities that are fashionable. Amongst all these Dembech is exactly mid-range, nothing more but priced in line with what his reknown city demands and the people who want to pay for it.

Parker

That’s why I wrote mostly, Simon. While these names may not be mainstream, they’re certainly familiar names for clothing enthusiasts in Spain or people doing business there. The same can be said of the Apulian tailors whom you seem to be introducing this time. This doesn’t change the point that you mostly neglect the tailoring in Centreal Europe and that the majority of the tailors you’ve posted about here were big names or at least familiar ones from Italy.

Peter B

If they produce on par if not better than “big names” why haven’t we heard of them?
Even if they don’t advertise word should get around. Doesn’t make sense.

Burt

Parker wrote: “There are many tailors all over Europe who are highly trained and produce fantastic clothing on par with these big names or even better.”

Parker, who do you mean and what evidence do you have they produce on par or even better than “big names”?

Hristo

Hello Parker,
I think photos does not always transfer enough information. For this reason I don’t feel it fair to judge Musella-Dembech as “mid-range” without trying him personally.
For sure every tailor has strengths and weaknesses. And nobody is perfect.
I must agree with you, that his prices are very high at the moment and that in the price range of 5000 EUR for a suit and 4300 EUR for a jacket you can get almost any other tailor in the World. Actually the only reason that I have not ordered a second jacket yet is that the prices went so high.
As far as I know one reason for the price increase is, that 4 years ago he had very small operation and he had to pay much less taxes than now.
Another factor is that at the time his prices exploded, the EUR was very week and he has a lot of customers from the Switzerland who were willing to pay higher prices. And if the customers are willing to pay the price, I see no problem in this.
He as a tailor surely understands that the higher the price, the more options are opened to his customers. For example now he has no price advantage compared to Chittleborough and Morgan and I am choosing between him and them purely on the style for my next commission. While 4 years ago C&M were too expensive for me, and he was in the affordable range.
Best regards
Hristo

Anonymous

Hristo, thank you for your insight. I’m familliar with his product through some of his customers so while I have no first hand experience myself I’ve laid hands on his products plenty of times. While they’re nice, they’re overpriced for this kind of money and there are cheaper or better alternatives qualitywise. There are also people who pay for Rubinacci or Caraceni but that doesn’t change the fact that tailoring in oftentimes available at cheaper prices if you look beyond the bigger names or simply ask people. After all you’ll be beter off if you come recommended.

Being familiar with Italian craftsmen and more importantly fluent in Italian I’ve become used to spot storytelling from a mile away and Gianfrancesco is one of these gentlemen who like to sell a mystical story and think it gives them reason to demand these prices.

Graham

Yes, because the Chinese and Indians are just so much stupider and unrefined than people like you.

Imbecile…

M

It’s incredibly offensive to suggest only ‘Chinese, Indians and oligarchs’ are daft enough to pay for overpriced tailors. Peddling stereotypes about nouveau riche ethnics adds nothing to your point.

Simon, I’m surprised you would allow a blatantly racist comment like that to be posted.

Parker

You mean the post where I kindly asked th poster “Michael” to come forward as Gianfrancesco and not fall into the old Italian habit of hiding behind aliases? I hardly think that was uncalled or. Yet you allow people to refer to me as imbecile while I simply state the obvious? Leave the travelling superstar tailors to those who are willing to pay their ridiculous prices and take it upon yourself to research tailors in Central Europe or Italy that are not in the focus of blogs. You will be able to find a fantastic world whith great people who will do better without charging for their name.

I also fail to understand what is racist about posting the fact that the Chinese, Indians or Russions blatantly overpay for these kind of services? There are more than enough stores in European cities that cater to these kinds of customers and charge accordingly. Does that mean that it’s also racist if European highstreet merchants employ staff to appease to these potential customers? Hipocrisy much?

Burt

Parker, just out of interest, who is on par or better than the big names – say Savile Row – and what evidence do you have yourself?
You write Central Europe, do you mean Vienna or West-Berlin or Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic?
Remembering the days everything bourgeois was considered as wrong behind the Iron Curtain ( and tailoring certainly was, as it was for the middle or overclass) I cannot possibly see how a tradition of a) paying and demanding customers and b) a certain aesthetics may have survived those days. If it’s revived now, so much the better, but please give us some evidence. Thanks.

Yavuz

Hi Simon;

Do you have any intention to try Milanese master tailor Mario Pecora who creates gorgegous suits in his small workshop. I expect more details from you on Mario Pecora in the near future. All is made 100% by hand for a result that screams BESPOKE of the highest level. I believe that he is remaining in the shadow Caraceni or Attolini.

