Savile Row gets Italy hot under the collar

Richard Owen in Rome

Saville Row, Westminster, London. Saville Row is competing with Italy over who makes the world's best tailors

The normally discreet world of men’s tailoring has been shaken by a dispute over who has the best tailors: Britain or Italy?

Pitti Uomo, Italy’s annual showcase for menswear, opens this week in Florence, but for the first time in the its 70-year history, the show will feature clothing by Savile Row tailors, together with an exhibition entitled The London Cut: Savile Row Bespoke Tailoring.

The inclusion has incensed Italian designers. Gianluca Isaia, deputy head of the Italian menswear consortium Classico Italia, said that the Pitti show was “intended to represent menswear made in Italy. I would expect it to support Italian firms, not to offer a showcase for foreigners”.

Mr Isaia said that Italian techniques were “much more up to date than those of London tailors. We combine state of the art production with ancient origins — Naples already had an association of tailors in the 15th century.”

Defenders of the Italian way even have a trump card: an Italian has been making James Bond’s suits since the 1995 film GoldenEye. Brioni’s boutique in Via Condotti, the Bond Street of Rome, features a giant photograph of Daniel Craig wearing a Brioni suit in James Bond movie Casino Royale.

Ralph Fiennes dressed in a Saville Row suit in the 1998 movie "The Avengers"

The Pitti show, however, will highlight Savile Row’s own famous customers: Henry Poole has remade the midnight blue smoking jacket it created for Edward VII; Anderson & Sheppard has recut the jacket and flannel trousers it made for Fred Astaire; and Kilgour has re-created the suit Cary Grant wore in North by Northwest.

The Italian designer Ermenegildo Zegna sought yesterday to smooth things over, observing that the British “have a great tradition of tailoring, just like us. To combine the two experiences . . . can only be good for the sector.”

Raffaelo Napoleone, managing director of Pitti Immagine, which organises the Florence show, said that talk of British versus Italian tailoring was passé. “The important thing is to promote male elegance.”

James Sherwood, organiser of The London Cut, said: “Savile Row has been creating unique bespoke suits for exceptional men for over 200 years, with today’s customers ranging from princes William and Harry to Mick Jagger.” The Pitti show was “a decisive historic moment — the first time so many of the leading tailoring houses have co-operated to promote the Savile Row product”.


Sod off, Italians. The British are now dominant, just like we are in almost every other sector of European economics.