Kiton suits aren’t new, but the Neapolitan tailoring label exists in a rarified space for the best handmade clothing and accessories
The name Kiton is synonymous with luxury, but it’s first and foremost about quality. This has little to do with ostentation, but is something that perceptive, in-the-know people notice. It’s the opposite of flamboyance and pretension, which in the age of Instagram, are the qualities that drive so much of the mainstream apparel industry today.
The Best Suits in the World
We wanted to understand more about the history and ethos behind the label, so we reached the brand in Naples to answer a few questions…
There are many Neapolitan fashion brands that make men’s suits. Kiton suits are arguably some of the most respected and recognizable. Why is that, do you think?
I like to imagine our company as a sort of a Michelin-starred restaurant. The quality of the product is ensured by the ingredients, the hands that create it, and the eyes that scrutinize it. The quality of the product is the result of meticulous research work. Kiton is all this and more.
Hand-basting a jacket or using a high-quality fabric are not sufficient on their own. Today Kiton is continuing the work begun by its founder, my uncle Ciro Paone, who decided fifty years ago to internationalize Kiton suits.
Our competitive advantage undoubtedly lies in fabrics. We are renowned for the vast range of fabrics we provide and the intrinsic quality of our yarns.
Thanks to our woollen mill, we can offer truly exclusive fabrics, made by Kiton for Kiton suits (and casual collections) and available only at our boutiques and leading multi-brand stores worldwide. Moreover, our garments are made by highly-skilled tailors who can meet all our clients’ requests.
Neapolitan Tailoring – A Brief History
We love Kiton’s values, such as obsession, family spirit, and respect for the city of Naples. What makes Neapolitan style so distinctive?
Naples has a tradition of tailoring whose origins go back centuries and can be traced back to 1351, the year when the Confraternity of Tailors was founded. During the splendor of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Naples was a magnificent capital, the European hub of fashion and clothing together with London and Paris. It was in the fifteenth century that the first wool and silk factories flourished in Naples, encouraging the development of a school of Neapolitan tailoring.
By about 1600, 607 Neapolitan tailors were registered in the Confraternity of Tailors. After a brief period of decline, due to the difference between clean, linear European fashions which clashed with the sumptuous tastes of Naples, Neapolitan tailoring succeeded in reinventing itself through exceptional manual skills and the refinement of the fabrics, until it attained the excellence which is now acknowledged worldwide.
The development of the art of tailoring was also encouraged by special climatic factors which led to the need to have a jacket that was light and comfortable to wear.
What makes Kiton suits and garments so special? Can you give us a few details that we may not know?
Our artisanship and creativity are geared to attaining a clear objective: to exalt the privilege, day after day, of pleasing oneself. The uniqueness of a Kiton garment begins from the fabric, created in the company’s own woollen mill where the rarest, finest yarns are woven according to elaborate techniques, where the colors reflect the shades chosen by the client from an infinite range of combinations.
Then the tailors come into play, each one in charge of finishing a particular phase, with expertise and passion, according to the canons of the collection and the specific requirements of the absolute sovereign of the details: the person who will wear the garment. The fabrics are cut and basted by hand.
The procedure is never done by machine which would end up constraining the fabric, restricting movement and dynamism, removing air, and the harmony which is provided by the artisanal touch, eliminating, as if by magic, any imperfection that a body may conceal.
Together with fabrics and procedures, the third vital component consists of accessories like the lining and the buttons: they all merge into one. They are result of the company founder’s love of beauty. They are the expressions of the honored Neapolitan tradition of tailoring, shorn of its excesses to gain international fame as an icon of class and style.
What is the story behind the red details/logo?
The red dot of our logo is a flight of fancy; it is like the Sun that rises every day, filling our hearts with strength and energy.
In 2000, Kiton launched its Tailoring School. Broadly speaking, even though global style has become more casual, why do you think there is such a demand for “slow,” hand-crafted garments?