Sincerely

Hristo

My best fitting jacket is made by Gianfrancesco. I just love it:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BMWTONGBlqF/
(the tan jacket)

Paul F

Wouldn’t you say that the sleeves are a bit short?

I like the front drape and the lapel though.

Hristo

Hi Paul,
yes, they appear a bit too short and other people felt them also too short.
The background is that I wore a shirt with slightly shorter sleeves on the fittings and that in general I prefer shorter sleeves and showing more of the shirt cuff and cuff-links (I wear only French cuffs) so I have asked for shorter sleeves.

Paul F

It’s rather expensive for a family-run operation

Don’t misunderstand me, Musella is doing great work but I find it very expensive, esp. when considering other Italian houses.
Of course, if they’re met with success, they’re more than free to raise their price…

What, according to you, justifies that current pricing?

Anonymous

Simon your last point about quality of finishing etc being very high is hardly born out by the poor lapel construction evident in the close up of the blue jacket, and the rather clumsy buttonhole.

Anonymous

Well it looks poor, and on the bigger photo they don’t look good either.

Paul F

Thank you, Simon, for these details.

I guess then price can be justified if they do take a customer centric point of view while so many other tailors impose their styles, which is fine as long as it’s clearly agreed upon with the customer.

And once again, my comment has nothing to do with the fact that Gianfrancesco is charming and so is the rest of the family.

Gonzague

– Still cheaper than Vestrucci… is Italian tailoring globally becoming so sought after that we can expect more of these price rises?
– Apparently some pick stitching (I mean the seams, not the padding stitches) can be very well imitated by a certain machine. Which does not bother me, esp if the price goes down. Do you know of some top tailors using it? Can the suit then still be seen as bespoke?

Michael

I personally think Musella does one of the best work on eart,probably the best one in terms of quality,taste in their cut and fitting. The delivered suit pays every single cent spent.That’s why I think they are not “expensive”,especially if you think that the other sartorias at the same level could be liverano or caraceni. I really think that people who talk bad,like Parker for example,are not really familiar with the work they are doing and his premises show such an ignorant and arrogant approach. I’ve touched and seen many examples of their work and trust me,everyone is made greatly.They will remain in the history and future for sure.

Kev Fidler

Interesting to contrast this article and accompanying comments with that prompted by the Sartorial Formosa piece – Musella seem to be acknowledging their limits in quantity of production (as in not expanding orders or tempted to offer RTW etc) in order to maintain quality. If they do that and offer that bit extra in terms of personal style then the higher prices would seem to be justified. No doubt customers would feel they have the choice. In terms of price this seems to continue some of the debate from the Marol shirt article.

Peter K

Very interesting. Simon you have mentioned before that many tailors do not pay attention to style and get locked into a single house style.

Tailors already “outsource” trouser making and other functions. I wonder if in the future tailors in a given city might learn to “share” a group of cutters who together represent a variety of styles. This would give some flexibility in style to each tailoring house and might be easier than trying to train a single cutter to do a variety of styles.

Anonymous

Simon,

I’ve noticed a lot more pleated trousers referenced in your posts (e.g., the single pleats you’re wearing in this post). Have pleats returned, and will they eclipse flat-fronted trousers?

Copperplate

After simultaneously ordering two single-breasted jackets from MD, thankfully at a lower price point, I have to say I’m bitterly disappointed. After three fittings the jackets still did not fit correctly on my shoulders. To make things worse the high-gorge lapels are excessively, almost comically, wide. I didn’t discern this during the fittings and didn’t want to interfere too much with the house style so gave Gianfrancesco free rein, but the final cut lapels were in excess of four inches. I was told (very politely and courteously) that it would cost a fortune to re-cut them, so I am now left with two completely unworn jackets, waiting for a seventies revival period to come around again. I even brought the jackets to W&S for a second opinion – they said the whole balance of the jacket was completely wrong because of the stupid lapels.

copperplate

I brought one of the jackets in to see if they could do anything with the lapels. They couldn’t. John didn’t criticise the make or workmanship but agreed the lapels needed to be taken in.

Scott

Increasing prices always has the effect of causing the customer to seek alternatives, not to mention annoying him. This simple truth seems to be lost on most people, tailors included. Maybe one day a smart tailor will figure out that making his garment more affordable is a great way to get more customers and keep the existing ones happy.

Scott

Of course Musella’s business must be sustainable and he can charge whatever he wants. The customer however decides whether to pay it or not. There seems to be a decided difference of opinion in this discussion on the price to value question which is interesting. By the way Simon, do you know what Caliendo currently charges for a suit and jacket?

