Fashion has always been an Italian affair. Since ancient times fine tailoring and artisanal expertise have been part of the country’s culture. For some, it all started in the “botteghe dei sarti” (or tailors’ workshops) during the 12th century in the city-states across northern Italy. For others, it dates to 1575 when Pope Gregory XIII established the first “Università dei Sartori” (University of Tailors) in Rome, the oldest Italian association in the clothing sector still functioning today. Others refer to the early 1800s when the Neapolitan tailors dressed the royal House of Bourbon in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The sartorial thread that runs through Italy is further evidenced by a post-war blossoming of the “Made in Italy” label.
Today, despite the struggle to recruit a new generation of highly skilled craftspeople in the luxury sector – the prospect of a long, slow-paced learning path discouraging youngsters from pursuing a career in technical areas – many fashion houses are shining a light on their sartorial legacy. The idea is to nurture a more discerning customer, faithful to Italian care and dedication. These brands have increasingly joined forces with schools and institutions to preserve the national mastery of craftsmanship.
Globally renowned for its sharp tailoring, the luxury suitmaker Canali has recently partnered with Istituto Secoli, a Milanese fashion school, supporting the launch of an innovative training project for prototypists in Piedmont. ‘The care with which Italian tailored garments are cut and made requires time and skilled hands,’ says Stefano Canali, president and CEO of the family brand that is currently run by its third generation. ‘It is our duty to strive to train and support the new generations, protecting the art of savoir-faire.’
A textile entrepreneur and a tailor, brothers Giovanni and Giacomo Canali established the company 89 years ago, manufacturing exquisite formalwear. Combining a pioneering spirit with technological innovation (it was the first fashion house in Italy to introduce mechanised cutting machines in the 1970s) Canali became synonymous with understated elegance. ‘Craftmanship and sartorial details are the key concepts from which everything started and are the principles on which we develop our collections each season, right from the beginning, in 1934,’ adds the CEO. A short and vertically integrated supply chain allows Canali to manufacture entirely in Italy, with plants in Sovico (MB), Marche and Abruzzo.
As part of the FW23 collection, the premium menswear label launched DOUBLE, a series of handstitched garments employing a technique that involves joining two layers of the same fabric with internal and invisible seams. ‘DOUBLE is the maximum expression of what we are: craftsmanship at its highest level – in the construction, and innovation in the use of the technique in developing a full DOUBLE wardrobe. The most exciting challenge for us is to evolve our heritage over time.’ Earth-toned winter staples are elevated with sophisticated construction and luxurious materials. A camel wool-cashmere-blend blazer with matching chinos offer practicality and ultra-comfort. Elsewhere, unlined outerwear in green and blue features relaxed silhouettes infused with a refined sense of ease. ‘The idea was born from the deep desire to create something truly special for our customers. To go beyond, developing new and complex techniques that, through the garments, tell our story in the world.’