Until last year, it seemed that social trends consisted of spending increasing amounts of time in public spaces and meeting places. Nowadays, the home has once more become the central focus and its exclusively residential function has expanded, making it both a workplace and a place for spending free time.
As a result, clothing has also changed, eliminating the distinction between formal wear and home wear. This change has also influenced our approach to styling and design: while keeping our philosophy of tailoring firmly intact, we have significantly upgraded our more comfortable garments, previously designed only for leisure wear.
The more private dimension of our lives has had an impact on the conceptual rigidity of formal suits, leading to a new style. This is the unstructured suit, designed to be worn by Kiton men on various occasions, with a softer, lighter silhouette. Trousers now have a softer waistline, borrowing the elastic and drawstring from joggers, but with a soft, tailored structure at the hips and slimmer at the bottom.
The jackets, which, as always, are made of precious, exclusive cashmeres, are perfectly constructed but are now even softer and come with a raised collar for an even more casual look. The jacket, which is carefully tailored with 4 ply cashmere, almost becomes a knitwear garment, capable of enveloping the body and accompanying it with complete freedom of movement.
No longer just a work garment, the jacket is transformed into a sort of pullover which Kiton men can wear in their free time.
What raw materials do you use, and what are the pros and cons of each one?
Each collection encapsulates a story of style and quality. The essential starting point is the quality of the fabrics. They are a source of constant research and a crucial moment of inspiration.
At Kiton they are a subject known off by heart, the result of a marvelous experience stretching back seven generations which Ciro Paone himself learned to refine day by day, working in his uncle’s shop ever since he was a boy. He handed down this passion and knowledge to his heirs and assistants, obstinately adhering to several core principles: the use of natural fibres, the only ones suitable for creating clothes of the highest quality and handmade products to ensure their delicacy and elegance.
This approach was capped off in 2009 with the purchase of a woollen mill with a sixty-year history. The mill has become a laboratory for unremitting experimentation on patterns, textures, blends, dyes and weaves. The following are just some of our show-piece fabrics you’ll find on Kiton suits.
Vicuña: this is the most precious, eagerly sought-after yarn in the world due to its rarity, lightness and pliability, its softness and thermal capacity. Its excellence merges with myth and the glorious and troubled history of peoples and civilisations that have vanished; it is a much-appreciated yarn which has been of iconic importance to Andean cultures since time immemorial.
This type of wool has become a symbol of sophistication in terms of touch and lightness, the basis of a story linked to the highest concept of bespoke tailoring. In 2012 the Pure Vicuña Yarn project (“Progetto Filati di Pura Vicuña Pur”) culminated in the development of our certified system which has led to the creation of unique kinds of Vicuña with the invention of textured, dyed Vicuña, Summer Vicuña, Denim Vicuña and Jacquard Vicuña.
12.8 micron wool: the finest wool in the world is a Kiton exclusive. The finest fabric ever made is produced in the Carlo Barbera woollen mill: only 12.8 microns.
It is a masterpiece of lightness and sensibility, an ultra-micron wool which is only comparable to the previously mentioned vicuña yarn, ideal for creating completely unstructured jackets with a soft, smooth touch. This incredible fibre is used to make bespoke suits designed for connoisseurs who are constantly on the look-out for quality, comfort and sartorial perfection.
13.2 micron wool: suitable for making half-lined or unlined suits, this wool is a luxury sartorial fabric that requires the production times of a hand-crafted garment. It is extremely soft and loose-fitting, the ideal fabric for unstructured suits and perfect for wearing in the in-between seasons period.
Cashmere: Soft, shiny and of noble pedigree: Kiton cashmere is a fabric with unique characteristics. It has excellent thermal properties, as well as being soft and light. 4 ply cashmere is ideal for the classic jacket that can be worn on any occasion: it is a timeless, elegant and sophisticated garment which can also become the main feature of informal and everyday outfits.
Fine and impalpable, it can be worn at any time of year, thanks to the insulating properties of the fibre which enable the body to breathe, maintaining a constant temperature.
