The (21) shirtmakers I have known

Wednesday, October 9th 2019
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Three years ago, I wrote a post called ‘The tailors I have known'. The idea was to provide a single reference point for anyone to get a run down on everyone I had tried - and links to more detail. 

A reader recently commented that it would be nice to do something on shirtmakers, so here it is. 

Although I have reviewed several of these shirtmakers, I now realise that many have not had full reviews. So that’s something I will endeavour to correct over the next few months. 

I have, however, included observations and experiences below, and please do ask in the comments if you have any specific questions in the meantime.

Each entry below has links to all relevant old posts.

Turnbull & Asser

Turnbull & Asser were the first bespoke shirtmaker I ever used. I saved my pennies back in 2009 and ordered the six shirts required for a first order. 

The experience was pretty good, if a little intimidating, and David Gale (since left) was a superb cutter. I would recommend them today if you want English shirts - but I tend not to today, as I prefer the style of Italians, both in terms of make (eg light fusing) and style (English makers are not great at casual styles).

I covered the experience in two posts, as well as visiting the factory and writing about that:

Emma Willis

Emma made me a cream-silk dress shirt in 2011, which was nicely made but would come with the same qualifications as for T&A above. 

At the margins, I’d also say the T&A was a little better in terms of fit, but it is a small difference. Emma also has more modern taste than most at T&A, and I prefer her aesthetic.

Sean O’Flynn

Sean was recommended to me by a reader, and the experience was very good. Again, I haven’t used him since and wouldn’t for the style I now like, but for a wing-collar dress shirt like he made me, he was very good. 

Budd

Budd is the English shirtmaker I have used most recently, and would perhaps be quickest to recommend. 

Both Darren and James are more progressive than most English makers - always working on their own ideas for one-piece collars, different button-down styles and so on. Darren was also keen for our experiment a few years ago in making a bespoke safari jacket. 

I have yet to fully cover the point-collar shirt they made for me recently, which I will try to correct as part of this coverage. 

Charvet

Charvet is such a renowned shirtmaker that I felt I had to try them for completion. I love Jean-Claude too, and his knowledge of fabrics and eye for colour is unsurpassed. 

The fitting process was more involved than any other I’ve tried, with cuts, pins, drawing, and the carving away at a trial collar until the shape was perfect. It was (perhaps similarly to Maison Bonnet) the full bespoke experience - including picking an exclusive cloth from a whole floor of them. 

However, while the shirt fit very well, I’d still prefer the Italians on style (particularly shirts to wear both with and without a tie) and Charvet is slightly hard to justify for the price. Full coverage in links below (as with all these entries).

D’Avino

Fiorenzo Auricchio runs a small shirtmaking atelier in Somma Vesuviana, just outside Naples. He is unusual for employing almost everyone in-house (most in the area are freelance workers) and for doing a huge amount of handwork on every shirt. 

The shirts are beautiful, with hand-rolled hems and hand-sewn seams - truly works of art. Fiorenzo is let down slightly by his English skills, but I would still recommend him for anyone that wants that level of craft. 

Simone Abbarchi

Simone Abbarchi is based in Florence, but visits London and New York twice a year (less often than most other visitors) and has a large business in both cities. 

Simone’s key attractions are consistency and price. He makes bespoke and made to measure shirts for around €180 and €150 each, which is often what you would pay for a designer brand shirt that doesn’t fit. 

The shirts don’t have the handwork of other Italians, but with nice styles and him yet to make a mistake after years of working together, I would recommend Simone to anyone starting out. 

Luca Avitabile (previously Satriano Cinque)

Luca Avitabile has become my go-to shirtmaker over the years. He has had issues with consistency sometimes, and has become very popular recently, but he makes a great shirt and a collar style that is my favourite anywhere - hence the reason I also use him to make our shirts on the PS Shop. 

Luca is lovely, speaks good English, and comes to London frequently (roughly every six weeks). He also visits New York and Stockholm. The shirts have all the functional handwork, plus hand-sewn buttons and buttonholes, but no other frills. 

