Making Italian suits sing
Enrico Manzo has been in the business of tailoring men’s haute couture for 20 years. His tailoring house Principe di Eleganza offers Italian nonchalance and "sprezzatura" to men the world over. He was in Dubai to meet clients, where he was hosted by La Villa in Jumeirah. Copywriter in Dubai and sartorial enthusiast Hisham Wyne was delighted to have a coffee with the master artisan and chat about bespoke wear that fits like a pair of pyjamas.
I founded Principe with 50 master tailors with years of experience. I chose tailors who had worked with suiting names such as Kiton and Borelli. Our mission is very simple – to create very high quality products by using fine fabrics. We put in the hours of tailoring work needed into each item of clothing to make it stand out.
You have trunk shows around the word. Is it easy catering to an international clientele?
Two things. First, I don’t really do trunk shows to sell suits, because Principe di Eleganza doesn’t need that anymore. I travel to meet sartorial enthusiasts such as you. I like connecting with people and discovering genuine enthusiasm for fine clothing. People who understand the importance of bespoke tailoring also get why a good life well lived is important.
Second, we’re very lucky that Principe Di Eleganza has a loyal following worldwide. It can take up to five proofs, or tries, when a tailor creates a bespoke garment. But our tailors have the expertise and eye to get the fit right from the measurements. Customers get suits that are 80% perfect right out of the box. Then when I travel to their cities, I get them to try on their suits and observe how they move in their suit, and how the fabric behaves. We then make minor tweaks to achieve a fit that’s like second skin.
How does a Neapolitan suit differ from British or American creations?
Neapolitan tailoring is very well known for its handmade suits. But there is much confusion in the market because many tailors around the world are using the term “handmade” for different techniques.
Yes, it’s good that tailors are now doing buttonholes, lapel stitches and detailing by hand. But that’s not what Neapolitan “handmade” is. A genuine Neapolitan suit’s inner construction is done by hand in a way that hidden folds and overlaps make the suit flexible.
All that artistry is hidden from the eye once the suit’s closed but is an intrinsic part of Neapolitan tailoring, and the very definition of “handmade.”
"A genuine Neapolitan suit’s inner construction is done by hand in a way that hidden folds and overlaps make the suit flexible."
What style flourishes set Neapolitan suits apart? Is it the wide peaked lapels?
Actually, the lapels are designed to be commensurate with a person’s chest, and can vary considerably. Two things make a Neapolitan jacket instantly recognisable.
One, the famous shirt shoulders also called the spalla camicia, which are soft, natural and have small pleats where the sleevehead is attached to the armscye (or armhole). Second, a boat-shaped breast pocket called a barchetta. It has a curve to it, rather like the silhouette of a gondola.
What is Principe di Eleganza’s style/tailoring philosophy?
Our bespoke suits are created using the individual as a template. Everyone has a style. Principe helps bring it out. No two jackets are every the same. They can’t be bought or produced en masse. Each creation is individual, because the client is an individual. Even with the same fabric, you’d never get an exact replica because people’s bodies and stylistic preferences are never identical.
Woollen fabrics have a Super numbering system. Help us understand that better please.
The Super grading measures the fineness of the wool in microns (one millionth of a metre). The finer the fibres, the smoother the fabric and the higher the Super number. But as the Super number goes higher, fabrics become heavier and more difficult to cut and sew.
The scale runs from 100 to 240 for modern fabrics. At Principe di Eleganza, we like working with Super 180s because I think it’s the ideal balance between quality and heft. But we tailor a wide range of fabrics, including hard to find vicuña cashmere. We also have our own line of exceptional fabrics.
So what do price range do Principe di Eleganza’s creations start at?
Well, we do a very nice high quality Super 150 wool suit in a regular size for EUR 3,000. Now, this is readymade. Prices are higher for bespoke creations. But really, it’s well worth it for the quality you get.
--Enrico Manzo visits Dubai regularly to take appointments at La Villa in Jumierah. Find him there by getting in touch with La Villa at https://www.facebook.com/LaVillaDubai/