Scott

Thank you sir. I’ve always liked the garments he’s done for you and that’s a reasonable price as well.

DKP

If you know you’re not going to be wearing a tie, do you tend to wear a button-down collar?

DKP

Thanks, and do you have a preferred shirtmaker for button-downs?

DKP

Does he come to London and also what are the prices generally?

DKP

Sorry was referring to Luca Avitabile

DKP

and will he take one commission at a time or must one order several bespoke to start?

Martin

Do you know if Luca Avitabile also comes to Milan? I thought I read about it somewhere on this site but Milan is not mentioned on their Website.

Timofey

Dear Simon, I am afraid that tailor which you mentioned in you blog frequently are automatically pushing up they prices + 2 k Euro / suit. )))

Gonzague

Which would may sense: as the blog helps discerrning the genuinely good tailors from the rest, demands concentrates on the former, and their prices go up.

Sargon

I feel like they make some of the most beautiful suits/sport coats (my other favorite being Ciccio). Looking forward to reading your review. Please take lots of pics and keep up the great work!

Dear Robert (copperplate)

I’m writing personally because I think that with all the effort we have put into your garments it would be such a shame not to respond to your message on Permanent Style.
The thing I hate most about people is to extern bad things about craftsmen who work hard in order to do the best work and to obtain success in what they do like us.

This being said, your behaviour has not been a honest one. We have fitted your two sport jackets three times and all the proportions were just right at the moment of the consign of your two orders. In fact, fittings are made in order to check everything along with the customer in order to consign the most enjoyable garment.
With you we did the same and during these 3 times you always were satisfied and all these problems you are now listing never came out. You wrote me about narrowing your lapels but pardon me if after three fittings you didn’t came out of those before. During the third fitting they were already finished and you never told me they were too big or too small.
Now, considering that your sizes were, 120 cm breast,110 cm waist with a jacket lenght of 81 cms,let me say a 10 cms lapel is just standard.
I am surprised that these comments came out after 4 years or more since your pick up of the jackets and through a public message on this blog.
Sorry but this has been dishonest from you.

Moreover I would like to conclude by saying this:

As just said, fittings with customers are made in order to adjust every defects and in order to satisfy the needs of a customer.
Asking modifies to lapels size after three fittings, after receiving only positive comments and only after a garments has been finished means not to respect the work of tailoring, not only my own work, but the work of every tailor. You probably do not have idea of what it means to desmount a just consigned jacket to modify things like these.
Yes, the customer is always right but the customer must respect the hand work that we do.

I wanted to intervene pesonally since this comment has been made by a person who was a customer of us and that, in my opinion, said inacuraccies.
I’m very surprised to see all these comments and judgements on our work from people who never had the pleasure to know us personally neither our work, neither to see one of our suit finished.
Internet is for sure a mean of communication that gives many opportunities but at the same time gives the power to some people to express lightly unconstructive judgments with the only aim to discredit other’s work behind the mask of a pc and a fantasy name.

copperplate

Dear Gianfrancesco,

I appreciate your response and have to say I sympathise completely with your viewpoint. I am upset at being labelled as ‘dishonest’ but will not dignify that with further response. For the record I have always posted very good reviews for the work your atelier does. The quality of construction, make and craft are all excellent. The service and experience were both wonderful too. The two jackets in question were my first tailored commissions so the blame (if that is to be apportioned) lies with me for not being more directive and communicating my stylistic preferences more clearly. I did wear the tweed jacket (a beautiful London Lounge herringbone fabric) for a month and was initially very happy. The general style and fit of the jacket (high gorge, high armholes, lovely soft shoulders) was perfect. The collar resolutely remains clamped to my neck as I move my arms. But as time wore on I realised that the fit around my right shoulder was too tight and that the very wide lapels just don’t suit me. I am making a subjective comment on the house style, nothing more. My initial comment was possibly melodramatic, however it reflects my personal disappointment at having two very expensive sport jackets in my wardrobe that I’ll never be able to wear. I wish you and your atelier every success.

Rob

Hristo

Hello Rob,
now your comment is much clearer than the first one.
It seems that the style was the central problem which is of course sad and pity but it is also something very subjective.
For example I don’t like many of the things that Cifonelli does because somehow his work seems often too feminine for my taste. But this does not make him a bad tailor. It is just that different tailors have different approach which suits different customers.
The thing with bespoke is that due to the high price one starts as a customer with insanely high expectations and allows little space for errors. While in the real world bespoke is about trial and error and evolution of taste and fit throughout time.
I have tried 3 different bespoke shirt makers. Only 1 out of 3 achieved excellent fit from the first shirt. I know that this can drive a customer crazy because errors cost a lot of money, but this is the reality of craftsmanship. And if bespoke tailors calculate that they would have to do every first commission twice, they would charge even higher prices.
Same is with jackets. The second jacket is usually better than the first one – in terms of fit, style and choice of fabric.

