Dressing for the Occasion

I’m not a shopper and never have been. My fashion needs are uniform. Something for business—and the rest for “leisure.” With the “Social Season” beginning to warm up, there are events—dinners and luncheons—that may require the jacket. My standard has always been the Navy Blue blazer. Over the years, I’ve had quite a few (that I wore out—beginning at the elbow). For years, I depended on Ralph Lauren’s blue blazer that retailed for about $500. The last time I looked, the blue blazer was something around $1,495.

A few months ago, Robert Caravaggi, proprietor of “Swifty’s” down at The Colony in Palm Beach, told me about a “tailor” who’d made a couple of jackets for him, which he wears daily on the job. “He’s really good…if you ever…” His name is Paolo Martorano, “a bespoke tailor in his late 20s.”

Hoping to meet the author, Paolo sought an “autograph.” It worked, and still in high school, the meeting led to a job at Paul Stuart. After school, it was full-time and he soon became the custom shirt director. Today, his list of customers is impressive, including John Pizzarelli, David Phoenix, Philip B. Miller, Steven DeLuca, and Eric Twardzik. Once, a good friend of Percy Steinhart, founder of Stubbs & Wootton, even asked Paolo to create a jacket using the same material as his favorite pair of tweed slippers so he could sport them together.

David Patrick Columbia

Months later, I got around to calling. Paolo has an office and showroom on West 57th Street. We met there. Paolo is a New York native whose interest in his art began as a child. And, he’s from a long line of Italian tailors— four generations deep on his father’s side. By age 16, a high school student in Long Island, he acquired a new copy of Dressing the Man by Alan Flusser. The book is considered the bible of fashion and the definitive guide to what men need to know to dress well.

On meeting, Paolo was naturally well dressed, jacket and tie. The suite is like a boardroom with a three way mirror on the interior end. We also talked about his clientele. He showed me fabrics for jackets. We never think of a well dressed man of business actually buying his clothes. 

Some have the same passion Paolo does for bespoke clothing. They buy for the quality—how they’re made. The majority are men who want navy and grey suits everyday. But they also want the best; they’ve earned it. And they want something that is going to fit exactly the same as the last time.

He told me about a gentleman in Florida who ordered 10 suits, 10 jackets, 15 pairs of trousers and a few outerwear pieces. He wanted a book of everything he owns; what to wear on what day and where he’s wearing it. Paolo put together a Palm Beach wardrobe, a Midwest wardrobe, a New York wardrobe, a wardrobe for the airplane, for the boat. Everything is organized for the client so he doesn’t have to think about it but rather have Paolo think for him.

My request was a lot simpler. The blue blazer. Two fittings, including discussing what I prefer—length, buttons (two), sleeve length, waist. The third visit was the finished jacket except for the buttons and the comfortable sleeve length. It fits like a glove. There’s a sense of propriety in that “fit.” It actually looks the part.