Tailoring Legends

Considering the craftsmanship and artistry behind the tailoring at Italian fashion house Brioni, it’s no surprise that the maison’s roots lie in the invocation of artistic paragons like Sansovino, Tiziano, and Caravaggio. In Assouline’s Brioni: Tailoring Legends by Olivier Saillard, the rise of these storied tailors is vividly captured.

After working together at a men’s clothier in Rome, Nazareno Fonticoli and Gaetano Savini decided it was time to move on from laboring for small commissions. Dreaming of their artistic and economic independence, they opened their first boutique in 1945, centered around high-quality bespoke menswear. They called it Atelier Brioni, named after a cluster of islands off the coast of Croatia that were frequented by the social elite they hoped to court.

(Images courtesy of Brioni and Assouline)

But this would prove a daunting task, as the atelier was formed in the ruins of a battered Italy. Ravaged by the second World War, Italian craftsmanship was one way that the country emerged from the precipice of disaster by virtue of its proudest traditions. Rome may have been awash with young men in battered clothing, but visitors were nevertheless taken aback by the Italians who held their heads high, finding dignity in their clothing and appearance.

In the post-war era, interest in the synthesis of clothing and culture was not unique to Italy. Indeed, various subcultures emerged all over Europe and America, all with their own associated styles. The young Zazous in France rocked skinny trousers rolled up high to mid-calf, with long jackets and high-collared shirts. In Britain, the Teddy Boys parroted the style of Edwardian dandies with draped jackets, bootlace ties, and narrow pants with crepe-sole creepers or pointed-toe winklepickers. Men’s fashion took more interest in color and developed a sharper eye for style, as a wider range of men found themselves interested in aesthetics.

It’s precisely this phenomenon that Brioni capitalized upon, as the heritage of their great and traditional tailoring blended with a youthful approach to slimmer, more flattering fits and brighter colors. This winning combination won Brioni great praise in the American market, which hailed the atelier as a leader in men’s fashion.

The brand developed a style that remains in its collections today. Bold palettes, luxurious fabrics, shorter suit jackets, and sharp coats. For many, Brioni perfectly walked the line between timeless style and current fashions. The maison’s rise to the heights of dressing celebrities and supplying wardrobe for James Bond is fascinatingly documented in Olivier Saillard’s history of the Italian giant.