At Ezra Cayman Bespoke Couture, the search for fine fabrics is a borderline obsession, and we pride ourselves on having one of the broadest and most comprehensive collections of fine fabrics for suits and shirts anywhere in America. In this article, we will share some of our favorite fabric mills from around the world and shed some light on the process behind their products. If you’ve ever shopped at Brioni or Kiton and wondered where their fabrics come from, or browsed fabrics with a tailor and wondered why suits range from $5,000 to $50,000 depending upon the fabric, then this article is for you!
Someday we’d love to write a post exploring everything from Jiangxi silk to fabrique de Nimes (denim) but, for sake of brevity, we will focus this post on the best mills/merchants for suiting and shirting fabrics. Also, before we begin, we should note the distinction between mills and merchants; in England, for example, there are fabric merchants which you’ve probably heard of, like Dormeuil and Scabal, but those fabrics are actually made by the fabric mills Pennine and Bower Roebuck, respectively (and it would not be uncommon to see fine fabrics being made for Dormeuil and Dugdale on side-by-side looms at Pennine). In short, fabric mills make the fabric and merchants brand the fabric and sell it to tailors and menswear designers. In Italy, vertical integration is more common and many brands, like Ermenegildo Zegna and Vitale Barberis, are both merchants and mills (and sheep farmers, for that matter). However, in order to simplify things, we will refer to both brands that make their own fabric and brands that employ others to do so as “fabric makers” in this article.
The world’s finest suits start with the world’s finest fabrics. At Ezra Cayman Bespoke Couture, a few of our favorite suit fabric makers include: Scabal, Dormeuil, Ermenegildo Zegna, Ariston, Loro Piana, Caccioppoli, Vitale Barberis, Marzoni, Holland & Sherry, Dugdale, Cerruti, Bateman & Ogden, Drago, Carlos Barbera, Guabello, Drapers, Carnet, Huddersfield, W Bill and Fox Brothers. While it’s no secret that most of the world’s best fabrics are milled in the UK and Italy, it is interesting to note that four of these fabric mills (Zegna, Loro Piana, Vitale Barberis and Guabello) are are all actually located in the same small town of Biella in the Italian Alps. There, the mountain rivers carry soft water that washes the mill’s wool and gives it a particularly soft finish that has made Biella the heart of the Italian woolen industry for hundreds of years.
Not all shirts are created equally. A few of our favorite shirt fabric mills include: Alumo, Bonfanti, Sictess, Canclini, Tessitura Monti, Grandi and Rubinelli, Thomas Mason, Albini, Carlo Riva. It is worth noting that, with the exception of Alumo and Thomas Mason, these are all Italian mills. And, while Alumo is probably our favorite mill of the bunch, the Italian cotton industry deserves a great deal of respect as it is nearly impossible to find cotton shirting of a comparable quality anywhere else in the world.
Venturing beyond wool, and into the fabric of the kings: The globalization of the fabric industry has led to incredible advancements in the use of exotic fur blend fabrics and in the technological processes applied to their production. Beyond sheep wool, top mills like Holland & Sherry, Scabal, Loro Piana and Zegna offer blended and pure cashmere, mink, silk, guanaco, and vicuna — the Peruvian “Fiber of the Gods” which, until recently, could only be legally worn by Incan royalty. Even today, it is so rigorously protected that only certain native tribes are allowed to harvest the fur, and it is in such limited supply that a blazer made of vicuna costs around $50k. Technological advancements in the fabric making process have also led to some incredible new fabrics over the last decade. For example, wool infused with diamond dust from Scabal, hydrophobic wool from Dormeuil that essentially turns your suit into a raincoat and real woven 24c gold fabric from Holland & Sherry (we used this gold fabric to make a pair of pants for a client a couple years ago because he was giving a speech about investing in gold). While these materials may not be practical for most people, a diamond dust tuxedo that makes you shine could be the perfect investment for your wedding or some other special once-in-a-lifetime event.
At Ezra Cayman Bespoke Couture, we are obsessed with tracking down all of the world’s finest fabrics to offer to our clients. We hope that this article sheds some light on the fascinating world of fabric production that is essential to the world of bespoke garment production. If we’ve left any great fabric mills out of this post, please contact us and let us know; we’d love to hear about them! And, if you’d like to see some of these fine fabrics and have a garment made, we’d love to hear from you!