A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Sunday, September 15, 2013

An Interview with Gianni Cerutti of Passaggio Cravatte

I recently made the acquaintance of Gianni Cerutti, one of the people behind Passaggio Cravatte. I don't think its hyperbole to say that the company produces some of the most beautiful ties in the world, made from vintage silks using techniques that have been passed down for over 100 years. An entirely bespoke operation, Gianni took some time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for An Uptown Dandy.

Gianni Cerutti of Passaggio Cravatte, 
indulging one of his other passions: bespoke tailoring.

Gianni, you have an interesting background for someone regarded as an artisan that crafts some of the world's most exquisite neckwear. Please tell the readers of An Uptown Dandy how you came to found Passaggio Cravatte.

Passaggio Cravatte was born 4 years ago, as a result of my passion for ties. It also came about from my dissatisfaction with the offerings available on the market at that time. The neckties were the same in from one store to the next - the same designs and the same colors. So I started to do some research on ancient silks and the process by which the prints were done by hand. And it was like a dream - I had been shown the way! The patterns were dandified, elegant, and unusual than what was currently being offered on the market. That's where it all started.

Since then, Passaggio Cravatte has become known throughout the world as a company comprised of artisans who retain knowledge of some of the "old ways" that ties were made at the turn of the last century. As someone with no formal training in tie-making, how did you come to learn and master these techniques?

We do everything ourselves just as it was done 100 years ago. Today, we keep these ancient traditions alive because of the passion and respect that I have for the old ways. We employ three seamstresses with decades of experience between them. They have made ties for some of the oldest fashion houses in Naples. And their mothers were bespoke tie-makers. So they know exactly how the ties were made 100 years ago. It is a joy to watch them work, and in fact they have been teaching me the art of cutting, centering the drawings, and ironing, which I'm interested in because of my desire for precision and perfection.

We literally strive to produce the most perfect tie available anywhere. And so we believe that ,while we are producing a truly exquisite product for the discerning gentleman, we should always aim for perfection. This is why we specialize in the true, ancient 7-fold style. This is an unique model which dates back to the early 1900s - it is unlined, made without the use of any machinery, and is hemmed entirely by hand. And we are the only tie-makers in Italy that can make this vintage 7-fold tie using a single piece of silk. Today, all ties are made with 3 pieces of silk.

At the same time, Passaggio Cravatte has almost become synonymous with the use of a wide variety of wonderful vintage prints and grenadines. Looking at your own blog, Monsieur Bespoke (link here), its clear that you have a passion for the textures and patterns of different fabrics. Have you always had an interest in that regard? Is it difficult to source the vintage fabrics that you use?

Its very difficult to find vintage silks printed by hand even 50-60 years ago. But our research in this area is extensive. We are always looking in both Italy and England. But there is a high standard for a vintage silk to be used by Passaggio Cravatte. It must have the ability to excite. I look for lively silks with intricate details. Obvious or trivial designs do not interest me particularly. This is because I want my clients to wear something that will distinguish him from the masses, and have him looking his very best at every event.

For the most part, Passaggio Cravatte is known as a bespoke tie-maker, but are there also ready-to-wear offerings available to interested customers?

Today, we are the only tie-maker in Italy that is purely a bespoke operation. We do not make any ready-to-wear products. Everything is custom made.

When the bespoke customer comes to Passaggio Cravatte, what tie configurations are available to choose from?

The customer chooses the fabric, texture, pattern, type of interior for the tie, size, monogram (if so desired), use family crests (if so desired), the type or number of folds, as well as the color of the rear beam.

What are some of the things that you would normally advise the bespoke customer on when looking at tie configuration and the wide variety of fabrics to choose from?

The customer, who I treat almost like a pampered son, say you use the faded in choosing its silks. The choice is usually made on an emotional level. It is something that you just feel when you see the silk for the first time. It it doesn't hit you in a certain way, then I would be inclined to say that I don't like it for that customer. This all occurs in a matter of seconds.

But the model and structure choice is all dependent upon the fabric chosen. If the fabric is of limited availability, that will determine which model and interior design is possible. At the same time, certain fabrics lend themselves to certain folds and configurations.

What are the primary differences between the 1900's-style 7-fold that you've become known for, and what one might refer to as the "modern" 7-fold configuration?

Today, everyone refers to what is really a "4-fold" tie as a "7-fold" tie. The 4-ply was created sometime after 1950. The original 7-fold that we specialize in, which not many people are familiar with, dates back to the early 1900s. To put it simply, the authentic 7-fold is not for everyone - its really for aficionados and lovers of the necktie, because that configuration is much more open in the back, without the internal structure that most men are familiar with.

The authentic 7-fold is entirely unlined and hemmed by hand. This is done by necessity, because if the 7-fold was lined it would simply be too heavy, and create too much stress to the neck. So the vintage 7-fold is actually lighter than a "normal" 3-fold tie. Instead, the 4-ply tie is made with less silk than the vintage 7-fold, which takes less time to make, and can then be lined. This is a nice alternative, but I do not really like it when compared to the other options available.

What would you say are the more popular configurations amongst your clients? The standard 3-fold configuration? Or something a bit more extravagant? What would you say are the more popular fabrics at the moment? Is the tendency at the moment more towards the vintage silks?

Our customers love our vintage 7-folds. When a customer chooses another model, it is entirely my fault - that is because there might not be enough vintage fabric to make the 7-fold, or it does not work for the 7-fold configuration.

Generally, we have fabrics that are popular and not so popular. We are not really into the "seasonal collections" game, but our collections do offer a wide variety of fabrics and patterns to choose from because the vintage silks are all endangered. Because of that variety, we can always find some interesting vintage silks to show to our customers.

There is definitely a trend toward vintage silks, and to wearing different things with unique details. Many gentlemen seem to be tired of owning the same accessories as their colleagues.

Do you see Passaggio Cravatte making a push to expand the company's focus into other men's accessories in the foreseeable future? Or with the focus remain primarily on tie-making?

Passaggio Cravatte also makes bow ties, cummerbunds, and ascots. But I have a great passion for bespoke ties. Of course, we also make pocket squares made from vintage hand-printed silks. These fabrics are very old and very beautiful.

Please tell our readers how to place an order for one of your works of art. Can interested parties view your fabric samples online? Are ties available via your website or other Internet sites?

Ordering our bespoke ties by mail is very simple. Interested parties can send an email to info@passaggiocravatte.com. We will then send image files for all of our available fabrics. You can then choose the ones that you like. Then we discuss the model, configuration, interior, measurements, and all other bespoke customizations.

Are there any brick and mortar shops in the United States that currently stock Passaggio Cravatte ties? Do you have any trunk shows scheduled for the United States?

There are shops that sell our ties in the US. Sooner or later, we will also be doing a trunk show, but I can't say exactly when. It would have to be perfect, otherwise I would not want to do it. But one day we will.

Finally, if there was one common misconception about Passaggio Cravatte that you could correct here, what would it be?

I really don't think there is one. We just continue to strive to get better and better. The key is to continue to listen to our clients. The strength of Passaggio Cravatte lies in the experiences and passions of our customers for our product. It is only by doing this that we will continue to move forward into the future.

Well said. Many thanks, Gianni!


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