Bow Ties Sydney, Australia - Le Noeud Papillon - Specialists In Self Tying Bow Ties


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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Interview: Lorenzo Cifonelli - A Modern Tailoring Deity Who Is About To Go Global

How many fashion brands can you think of out there right now that are born out of a genuine tailor or tailoring family who took their craft onto an international stage. I think Giorgio Armani started like that. My guess is Yves Saint Laurent could tailor a suit start to finish. Alexander McQueen could I imagine as he was a cutter at Anderson and Sheppard from memory. I am not sure that anyone from the Zegna family could actually make a suit themselves but for arguments sake let's include them.

The reason I mention it is because it's not easy to do. If you gave Tom Ford a pair of scissors and 4 metres of cloth  on a Friday and said chalk a suit and sew it - my guess is you would come back on Monday and he would have done a deal with a tailoring workroom in Naples to knock out his sketch. 

I am not having a dig. I am being genuine. Lorenzo Cifonelli and the Cifonelli family have been at it since the late 1800's starting in Rome and eventually finding a home at 31 Rue Marbeuf in Paris' 8th. They ARE proper bespoke tailors.

I was supposed to meet Lorenzo in 2012 at Cifonelli but Hugo Jacomet was stuck in traffic so I bought a tie and I moved on. I was supposed to meet him again this year at the symposium after I was invited by Simon Crompton but I am glad I couldn't afford the trip since everyone looked so well dressed and so well versed. I didn't feel that Australians had much to offer the conversation other than a fresh bale of wool if I turned up.

So, I don't get to meet Lorenzo but I did get him to answer some questions for our readers and you are getting Lorenzo at a very interesting time for Cifonelli as it begins to move from bespoke tailoring into more RTW. And, I think that's a great thing - that a family as hands on as the Cifonelli's will be able to apply their craft on a new and wider audience. If you are going to Paris, make sure you check out their new home on the Fauborg St. Honore. 


Massimo Cifonelli, left, and Lorenzo Cifonelli, right, working at their atelier and showroom at 31 Rue Marbeuf, Paris 8eme.


Cifonelli tailors has been at 31 Rue Marbeuf  in Paris' 8th since 1926.

Arturo Cifonelli - the grandfather of Lorenzo and considered to be one of the great geniuses of tailoring.
Lorenzo, I noticed that at the 2015 Permanent Style Symposium you chose to wear a navy double breasted jacket with shirt, tie and a pair of jeans. I really got excited when I saw that because I felt it was a subtle and yet bold statement to make. I know what my interpretation of that was, but can you explain to our readers what you were thinking when you wore that ensemble?

As a tailor, I often got questions about my personal style: if I can describe it, what I like to wear etc…. All of these questions are totally justified but it is quite difficult for me to answer. I’m not sure I have a specific style… just my own. I obviously like clothes and nice quality fabric but I’m not a fashion addict and I don’t think I dress to make a statement. I dress just how I feel like, depending on my mood of the day. Wearing a double breasted jacket with a not matching pair of trousers is just me. I’m not overly fond of business suits and I love to mix clothes because it is who I am. Maybe it is a bit surprising for a tailor not to wear a complete suit for such an important event but it just felt natural to me. I believe elegance is about being true to yourself  and if you feel comfortable, you’ll be confident. Maybe it can be interpreted as a bold move but it is just my vision for tailoring: using new and original fabrics, exploring new combinations… improving and evolving all the time! Bespoke tailoring can be considered bold or modern – well, that is rather good news, right?

The signature Cifonelli shoulder is a variation of a roped Savile Row shoulder called "La Cigarette" by Cifonelli and it is made by using layers of wadding instead of using rope as some tailors do in Savile Row. The cut is also defined by a very high armhole which, when tailored correctly, gives greater movement and a sharper silhouette. 

Alexander Kraft, the Sotheby's CEO for International Realty, one of the long term patrons of Cifonelli and regarded as one of the best dressed men in the world right now. 

I have seen in a number of examples of your work with gussets in the back and gussets in the pockets of your jackets and a certain “safari-esque” game-hunting theme to some of your work. Is this something which is an historical theme since Cifonelli began or is it something which both you and Massimo have developed?

Cifonelli is the result of several cultures. We have Italian roots thanks to Arturo Cifonelli, we also have a strong English influence when it comes to the structure of our designs. In addition, the House has been installed in Paris since 1926 and hasn’t moved since. So, I believe there’s no need to say our identity is the result of various influences! It’s obvious. As a natural continuity, my cousin Massimo and I often travel abroad to meet our foreign customers and we get inspired by these visits a lot. I suppose that is why our bespoke collection – we also like to call it contemporary couture – has these sometimes maybe surprising details. This “international” influence can also be found in the materials we use. There are some amazing jersey fabrics we import from Japan for example or the Qilian jacket made of rare yak wool: a first in bespoke tailoring!

