LUIGI BIANCHI MANTOVA’S NEW MADE TO MEASURE

by William Buckley

So my best friend is getting married in September. We’ve been friends since our early teens and for the next decade we were essentially inseparable. I lived at her house most weekends and her family are like a second family to me. After a string of bad boyfriends, she moved to Toronto instead, and fell in love with a girl called Ellie. Now, two years later, they’re getting married, and I’m a bridesman. My computer reminds me that this a fairly modern set-up, with a big red dotted line under the word “bridesman,” but the term is in Wikipedia, so.

As is typical, I left the suit search until the last minute, and called the bride to be a few weeks ago for a reminder: “What should I wear?” A light brown tuxedo to match the autumnal theme was the response, and while navy has fairly established itself as a new member of what is now the commercial tuxedo trio, light brown is a bit more tricky. “You might have to go custom,” my (wealthy) bestie suggested.

I called Cristiano. Cristiano Magni and I have worked together for the best part of a decade. He started his PR company shortly before I scored my first editorial gig as fashion assistant at the now defunct Stuff Magazine. We’ve been friends ever since, and when he signed with Lubiam, makers of some of the best suits and sportcoats in Italy (i.e. the world), he told me that we would have to get me measured for a custom suit sometime.

There is an obstacle to having a custom suit made in Italy towards the end of summer: the factories are closed. Yes, while we in New York are lucky to get summer Fridays, Italy shuts up shop for the entire month of August. Must be nice.

Luckily, the whole Lubiam team was in New York for market, and I was able to experience the New Luigi Bianchi Mantova Made to Measure service just in time.

This service, which has just been proposed to retailers and will be available in key high-end boutiques across the country for Fall/Winter 2015, gives the customer considerably more insight into what his suit will look like when it arrives. Using a selection of sample jackets and pants in different drops and fits, the customer is able to try on various options to illustrate exactly how he wants his suit to fit. The fitting also enables the customer to more accurately envision how the finished suit will look. Adjustments are applied to the sample suit, and then measurements are taken, in my case by Luigi Bianchi Mantova US agent John Besch.

Once the fit is discussed and decided upon (very fitted in the waist, shorter jacket length, narrow foot hole etc) it is on to the fabrics. And there are hundreds. Books upon books of swatches, all from the very best Italian mills, run by the same families for generations.

Now, I’m possibly not your average customer. A light brown tuxedo is not classic, and being “in fashion” I had some off-beat ideas. We saw one fabric that was beige on the front, but the back was the perfect light brown. “Can we use the back of the fabric as the front?” I asked. Cristiano jumped on the phone to Italy to discuss. They could do it. And what about the satin lapel? What were the options? I didn’t think the black or navy in the showroom would work well with the light brown. Italy said they could do ivory. Light brown with an ivory shawl collar? Sold. We picked pocket treatment, buttons, lining, stitching, and piping, but decided against a stripe on the pants, too costume-y.

While turnaround times for other custom Italian suits can be as much as six-eight weeks, LBM can deliver in four-five weeks because they make everything in the Lubiam factory. That also keeps costs surprisingly accessible, only 25% more than a ready-to-wear Luigi Bianchi Mantova suit that retails for $1,695.

My measurements, fabrics and all instructions are in Italy as we speak. I’ll post updates from Italy as I get them, but I’ll leave you with some pictures of the fitting. Quite exciting.