I should also say that, in my view, you want one shirtmaker to make most of your shirts. It creates consistency, and there is far less to tell between them in terms of style than with tailors. Today I tend to use Luca and then one or two others. 

Marol

Marol is a high-end Italian shirt factory that was bought a few years ago by Bo Yang. He has introduced new styles, moved factory, and generally improved the offering. They also now travel under the Marol name. 

Bo has made me a couple of shirts, but I have yet to do a full review. It took us a couple of attempts to get the collar right, but I was very pleased with the final result.

The level of finesse in the work is also extremely high - less in hand sewing, and more in the precision and detailing of the machine work. This is an interesting area that I’ll cover more at a later stage. 

100 Hands

100 Hands is headquartered in Amsterdam, but is run by a family that has its own shirtmaking factory in India. 

There are different levels of quality, but the top end is absolutely superb - on a par with D’Avino and any others doing things by hand. I’ve visited the factory, which is also very well run, and I can highly recommend Akshat, Varvara and the team. 

You might be more likely to see them as a ready-to-wear brand, but they also do MTM and bespoke through trunk shows. 

Burgos

Burgos is a storied shirtmaker in Madrid, and well known in its home country. They sell ready-made shirts, bespoke, and other pieces like dressing gowns and traditional teba jackets. 

My experience with them back in 2013 was OK, but not the strongest on this list. They’re also fairly formal. They did, however, make me some wonderful pyjamas last year, which I saw when they appeared in our pop-up shop. 

Langa

Langa is a bespoke tailor in Madrid, which has just as strong a reputation for its shirts - made by cutter Mariano. 

The shirt Mariano cut for me was good, a solid make and a decent fit. But unless you’re a resident of Madrid and like the style, there isn’t enough of a difference to recommend seeking him out. 

Ascot Chang

Ascot Chang is the best-known shirtmaker in Hong Kong, and has outposts in China and the United States as well as stores in HK. Justin, the youngest generation of the family to run Ascot Chang, made me a shirt last year that I have yet to cover. 

But the fit was good - perhaps the only maker ever to get my sloping shoulders spot on (even a little too sloped) on the first try.

Ascot Chang also make good-value RTW shirts, in collaboration with The Armoury and Bryceland’s.

Made to measure

Luxire

That’s it for bespoke shirtmakers, but I have used a small number of made-to-measure companies. Usually the difference is that smaller changes are possible - either by limit of process or time - than with bespoke. 

Luxire was one of these: a company that became popular online for its low prices and ability to copy others. I can’t recommend them that highly though (see link below).

Kiton

Kiton made me shirts years ago (2011) and at the time I was impressed by the handwork, such as the hand-rolled hems and hand-sewn seams. Also the two-part collar which was part fusing, part floating lining. 

But since then I’ve seen higher quality work from the smaller makers, particularly D’Avino and 100 Hands for this top level of quality. And even though I love the guys, such as Seabstiano Borelli (above), it’s very hard to justify the high prices. 

Drake’s 

I tried Drake’s made-to-measure shirts soon after they bought the Rayner & Sturges factory in 2013. The result wasn’t perfect but I would place no weight on that experience, as the process and product has changed substantially since then. 

It’s one more I should try and report on properly at some point.

Segun Adelaja

Segun is a designer with a small shop in the Princes Arcade in London. He’s a lovely guy, and has a strong business among the rich of his native Nigeria. 

The shirt he made for me was good, if expensive for made to measure. I’m not sure I’d shop there now, but that’s largely because my taste has changed, becoming rather quieter. 

Others

There are are a few other shirtmakers which I have covered, but never had shirts made by.

If you’re interested in them, you might still want to read those articles for information on make, quality and style. 

They include Salvatore Piccolo from Naples (above), who of course also makes lots of ready-to-wear; the incredibly expensive Siniscalchi from Milan (below), who is just bespoke and has a great archive; and also Emmanuele Maffeis in the shirt heartland of Bergamo.

I’ve also used English shirtmaker Stephen Lachter - but to make a dressing gown, not a shirt. 

Articles on all of them at those hyperlinks.