Cifonelli is one of the three best-known tailors in Paris – the others being Camps de Luca and Smalto. (Though Smalto’s influence has rather waned in recent years, as the others’ has waxed.)

It is best known for the style of its shoulder, and for the beauty of its finishing. The shoulder is a little wide, and ends in a thick, distinctive roll at the top of the sleevehead.

The hand-sewn finishing is extensive and intricate, with much finishing even hidden from view. And it was the house that did most to popularise the raised ‘Milanese’ buttonhole.

However, I would add that just as central to the Cifonelli style is the closeness of fit. In the body, in the sleeve, and in the hips, the jacket is fitted snugly – which can look very chic but is not always very forgiving.

 

 

House: Cifonelli

Address: 31 Rue Marbeuf, Paris

Site: www.cifonelli.com

Cutter: Lorenzo Cifonelli

Price of suit (at time of writing): €6500 (incl VAT)

 

This suit in a navy high-twist wool was the first Lorenzo Cifonelli cut for me, the only preceding piece being a green-tweed jacket.

It was intended as a business suit and has done good service in that regard. However, in retrospect the buttons were probably the wrong choice, being too chunky and too light a colour.

Cifonelli designs its own buttons – something no one else really does, and typical of Lorenzo’s approach to things (always the best, no matter the cost) – and I loved these matte-horn ones, with their angular profile.

But they would be more suited to a sports jacket really. Neither the colour nor the shape are great with black or even very dark-brown shoes, as is obvious here.

 

 

Let’s begin with the Cifonelli shoulder. Its distinctive ‘roll’ at the top of the sleeve is not unusual in its height – as is often said – but rather in its width.

Plenty of tailors have a sleevehead roll of this height, and several (eg Chittleborough & Morgan) have a higher one. However, none I’ve seen have a roll that is as wide.

Structurally, this is achieved through extending the shoulder pad into the top of the sleeve, and then adding extra wadding in the sleevehead.

Unlike 90% of tailors, the pad and the roll are also built by hand, with different layers sewn together (most use a pre-made pad, and then adjust it to their needs). It’s also unusual in construction, being made from two layers of canvas and two of felt.

Visually, the effect of this sleevehead is to widen the upper body, so even though the shoulder itself isn’t that big at 6½ inches, the total width is probably on a par with the biggest, such as Anderson & Sheppard.

 

 

I won’t go into detail on the other aspect Cifonelli is best known for – the finishing – because this series is focused on style rather than anything else.

It would be great to go into detail on the fit, service and finishing of the different tailors we’ve covered, but there is no room here: it would take at least the same coverage again to do it properly.

Suffice it to say that I once saw the lining being attached to a piece of mine at Cifonelli, and was amazed to see that it was sewn on initially with just as much precision as the top stitching that finished it off, once the lining had been folded over.

So there was another perfect line of handwork inside, hidden away, that was just as beautiful as the one on top.

 

 

I mentioned at the start that I think the closeness of the cut is a distinctive part of the Cifonelli style.

You can see that here in the chest of the jacket, which is cut close without any drape, and in the sleeve, which starts narrow at the top and tapers slightly on the way down.

The sleeve is also wrinkling rather as a result of me putting on a little bulk in the arms over time, and is tight across the top. 

I will have this adjusted, but I do think it illustrates the danger with a close cut, namely that it is less tolerant to changes in physique. 

I’ve found the same with other Cifonelli pieces, and it is those jackets together with the ones from the more modern Neapolitan tailors (such as Solito) that have most often needed adjustment.

I tend to prefer a slightly more comfortable fit now, partly for that reason. 

 

 

The back of the suit is also cut close, though again this isn’t necessarily reflective of the fit when it was first made – as again I’ve gained a little bit of bulk here.

It is interesting to compare this to Camps de Luca – the other well-known Parisian tailor.

For similar as the cut appears in the Camps suit we analysed (lack of drape, slim sleeve, strong sleevehead), it hasn’t needed such alterations. There was a little bit more there in the back and around the arms, making it more forgiving.

 

 

Elsewhere, Cifonelli cuts a broad-to-moderate lapel (3½ inches) with a fairly high gorge (also 3½ inches, from the shoulder seam) and a high vent (11 inches).

The quarters are quite closed, but with a touch more curve at the bottom than most English tailors.

And the trousers are slim, echoing the approach to the jacket. The opening of the trousers is only 15¼ inches in circumference, and 19 inches at the knee.

 

 

The tie is unusual for me: a rather US-politician red silk, though with at least a little woven spot to break it up. (I know politicians favour plain clothing as TV doesn’t pick up pattern well, but a little spot would help alleviate the repetition a little, surely?)

The shirt is a blue bengal-stripe from D’Avino and the white-linen handkerchief is from Anderson & Sheppard (as is the tie).

Shoes are simple business-like cap-toes from Edward Green (Berkeley model) with just a single line of broguing.

 

Style breakdown:

  • Shoulder width: 6½ inches
  • Shoulder padding: Standard pad
  • Sleevehead: Pronounced, thick roll
  • Sleeve: Slim all the way through
  • Lapel: 3½ inches
  • Gorge height: 3½ inches
  • Drape: None
  • Outbreast pocket height: 10¼ inches
  • Buttoning point: 18¾ inches
  • Waist suppression: Moderate
  • Quarters: Closed, slight curve
  • Length: 31¾ inches
  • Back seam: Suppressed
  • Vent height: 11 inches
  • Trouser circumference at knee: 19 inches
  • Trouser circumference at cuff: 15¼ inches

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man