How would you define the roping and sleeve shoulder of your jackets in defining them against a Savile Row look because your jackets often look in that vein but yet they hold a very distinct look?

As I have stated previously, we indeed have an English influence. Traditional English tailoring focuses on the shoulder structure with higher armholes that is inherited from the military past of the bespoke tailoring Houses. The Cifonelli signature takes this structure and precision whilst incorporating a forward cut and felted welt that allows a unique freedom of movement. That is why the Savile Row look might look a bit stiffer compared to our style.



I have read on your tailoring house that you offer an exceptional amount of hand-work on your suits and jackets and I have noticed that , for example, that you offer a lot of contrast top stitching on pockets and lapels. Is this something Parisian or is it a personal touch of Cifonelli?

Indeed, our bespoke is exclusively made by hand in our Parisian workshop situated at number 31 Rue Marbeuf. It requires at least 80 hours of work and three fittings per suit. To reach such a high standard that is expected for bespoke, every detail counts. We not only take extra care of the exterior of our jackets but also every stitch in the lining too. To have a great result, it is central for the insides to be just as flawless. No one wants a beautiful house with bad foundations that may collapse later… I suppose that is what the French influence brought us: this perpetual and unceasing search for excellence and the quality in the work and finish details.

Can you tell us a little about the kinds of collars and cuffs you like on shirts and can you tell our readers a little about the shirting cloth companies that you prefer?

I prefer soft collars with an opening in-between the Italian and the French style. Cuffs wise, I wear a special model with a peaked finish that has been especially created for me. And I believe Albini and Testa have the best fabrics for shirts.

A window pane check suit by Cifonelli
In Australia we have a lot of men wearing suits in cities where it is hot and sticky or else very hot and dry. Choosing the right materials and construction can be very tricky. If an Australian explained his predicament to you in your Rue Marbeuf studio, how would you go about incorporating his concerns into your guidance in terms of cloth and construction of a suit or jacket? Can you specifically tell us of any work you have done recently where such concerns were raised?

We have customers coming to our Studio from all around the world so it is essential for us to adapt. As a contrary to ready-to-wear, bespoke really implies a discussion with the customer. The first thing for us is to understand the customer’s needs and then only can we give him some advice. It is a real exchange where the knowledge and expertise that we bring has as it’s ultimate goal the realisation of the customer’s most prized desire. I don’t have a specific example right now, but of course we are not going to make the same thing for someone living in Moscow as for someone living in Singapore where it is hot and humid all year around. For that we are lucky to have more  than 8,000 fabrics in our showroom coming from high quality Houses such as Drapers, Loro Piana, Harrisons and Holland & Sherry to name but a few….

I am sorry to do this to you but I do like to ask tailors and designers this question, what are your thoughts on bow ties and how men should wear them?

No problem at all! I like bow ties even if you won’t see me wearing one often. But that is the same thing, you won’t see me wearing business suits often either – NOT that I don’t like them but it is just not really my style. I love the elegant touch they add to an outfit though and there are so many possibilities…. Just have a look at your Le Noeud Papillon website! When we launched our ready to wear line last year, we also wanted to include accessories so we can have a larger variety of products to offer in our new flagship store on Rue Du Fauborg St. Honore (Paris). Classic, we started with ties but if you have a close look at our F/W 15 Collection, the four last looks are brightly coloured velvet jackets. Two of them are styled with bow ties and I think nothing else would have looked better with these looks!

A smoking jacket in purple velvet with turned back cuff by Cifonelli on Parisian fashion blogger Antonio Manlionieto

My favourite time in Paris is spring. I am sure I am not alone. What is your favourite time in Paris and can you tell me a little about your favourite restaurants and places you go to relax in Paris?

I love Paris during spring as well! It’s always good for the mood to feel the weather is getting warmer. I like to have walks in Montsouris park in the South of Paris. Otherwise for restaurants I would say Jin for Japanese, Stresa for Italian and Allard for French.

See Cifonelli's website for more information on their atelier. 

Unlike many other tailored suits brands in the world today, Cifonelli, which is currently expanding into an RTW line, has a rich family history of tailoring dating back to the late 1800's in Rome. Here, Arturo Cifonelli, one of the great tailors of his time, is standing next to design sketches at their Paris home of 31 Rue Marbeuf. 

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