On occasion, Off the Cuff welcomes contributions from the eternally elegant Hugo Jacomet, of the equally swanky blog Parisian Gentleman.
Today, we are delighted to publish the English translation of an article written by Paul, a loyal PG reader. Ripense is a Roman bespoke label not widely known in France or the United States, but which, according to our reader/reporter, is worth visiting for the impeccable quality of its work on suits, shirts and even shoes.
This excellent article also reminds us that there are many, many craftsmen who produce clothing, footwear and other luxury goods equal to, and frankly often superior to, the mass-market luxury brands so familiar to us. Don’t just opt for a well-financed advertising campaign, look for quality, reputation, detail and dedication to craft. Yes, it takes time and a little courage. And sometimes it’s more expensive, but sometimes surprisingly less so.
The RIPENSE House in Rome
By Paul F.
A few meters away from the Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps sits the boutique that has impressed me the most since I have become interested in the craftsmanship and making of bespoke clothing.
La Via di Ripetta is not on the itinerary list of the typical tourist, even though it is located only a street away from la Via del Corso.
In fact, my steps were guided to this street by a Christmas present: the excellent Vuitton travel book 2010 for Rome, which includes a section on men’s clothing stores worth visiting.
The article raved about the Ripense house and mentioned it could grant one’s every wish: from shirt to shoe horn or elegant umbrella, a cashmere sweater, or a pair of crocodile shoes.
I may venture into saying that my knowledge of bespoke has increased throughout the years, since I acquired my first JLR shirts and my Handson suit.
I’ve since tried JLR, Tailorstore, Tailormail, Lucca, Courtot, Charvet and Ripense shirts as well as Handson, Smuggler, Marc Guyot, Michael Ohnona, David Diagné, Gieves and Hawkes, Camps de Luca and Ripense suits.
To me, Ripense offers by far the best value for the money spent among all of them. Case in point: A Loro Piana super 160 suit for 2500 €.
Of course one must add Paris/Rome round trips to the bill, but let’s all agree that there are more unpleasant constraints in life than meandering through the steep streets of Italy’s capital.
Right from the start, the window display is a delight to look at and hints at all the choices that amateurs of sartoria will find behind the doors.
I rang the doorbell and was greeted by an older man who had quietly climbed the stairs from the basement workshop to greet me in Italian. I knew very little Italian back then and we instantly felt that things could get complicated.
But Gian Luca Bocache, in charge of the shoes, speaks just enough French and English to allow us to talk about their skills and what they could do for me. This is how, 4 hours before I was scheduled to depart from the city, I entered in the small boutique thinking I was only going to spend 30 minutes talking. I left 3 hours later after ordering a double-breasted blazer, a cashmere sweater, a pair of bespoke shoes and an incredibly light ready-to-wear shirt.
Then, the pleasant man introduced me to Andrea Luparelli, tailor and in charge of taking measurments: a perfectly tanned Italian with a roman accent. They both had undeniable chic, and I was not surprised to later find them photographed by The Sartorialist during the Pitti Uomo.
Even though Andrea speaks neither English nor French, we understood one another immediately.
When I gestured my preference for high arm holes, very fitted jackets and slim sleeves, his wide smile was enough to convey that the style of the house would fit my taste perfectly.
To show me their work, Andrea guided me through the basement workshop where the Neapolitan tailors created thier magic. I tried on a jacket made for a man whose body shape was close to mine: a royal blue double-breasted jacket with two buttons. Up until that point, I had always been adamant that I would never venture into DB jackets before the age of 30. In only 5 minutes, I understood that I was going to change my mind and order one. I added a su misura cashmere sweater and a pair of shoes to my order.
A month later, I met with Andrea and Gian Luca in a Paris hotel near the Sorbonne for my fittings. I was pleasantly surprised that they had come all the way to Paris for free, but I still went back to Rome in mid-July for a second fitting.
Pictures are often worth a thousand words and I leave it up to you to assess the first “draft”. It exceeded my expectations, but the length of the sleeves needed to be shortened (please disregard the shirt that I wear on this photo, I had to borrow it for my fitting).
The first shoe fitting revealed the need for more intense work, including in length and in width, and I feared that I would be disappointed at the next fitting. But Gian Luca quickly showed me that the praise from Vuitton was well-deserved: the shoes are perfect and absolutely comfortable.
At my first fitting in Paris, I also ordered a midnight blue wool suit (super 160 Loro Piana) and a zephyr cotton bespoke shirt.
I was back in Rome last weekend, and what I tried on surpassed all my expectations. The suit and vest are pure bliss to wear and they feel like a second skin and give me complete freedom of movement like I have never felt before (my Camps de Luca suit is still not finished).
To describe my Ripense experience, I would simply say that it is what I consider sartorial perfection. I know that bespoke is a very subjective experience, but I probably have found a house that will follow me for a very long time. I simply urge you to go in and talk to these artisans who offer their Italian talent and skills at a very attractive price. Paul F. July 2010.
Loro Piana super 160′s suit: 2500€
Swiss cotton shirt: 260€
Cashmere sweater: 380€
Bespoke shoes: from 1000 € *
Crocodile belt: from 500€ *
DB Blazer (Holland & Sherry): 1700€
* Since this article was first put on line, Ripense has adjusted some prices quoted by the author, including for shoes and crocodile belts.