Whenever tailoring is discussed, there two major styles. Stiff and clean British, and soft and comfortable Italian. But there’s more.
This distinctions is, obviously, imperfect and lacks nuance. Italian tailoring varies, and a traditional jacket from a Roman tailor looks very different from one that’s been made in Naples. Same goes with British style – it’s not uniform.
But these are shorthands, and quite useful sometimes, as they can help express certain preferences, and so your formal navy suit with padded shoulders and clean silhouette would be more “British” in style, while the unstructured sport coat with patch pockets – “Italian”, even if neither of them actually comes from those countries. It may not be entirely accurate, but it distills some features we think of as the most important and characteristic into this one word.
I’m usually reluctant to rely on such simplifications though. So when I thought I might write something about different styles and tailoring traditions to broaden the perspective a bit, I wasn’t sure I’m up for the task. Especially that I have been recently looking at various Asian makers, trying to find some common features in their garments; and seeing as Asia is quite a sizeable (and diverse) chunk of land – to which I’ve never been – that might be a fool’s errand. Keeping that in mind, I will not even attempt to speak of Asian style as such, but instead share some observations and reasons why I look that way with interest. And since the topic is broad, I think I will start with Korea in particular.
It’s because I believe it was seeing jackets and suits by Korean B&Tailor that interested me in this first. They have a really cool instagram and tumblr pages. Their garments are also popular among many European style aficionados, as they can be ordered during numerous trunk shows in Stockholm or London. I had a chance to actually see their stuff in person, worn by Mikołaj from Blue Loafers blog. I was able to examine the careful finish, beautiful hand stitching and other details, as well as see how a suit of theirs fits a person not just on the photos. Hell, Mikołaj let me try the jacket on, and it was so great I would consider just running away with it, had the sleeves not been at least five centimetres too short.
Just look at those details. Source: bntailor.tumblr.com
B&Tailor’s Jungyul and Chad Park. Source: bntailor.tumblr.com
The house style bears some clear Italian influences, with soft construction, unpadded shoulders, and also details like curved barchetta breast pocket or double pick-stitching. It has, however, an identity of its own, with a somewhat more generous cut around the waist, chest and shoulders, lower gorge, and pronounced lapel roll, going down to the low buttoning point. If you look at the more recent pictures from their instagram, you will also notice more and more rather old-school garments, with wider trouser legs, roomy overcoats, 6×1 double breasted jackets. This style is neither “Italian” not “British”; instead, it is its own.
But looking around instagram you can find more interesting examples – like Vanni. I don’t know of any way of ordering from them in Europe, so I rely on pretty pictures on the internet and the videos on their website (only one of which has English subtitles), so please do correct me if you feel my observations are wrong. But some Italian influences are visible here as well, and certain similarities in cut to B&T can be observed. Just look at the lapel roll or the curve of the breast pocket, the proportions in terms of positioning of the button and the length of the jacket. The gorge, while a bit higher, is also curved. Differences are there as well, of course – it is expected for tailoring houses to have their own house style. But there are similarities in silhouette and details, which I like a lot, and find inspiring in terms of what’s possible to achieve.
And those details of cut – some room to breathe in that suit of yours, but shaped carefully – I find interesting and compelling. It may serve as a good inspiration for experimenting with bespoke orders here. Or it may not – but still be valuable in terms of broadening aesthetic horizons. Breaking away from the Italian-British dichotomy, noticing there’s so much more out there. I don’t know about you, but I find it incredibly fun.