Words by Mr Mansel Fletcher
Boglioli's super-soft handmade tailoring is one of the hottest properties in menswear. MR PORTER visited the label's factory in Brescia, northern Italy, to meet company president Mr Mario Boglioli and learn more about the brand.
A decade ago Mr Pierluigi Boglioli, the brother of Mr Mario Boglioli, had a big idea, which was to take the structure out of the classic tailored jackets that the family firm had been making over the course of four generations. It was a good time to have a big idea because at the height of the dotcom boom the very survival of tailored clothing seemed to be threatened. The result is that Boglioli jackets are infinitely more comfortable than traditional tailored clothes; they feel more like cardigans than blazers and inspire a completely different attitude in the wearer. This is the rarely understood key to dressing like the kind of stylish Italian guys the rest of the world so admires, but struggles to emulate.
However, it's not just the lack of structure that makes a Boglioli jacket special. The other tangible element is the fact that many of the clothes are garment dyed, which means that they're washed and dyed after they've been made, giving a quite different effect from making clothes from pre-dyed cloth. This is hard-won, as one in every 25 jackets is effectively a prototype; every 50m roll of cloth reacts slightly differently to the dyeing process.
Less tangible, but no less important, is the considerable degree of handwork goes into each jacket, and the fact that Boglioli is very much a family business. The issue of family ownership isn't just a nice snippet of knowledge (Mr Boglioli doesn't just know his employees, in many cases he also knows their families), as it means the company can afford to be more creative and playful than is usually the case. Meeting the charming Mr Mario Boglioli over a good lunch reveals that this is something that comes from the top.
A considerable degree of handwork goes into each Boglioli jacket
What is your background?
I come from a family of tailors - we're four generations in the tailoring business - and we've developed a culture over the years. Also in this area of Italy, around Piacenza and Parma, people like to live well and that includes dressing well.
What makes a Boglioli jacket special?
Aside from the comfort and the fit we do a lot of research into the fabrics, and you can feel the quality of it. We're also constantly researching the fit, asking how many millimetres to take in or let out. There's a constant dialogue between us and our clients.
To what extent do you run a family business?
I work with my brother [Mr Pierluigi Boglioli, who designs the collection], my wife, my sister and my brother-in-law. It's a constant collaboration, even when there are difficult moments. What we have is a strong family feeling - the family is our motivation.
What happened to the company that inspired you to innovate so radically?
In the 1980s my brother, Pierluigi, had the idea of garment dyeing. A decade ago he invented what is the unstructured Boglioli jacket of today, because at the time jackets were boxy and heavy.
What were you trying to achieve?
I ran a nightclub for 10 years and noticed that the young men who came to dance no longer wore jackets. I wore my first jacket at the age of 17, but I was worried my son wouldn't want to wear one until he was 37. We already had tailoring and we had casual luxury clothes, but we were the first to marry these two philosophies.
How was your idea received?
My father opposed it, but we were very lucky with our timing because the market was evolving, the dress-down look was developing and so we met the new need for something more relaxed and comfortable. This was where the world was going, and we could feel that - today even CEOs have no problem wearing a jacket without a tie.
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