The Real Italian Bespoke
Simon Crompton, who is wearing one of our bespoke suits, is one of the world’s leading writers on luxury and bespoke menswear. Below, we transcribe the text of the article that Mr. Crompton reserved for Sartoria Caraceni F. in his prestigious book ‘Bespoke Style, the cuts of 25 of the world’s finest tailors’.
Follwing on from French bespoke style with Camps de Luca and Cifonelli in the last chapter, we now arrive in Milan with Ferdinando Caraceni. Milanese tailoring has quite a distinct style, with light structure overall but a strong shoulder. So while tailors from Milan will talk about their jackets being light there is a little more padding in the shoulder than the French, and the look is quite square overall. This square look is the culmination of three things: a padded shoulder, which raises it up; a wide shoulder (this Caraceni is almost an inch wider than the Camps de Luca); and a natural shoulder, so a lack of roping at the top of the sleeve.
So the shoulder line runs out quite square to the body, goes further than the natural shoulder, and then drops straight down. (I have sloped shoulders, so on someone else this would be even squarer.)
The Jacket shown here, in a lightweight herringbone cashmere, was made for me by Nicoletta Caraceni (the daughter of Ferdinando, who is sadly departed) in 2014. I had wanted to try the Caraceni style for a few years, and picked Nicoletta rather than one of the other Caraceni houses (the largest is A. Caraceni, also in Milan) because we got on so well. I subsequently ad some trousers made to go with it, by Graham Browne in London, as I thought it would look nice as a suit.
However, while the look of a grey herringbone suit is nice, the material was really too light and soft to make into trousers, and I usually wear the jacket on its own. It is a 9.5oz cashmere from Cerruti (offered in the UK by Dugdale).
Returning to that shoulder line, I think this cut makes for a striking yet lightweight suit, or a smart sports jacket, but not for something so casual as to be suitable for jeans or chinos. I find this interesting, because even though the sleevehead is as natural as any Neapolitan, the padding and the width keep it relatively sharp and formal. The quarters (below the buttoning point) are also relatively closed, though they do curve away with a nice rounded shape at the bottom. The lapel is relatively wide (3 ¾ inches) but doesn’t appear as strong as some lapels because it is so sloped.
If you look at the gorge line – the seam where the lapel and collar meet – this runs down quite steeply from the neck, and then only straightens up slightly wen it becomes the notch of the lapel. That bottom of the notch is normally closer to horizontal – which some consider to be more flattering, as it suggests width. The whole notch itself is also relatively low on the chest (4 ¼ inches from the shoulder seam), although only compared to many modern ready – made suits, which often have this gorge point ridiculously high. And lastly and most subtly, the collar and lapel sections of that notch opening are the same length (1 ½ inches) which is quite rare. Normally the collar would be a touch shorter.
Elsewhere on the jacket, the chest is quite clean with little drape; there is definite shape through the small of the back; and the sleeve is fairly standard but with a relatively wide cuff (11 ¾ inches). The pocket flaps are small, at 2 inches, and so are the vents at the back (9 ½ inches) – the latter in proportion to the overall length, which is relatively shorter (31 ¾ inches). The lapel is quite straight, and therefore looks convex as it curves away from the waist button, with a little rounding at the top. And the jacket is made without any front dart or seam.
Although I would generally warn against drawing any conclusions a bout fit from the pictures – particularly in such a soft, lightweight cloth – there is a little tightness across the top of the back, which I have been meaning to correct for a while. Unfortunately Nicoletta does not travel to London and I haven’t been to Milan for a couple of years.
The work generally is extremely fine – the best of Italians, and on a par with any English maker. There is also more of that handwork than on an English suit, with lapped seams all around the jacket. These barely show, given the texture of the cloth, but the volume and fineness of this handwork is one reason Caraceni is expensive. The work extends to the in side of the jacket, with the long seams on the lining all done by hand.
As with all outfits in this book, the accessories were supplied by Anderson & Sheppard – and we went for a very stylised look, with a tonal combination of greys and cream. I’ve always liked grey shirts with this jacket (this one is a brushed cotton from Simone Abbarchi), but the combination is rather showy for me. Most of the time I’m more likely to wear it without a tie, and dark trousers, which is still distinctive but rather more subtle. The shoes are the Beaulieu model from Edward Green – an unbrogued wingtip. I quite like it with this suit (EG calls it ‘juniper’) given its muted colour.