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Made-to-Measure: An Interview With Master-tailor Augusto Cantone

Renowned Italian tailor Augusto Cantone travels the world, taking the measurements of those in the market for a quality made-to-measure suit. This past weekend, Cantone paid a visit to Ermenegildo Zegna’s shop in the First Mall at the Four Seasons hotel in Giza, where he measured customers and spoke to Al-Masry Al-Youm about the tricks of his trade.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: What is a made-to-measure garment?

Cantone: It’s a service that provides the customer with a suit that thoroughly fits his body, made with an exclusive fabric and cut in his favourite model. I’ve come to Cairo every six months since the shop opened in the Four Seasons mall some three years ago.

I think it’s important to create a close relationship between client and tailor. I try to make this experience fun for the costumer. And since the Italian and Egyptian mentalities are very similar, the whole process is very enjoyable.

Al-Masry: Can you describe the main steps involved in producing a made-to-measure garment?

Cantone: First I show the customer samples of the various high-quality fabrics available. Then I start working on the pattern and the details the customer wants to add to his made-to-measure suit. For example, the client can choose a classic jacket or a double-breasted one, with one, two or three buttons, no flap, one flap on the back or two flaps on the sides, etc.

We have several standardized patterns and models that are displayed in a book. Customers choose from these, adding their particular preferences. Of course, I try to advise them about the best-fitting and most stylish models.

Then we match the selected pattern with the fabric before taking the client’s measurements. We have a set of standard-sized garments that the client tries on, according to his measurements, which helps us balance the jacket and the comfort and adjust the length of the jacket if the client wishes it. This lasts about an hour.

Then all this information is put in a file that is sent to our main office in Switzerland, where the production process begins. It usually takes six to seven weeks for the made-to-measure suit to be sent from Switzerland to the shop, where another fitting session is undertaken to ensure that the garment is a perfect fit. If any detail or small change is needed, it can be done locally.

Of course, all measurement details are registered in the shop’s database in order to expedite the process, should the client return six months later for a new made-to-measure suit.

Al-Masry: Which step in the entire process is the most important?

Cantone: It’s definitely the choice of fabric, which represents the starting point of any high-quality garment. The Zegna Company was originally born as a fabric producer, establishing its wool mill in Trivero, Italy in 1910. Every year, they produce some two million meters of the finest fabrics to supply the company’s 522 shops worldwide.

By producing our own fabrics, we make sure to use superfine qualities that are the finest to the touch. We have fabrics for every purpose — for day-use; for evenings; light-weight ones for the summer; and heavier-weight ones for the winter. We also have a wide range of high-twisted fabrics that are crease-resistant, along with a platinum fabric that is the most luxurious fabric available. In total, Zegna has 800 different fabrics available to match each costumer’s particular taste.

Al-Masry: Do costumers generally go for classic styles? Or are they looking for something more original?

Cantone: Most suits are made for business or special occasions, so the need is mainly for suits in the classic style — but fashion, of course, also comes under consideration. For example, Zegna’s made-to-measure proposal for autumn-winter 2010 creates a subtle balance between purple and light grey, giving a simple suit a very contemporary twist.

For menswear, you needn’t add too many changes to the suit’s general aspect — but you can get creative in the details, by, for example, mixing a double-breasted jacket with a nice tie and a matching shirt. You don’t have to be too extravagant to make a difference. But we also offer a range of eccentric models as well.

Al-Masry: How much does this extra service add to the final price of the suit?

Cantone: It’s a bit more expensive. You have to add an extra 10 to 15 percent to the price of a ready-to-wear suit. But the price is certainly not doubled — that’s why my two-day trip to Cairo has been so busy!

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