Canali brings made-to-measure style to Hong Kong
As made-to-measure suiting gains traction, Canali commits to a year-round service in Hong Kong, writes Abid Rahman
"There is a new attitude from the consumer. He likes to pamper himself, but he also likes to be pampered," says Elisabetta Canali, describing the sort of man who will use the made-to-measure (MTM) service at the newly opened Canali boutique on Pedder Street
A third-generation member of the Canali family, and group communications director of the family firm, she stops short of saying that MTM services and personalisation are the new luxury. But she definitely sees the rising trend for MTM in menswear as a way of asserting individuality and standing out from the crowd.
"The man who comes here wants to feel unique and also have unique experiences," she says. It might seem curious to call a suit-fitting a new experience, as most men will have to go through the process at least once in their lives.
But Canali is keen to stress that its MTM service is different, something that is very much a collaborative process between the customer and the tailor.
"Our customers feel part of the process and that is quite exciting for them. [They don't do it] to show off: people do like to have their name or initials on their clothes, but we put it inside the jacket away from view, and only they know," Elisabetta says, going on to list the different cuff, collar, button, and fabric options available.
Canali's MTM service in Hong Kong will be looked after by MTM manager and tailor Giorgio Ascheri, who has relocated to the city from Italy.
This a key difference to the approach of other menswear brands that offer MTM and bespoke services. It's more usual to fly out tailors two or three times a year for a hectic appointment-filled week than relocate a tailor.
By basing Ascheri in Hong Kong, Canali hope to build lasting relationships with customers by offering MTM all year round. "Customers definitely like the idea that I'm based here," says Ascheri, who adds that it makes his task of communicating the fundamentals of the MTM service easier.
This way, he says, there is more time to do fittings and direct the tailors back in Italy. "We have 600 fabrics for formal wear alone; 200 of those fabrics are classics that we call 'evergreen' and never change, and the other 400 change with fashions of the time. We have 150 fabrics for shirts," says Ascheri citing this huge choice as a key selling point for the brand.
Ascheri is keen to mention Canali's novel approach to MTM: "You have the two services, made to measure and bespoke. Bespoke is creating a suit from scratch, and made to measure is traditionally based upon 'master garments' that are altered. We decided to use what we already had in ready-to-wear [as a basis for the fittings]."
Canali has six different fittings in its ready-to-wear collection, and those fittings are already very good, Ascheri says. He emphasises that Canali is keen to build on this solid foundation and allow more time for personalisation and customisation.
This push to communicate more clearly what the brand stands for is a direct result of a project Elisabetta Canali instituted two years ago. "We did a survey a few years ago of our key markets, and we found that people didn't really understand the real quality of menswear. There was a lot of confusion in general. There was a lack of knowledge of the heritage, so we decided to communicate that more," she says.
To better express its identity, Canali tweaked the logo, adding the year of their establishment to the name, as well as a stylised needle and thread to the famous cursive "C" logo.
"The logo expresses our heritage, and there are few companies that are able to offer suits with the materials we use. We wanted the elements of the logo to highlight our heritage. So we added the date, as well as the needle and thread, to emphasise that what we do is handmade and high quality," she says.
This desire to stress Canali's heritage becomes even more understandable given its 80th anniversary next year.
Canali was established in 1934 by Elisabetta's grandfather and grand uncle. Her own father and uncle joined the business in the 1970s. Elisabetta and the third generation now run the company, with each taking a different executive role.
She feels lucky that Canali is still family run, and not part of a larger group or reliant on banks. As she says, "We can do what's right for us."
Next year will be a big year for the company. "A lot of things have happened over the past 80 years," says Elisabetta, but she stresses that Canali's values still remain the same. "The design, of course, and the image changed, but our values have not. The sartorial construction is still the key.
"My father's idea was to offer the customer the best sartorial suit possible. It meant that the construction of the suit or jacket used canvas instead of the fused method," she says, illustrating how, from the beginning, the label made their decisions based on quality and authenticity.
"I don't want to talk about other menswear, but if you look at cosmetics or womenswear, it's sometimes quite difficult to understand which image or visual belongs to which brand, as the way they communicate is pretty much the same. It's quite important to have your own, precise identity," she adds.
The MTM service gives consumers an opportunity to pursue this, but there are still some limits.
"We had someone come in and ask for a light green silk jacket with a palm tree print for a wedding, and we said "Sure'," says Ascheri. "But names on the back, like a football jersey? That's a 'no'."