Lastly, we have recently consolidated the role of jersey fabric in our new collections. Woven using circular knitting machines with a single cylinder of needles, jersey fabric has extraordinary stretch and recovery properties. This yarn plays a crucial role in responding to a specific stylistic requirement based on the concept of “relaxed elegance”.
What’s the quintessential Kiton garment (for men and also for women)— and what would be a good one to start with?
For men, the iconic garment is unquestionably the Kiton suit, a tailored design of the highest quality.
The distinctive features of Kiton suits are the cut, the construction, the style, the fine fabrics and a new formal language which is increasingly open to other influences: the powerful aesthetics are renewed by rewriting the codes of male elegance.
With regard to Kiton for women, the two most popular garments and best-selling items are the jacket and the coat which have extraordinary wearability and hand-crafted tailoring enhanced by tactile and visual hedonism. Each garment is hand-cut, one by one.
I said that the basis and inspiration lie in the yarns of Kiton menswear. For womenswear, imagination is given free reign and becomes a form of unbridled pleasure, a creative delight, thanks to the inserts made of suede, fur, cotton and leather.
The linings are made of pure, glistening silk, with a huge range of colors to choose from. The buttons are made of mother-of-pearl or corozo. The garments themselves are gems, treasures that are as unique as precious stones.
Kiton expanded its production into womenswear in 1995. How does designing clothes for women sometimes differ from menswear? In what ways is it similar?
We’ve now gained over 20 years’ experience in creating complete haute couture outfits which meet the requirements of women for all occasions, whether formal or informal, elegant or relaxed. Inspired by men’s tailoring, our know-how and passion, the trademarks of the Kiton fashion house, have been transferred to the desires and, dare I say it, whims of our female customers.
Due partly to the coherent style it has opted for from the very outset, despite renewing its garments each season, the Kiton women’s collection has always been designed to appeal to dynamic women with strong personalities, who do not pay attention to brand names or logos but to the tradition of tailoring it brings with it.
It marks the return of the magic associated with a garment that is worn to please oneself, not others. A way of pampering oneself, rather than a form of ostentation. It’s a second skin, that’s how I’d define it.
Compared to the world of menswear, Kiton women are characterized by the forms and volumes of their garments, as well as the creation of looks based on styling with a broader vision of the concept of the collection.
Impacts of COVID-19 on Italian Tailoring
Though the last year has been highly challenging—can you name one positive thing that has come out of the pandemic, for you personally or for the Kiton suits business?
Clothing has recently become one way of pampering yourself. It’s more important how you feel when wearing it rather than how you look in it.
In general, the outbreak of the epidemic has given new impetus to technological innovation and sustainability in terms of the transparency of the manufacturing process and the attention to the environment, and resilience. By this, I mean the capacity of entrepreneurs and managers to overcome crises or difficult periods.
Tourists have been coming to Italy for years to discover new (and old) names in luxury fashion accessories. Why do you think Italians are so good at design and craftsmanship?
We Italians have remarkable aesthetic sensitivity. We are the children of the Renaissance, one of the moments of greatest splendor in the history of humanity. Allowing for obvious differences, we are nevertheless the heirs of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. We are the country of Enzo Ferrari. Italy is synonymous with beauty, culture, design and creativity.
The importance of Italian products undoubtedly lies in their authenticity. In other words, Italian companies have a long history, strong links with the territory and make products that are the result of know-how and expertise. The concept of tradition is an important one, in terms of family and territorial values.
As an insider, what are your favorite places in Naples to eat, go for an aperitif, and go shopping? What about your favorite bars? And the best historic/tourist sites? Are there any places you would suggest our readers shouldn’t miss if they visit (when we can travel more freely again)?
My favorite restaurant is “Da Dora”, located in the center of Naples. I think it is the best place to enjoy fresh fish. If I think of an aperitif, however, “Il Pirata” comes to mind, a stunning location in Sant’Angelo, a seaside village in the heart of Ischia, one of the islands of the Neapolitan archipelago. I would definitely recommend to visit Sant’Angelo.