The fast pace of high-fashion menswear sees designers regularly tapping into conceptual, avant-garde ideas. In the historic city of Florence, however, the business of making clothing is a much slower, more traditional affair, where suits are made to order and many months can pass before they are ready to wear. Away from the intense noise of fashion’s front line, these are the creations of artisans whose work is a reassuring nod to the Florentine craft industry of yesteryear.
Liverano & Liverano - a family affair
One of the last remaining Florentine tailoring houses in the city, Liverano & Liverano is also among the most widely known. Founder Luigi Liverano, originally from Puglia, honed his skills at Commesatti before opening his own studio in the city in the early 1950s, where he was quickly joined by his brother Antonio. Over 65 years later, Antonio Liverano can still be found working away at his cutting table in the atelier which is now situated on the Via dei Fossi.
To understand Liverano & Liverano’s appeal, one must first appreciate the distinctive nature of the Florentine tailoring style. ‘Florence tailoring is about a particular cut: a single slanted dart running from the armhole to the pocket in a harmonious relationship between collar and lapel,’ comments Renzo Ruggi, the bespoke tailoring advisor for the house. A jacket will also boast ‘a well-distributed fullness, a slightly extended unpadded shoulder and an overall cleanliness of line,’ he continues. The result is a bold, exuberant style of suit that is reflective of the city’s quirky charm and artistic fervour. Liverano & Liverano presents an ‘interpretation of the classic Florentine cut derived from Signor Liverano’s own vision of style,’ Ruggi explains. ‘We have a peculiar sensitivity for colour and a strong awareness of how to match textures and shades.’ Consequently, a bright mauve or zingy blue suit jacket sighted on the streets of Florence is most likely to be the work of Liverano & Liverano.
Sartoria Piero Cisternino - brothers in arms
Blessed with an almost equally long history, Sartoria Piero Cisternino is situated on Via del Purgatorio, from where brothers Piero and Franco Cisternino continue their 50-year business. They design bespoke suits in both Florentine and Neapolitan styles – the brothers are originally from southern Italy – but Piero’s knowledge and experience reaches far beyond the tailoring field. He was heavily invested in the promotion of culture and artisan production in Florence, and was a key architect in developing relations between Florence’s fashion-craft industry and the city’s tailoring trade. Today, Cisternino’s loyal clientele will happily endure fittings that take four or five days.
Sartoria Corcos - East meets West
While tailoring houses run by local families are in the majority in Florence, there are also designers who have moved to Italy from elsewhere. One example is Japanese-born Kotaro Miyahira of Sartoria Corcos, who arrived in Florence at the age of 20 to learn more about the art of bespoke tailoring, having worked first in his native Osaka. ‘Since I was a teenager I have thought how special the suit was. In comparison to other clothes it seemed so difficult to master,’ explains the designer, who worked at tailor Sartoria Seminara as well as with the Prato-based tailor Francesco Guida.
Characterised by a wide lapel, with a straight line down to the button, there is a softness to a Corcos suit, a ‘lightness and familiarity’, which Miyahira says is what drew him creatively to the tailors of Florence, with their ‘very soft canvas and a cut that gives a natural impression’. Miyahira’s suits are in the Florentine style, albeit with an oh-so-slight modern slant that comes from his early training in Asia.
While these tailoring houses have always enjoyed business from a specific demographic of client, both Liverano & Liverano and Corcos have noted a wider demand for a tailor-made suit in recent years. Miyahira sees the Florentine style of tailoring as ‘the opposite to the urbanised power suit’, while for Ruggi the growing interest in bespoke is down to people looking for ‘well-made garments after decades of fashion brand dictatorship’. Ruggi is also careful to point out the creative influence of the tailor when it comes to customer preferences, adding that, ‘Sometimes this process can last a long time, but usually Signor Liverano’s taste has the final say.’
Ultimately, however, the growing appeal of Florentine made-to-measure garments points to a shift in fashion’s hierarchy. As the industry becomes more of a see-now-buy-now marketplace, the love and skill that goes into creating something unique that takes many months to complete seems all the more precious, and all the more desirable.