Why Italian Tailoring Brand Kiton Has The Ultimate Bragging Rights
In the space race of quality that is the world of luxury menswear, few brands can claim to soar quite as close to the sun as Neapolitan tailor Kiton. The brand has been known under this name, which refers to the ancient Greek word khitōn, a kind of tunic worn during prayer, since 1968, but its history stretches back to 1956, when textile merchant Mr Ciro Parone founded the first incarnation of the company under the name CIPA.
In the intervening years, though it seems somewhat counterintuitive to say so, the house’s key innovation has been its strict adherence to making clothing the traditional way in an industry that, even at the high end, is becoming more industrialised. If you visit Kiton’s impressive factory in Arzano, as MR PORTER did in late 2019 to produce the video above, you will see a surprising dearth of machines, automatons, computerised gadgets and other 21st-century trappings. In their place, a heroic army of more than 400 tailors, trained in every step of the production process, from cutting to ironing, labour by hand on the brand’s superlative products, in a production line like no other.
The typical Kiton garment takes upwards of 25 hours to produce and is likely to be overseen by 150 people. Everything is done with traditional tools – chalk, scissors, needles and thread – and rather than repeating one process ad infinitum, the brand’s staff take up different stations depending on the day, so they develop true expertise by working on a wide variety of tasks and processes. Finding such multi-skilled tailors in the first place is not easy in the modern world, which is why, in 2001, Kiton established its own tailoring school. There, an elite selection of young recruits train for three years until the brand’s production manager judges them to be capable of completing about 50 per cent of the processes required to make a jacket. Many of the graduates then go on to work at the company, continuing its long legacy as a brand where traditional skills are not just kept alive, but in excellent condition.
“Part of the brand ethos has always been uniting long-established skills with the finest (and rarest) fabrics available”
This investment in tailoring expertise is a large part of what makes Kiton renowned as one of the highest quality tailoring brands in the world. But it doesn’t stop there. Part of the brand ethos has always been uniting these long-established skills with the finest (and rarest) fabrics available. In the past, this has meant scouring mills and auction houses across Italy and England, but in 2010, this dedication to excellence in fabric led to Kiton’s acquisition of the Carlo Barbera mill in Biella, which is now dedicated to producing the exclusive fabrics for the brand.
As for the products themselves, no, they are not cheap by anyone’s standards. But what is reflected in that price is not only the flattering Neapolitan cut or the excellent fabrics, but the days of painstaking hand labour, years of training and vast expertise that have gone into their construction and resulted in details, such as boat-shaped breast pockets that follow the curve of a jacket’s armhole or embroidered buttonholes hand-cut with a hammer and chisel, that you simply won’t find anywhere else.
To see for yourself how it all comes together – this, we guarantee, is something of a treat – click play on the video above, in which the brand’s production manager Mr Silverio Paone walks us through Kiton’s astonishing, time-honoured working processes.
Film by Mr Jacopo Maria Cinti