For this reason my advice for every new bespoke customer is NOT to order more than one garment at a time and to allow several months for wear and retrospective before ordering the next commission. This way you would develop your wardrobe at a much slower pace, but you would make less errors and world allow evolution in style and fit.

P.S. I did it all wrong when I started with bespoke. I commissioned 1 suit and 2 jackets at 2 different tailors in one day. All 3 commissions were out of insanely thin and light fabrics that I would not use again. All 3 commissions were single breasted while I later realized that I prefer double breasted and all my current commissions are always double breasted. And one of the jackets happens to be extremely difficult to wear because it was intended as a very casual jacket but the fabric I chose with my lack of experience is extremely formal.
I wanted to save travel costs and ordered several things at once as a beginner and this was a bad decision on the long run.

copperplate

Hi Hristo,

Thanks for that. Like you I ordered two jackets to try and save on travel costs to and from Milan. I realise that bespoke is a journey but I feel like I’m throwing good money after bad at the moment. Nothing I have really fits properly. I’m going to go back to the drawing board, start with a really good shirt then take my time to find a house style jacket that really works.
– Rob

Robert

@Hristo.
Agree 100%. Very sage advice. All guys starting off their bespoke journey should heed these words to avoid costly mistakes. Start with a single commission. Your tastes and style will evolve. Go slow .

Nick

Hi Simon & Fellow PS Readers,

Can anyone recommend a RTW or MTM option of the aforementioned “transformable” double breasted coat? Or perhaps any qualities one should keep an eye when searching for such a style. Thanks!

Nick

Andie Nicolas

Consider the large overheads that tailors such as Cifonelli in Paris and the English tailors in Savile Row and surrounds, have in running their business contrasted to this tailor basically working from home, and his prices seem too high!

mjp

Hi Simon,

In regards to apprentices in Italy;

How are the apprenticeships structured – is it similar to that on Saville Row?

Also, is there a demand for apprentices in Italy?

Juanse

At Nick, Check out Nick Tentis, Jeff Banks & William Hunt they dont get mentioned on here much but are worth having a look at. Best Juanse

Graeme King

Juanse, have you been smoking crack! Nick Tenntis and William Hunt are utter garbage. Jeff has made my bespoke suits for years and I couldn’t be happier with them, quite pricey but happy to go the extra distance for top quality! Simon, will you be doing a piece on Jeff in the coming months?

Thank you,

Graeme

Hristo

Wow, did we just experienced an Internet troll attack on Permanent style?
Step one: Throw several names so that it does not look as an advertisement of one specific brand.
Step two: Put some additional comments to confirm the positive opinion on the brand you want to advertise. And maybe even some negative comments on the rest.
Result -> People google who Jeff is. Internet troll achieved his goal.

How likely it is that 3 different people suddenly comment on one brand on a 2 week old article in the span of several hours that they have not commented earlier (and hence are unlikely to receive notifications for the article). It might happen, but it seems very unlikely to me to be a coincidence.

P.S. Very sad that the term bespoke is not protected. This allows many MTM brands to market themselves as bespoke.

Anonymous

Anyway all comments are very good as it is !!! This is make this blog real and full of life. You can see that is happening with the bespoke dudes and Parisian gentlemen… there is no comments and this blog are became no interesting and so commercial)))). Fabio attanasio will soon advertise Zara and Boss)))

Juanse

Rubbish, its no different to people banging on about Desmond Merrion. I’ve checked my suits from Jeff B & I am disappointed to say that, I have been taken for a ride. I am now researching properly into where I shall be getting my suits made. ‘Ill go over old posts and look into this carefully.

Jack Gough

@ Juanse,

You probably should have done your research before hand as I don’t believe there is anywhere on the internet that states Jeff’s suits are bespoke?! Not only that but the style is very distasteful. I’m glad you mentioned Des’ name, his supreme bespoke seems rather interesting at 30k a pop. Simon, what could warrant such an astronomically high price point for bespoke? Surely it’s worth a look into…

Edgar

At Juanse & Simon,

I couldn’t agree more with Juanse (lovely but unusual name), I have been with Jeff Banks over the years and he’s made many wonderful bespoke suits for me. May I add another suggestion with Joshua Kane bespoke? It is rather contemporary style with the more cropped jacket and swollen lapel, but as bespoke goes its very good. Simon, will you be doing a piece on Joshua in the coming months?