Musella Dembech – Milan

DSC_1309

Musella Dembech, Milan.

Feeling at home in an atelier can be a difficult thing. Many tailoring houses portray a highly formal image and can be quite intimidating, particularly if you’re new to bespoke. The image is designed to convey a feeling of prestige and luxury, letting you know that you’re in a privileged place.

15

Musella Dembech heavyweight overcoat

Walk in to any of the newly renovated (now mostly foreign owned) famous houses of Savile Row and they’ve become indistinguishable from any other luxury boutique. This is intentional, as they trade off the history of the house by keeping their bespoke offering, knowing that the real money is being made in the recently commenced ready to wear lines.

Finished buttonhole

Finished buttonhole

A good tailor, however, is able to quickly make a customer feel at home and doing away with the austere front is a good way to do this. Few tailors have taken this as literally as Musella Dembech, the highly regarded Milanese family who work only by appointment from their apartment on via Celestino IV in Milan.

Being warmly greeted by Gianfrancesco (the new generation of Musella Dembech) and his mother Matilde (a sweet and friendly Italian “Mama”) as I walked in the front door was instantly disarming. Any concerns of feeling like an intruder were quickly set aside as I was taken in and shown the family home as we headed to the cutting room out the back to meet Francesco, who is Gianfrancesco’s father and the patriarch of the family.

The cutting room doubles as a fitting room, with jackets and trousers hung up on movable racks, set in between the tables where Gianfrancesco, Francesco and Matilde all work.

In recent years, Musella Dembech (now in its third generation) has gained an enviable reputation for both the quality and fit of their tailoring. As evidenced by the success at the likes of Antica Barbieria Colla, Ambrosi and GJ Cleverley, Gianfrancesco has brought the family’s expertise to a new generation, through the use of social media, connecting with new clientele and being able to speak fluent English (Francesco doesn’t speak any English, but with my so-so Italian we fumbled our way through, with Gianfrancesco helping with the occasional translation).

Francesco Musella Dembech

Francesco Musella Dembech

I would usually run through more on this history of the technical aspects of their style, as well as the history, but in this instance, I’ve let Gianfrancesco explain their heritage and aesthetic directly:

On the family history:
“My father started in Caserta at 9 years old under his grandfather’s atelier (Lorenzo Musella) who learnt with Blasi. At 14 years old he moved to Milano along with his brother and worked at first with the sartoria of Baratta Milano, and later with Giuseppe Colavito who had his sartoria at via della Spiga in Milano (heirs of the Cesare Tosi school – the original Milanese school).
Although the cut was very Milanese and very square he was doing the most unique work in Italy.
After perfecting his skills with Colavito, he worked alongside Mario Donnini (who had been the cutters assistant with the former Domenico Caraceni in Rome and he was renowned to be the most important cutter in Italy). My father worked with him for the most part of his working life, during the golden period of sartoria in Italy and stitched most of Gianni Agnelli’s double breasted jackets. That’s the reason why our double breasted jackets have the same lines of those world renowned jackets.”

Me, being cajoled into an overcoat by Francesco. Gianfrancesco doing as he’s told and Matilde keeping an eye on all of us.

On their house style:
“Our house style is the union of all these experiences along with our three generations of traditions in tailoring.
We mix the precision of the Milanese school with the softness of the southern method (AD edit: what is commonly known as Neapolitan tailoring) that can be summed up like being less artificial, a jacket that follows the natural lines of the body, more accentuating of the body, with soft but still structured shoulders and not choked in at the waist – without exaggerations of forms which are seen from most of today’s tailors.
For us, our garments must follow three characteristics (like softness, lightness in weight and flexibility) to adapt to the body’s anatomy.”

This is a dancers jacket, so the sleeve-head sits awkwardly with arms down, but when arms are up (as when dancing) the jacket sits cleanly and the body doesn’t rise. Not a bad fit, either, given it wasn’t made for me.

 

19

On technical elements of construction:
“Our work is made up in 24cms in the jacket and 24cm in the trousers. 50 cms are enough to define our jacket, because the upper part of the two, lines up everything else.
A small egg shaped armhole with a balloon style sleeve (that means a wider sleeve on a small diameter armhole) a triangulation between the front and the back gives the attachment of the jacket on the upper part of the body without raising when sitting or when moving. Our shoulders are never too wide and the lapels are never too high because they throw off the proportions with the head, causing the jacket to lose harmony.
The shape in the waist is not made by tightening up the jacket but with the method of working them. Elegance is not made of tight jackets, with too much open quarters and sloped shoulders. That is just what we call a “vestitiello”, a jacket that apes the taste of ready to wear and has nothing to do with Alta Sartoria.”
There is not a Milanese style, there is not a Florentine a Venetian a Neapolitan or Abruzzese or Sardo style. There is only Italian style, because it is not a name that classifies a tailoring work but is the overall sense and the expression of the work to make the style.”
23
{AD edit: Additional details include; slightly curved rear trousers pockets to follow the shape of the seat, unique button fastening to trousers to keep the stomach flat, closed front quarters on jackets to keep the style sober with the belt never showing, linen canvas (instead of camel hair) as it holds its shape very well even though it costs twice as much. An interesting final detail; seams are pressed open for 10 minutes with a heavy 7 kilogram iron, to ensure they sit completely flat and never try to move again}.
Pocket detail

Pocket detail

Trouser details

Trouser details

Heavyweight 7kg iron for pressing seams

Heavyweight 7kg iron for pressing seams

On his own development:
“I was enough fortunate to work with some of the old masters, to meet many of the old tailors and to listen to their great experiences in a world made of tailors. I started at 11. After school I learned for many years with my father and later helped him with making. I studied so long to comprehend our tradition, cut and expression of our style.
Everything that means to me being a tailor is passion, sacrifice, commitment and respect for what had been done by all the respected tailors in our tradition.”
Some of Musella Dembech's many vintage cloths

Some of Musella Dembech’s many vintage cloths

3

The last paragraph sums up Gianfrancesco, to me. Someone who, in a relatively short space of time, I have come to admire greatly. He is the real deal. A student of tailoring. Where others younger tailors may be excited by the luxury element achievable with a well run bespoke house, or others still interested in working with high profile clients, Gianfrancesco is interested in the art, history, spirit and purity of well executed bespoke tailoring. To sum up the sentiment I took away from meeting Gianfrancesco, Francesco and Matilde in a word – pride. They’re enormously proud of what they do and it’s palpable when speaking with them all. There’s a weight of history they carry with them and it comes out when speaking of their families achievements.
5
For those of us who are fortunate to be reasonably young and have the means to afford high quality bespoke tailoring, Gianfrancesco would be well worth meeting and beginning a relationship with. There is every chance that he will become one of the greats of his generation.
13\
18

Andrew is an Australian born writer, covering the world's leading bespoke tailors and craftspeople in menswear, with a focus on authentic quality, over branding. He spends most of his days running his successful (god knows how) consulting company and travels frequently to Europe for work and writing. He's a passionate cyclist, former trainee professional golfer and lover of all things Cocker Spaniel. He's married to his best friend and significantly better half, Mehri.

2 Comments

  • Reply August 13, 2017

    chris

    Andrew, until today (when I saw your post on Luciano gloves) I was a little concerned that you might have decided to stop blogging. Good to see you posting again. Now to my question – have you used Musella Dembech (as the article above seems more “interview style”)? Also, looking forward to an update on your CdL jacket when there’s anything to report. Thanks again for your articles.

    • Reply August 16, 2017

      Andrew Doyle

      Hi Chris,
      I should have put up an article saying I was taking a brief break. We’re starting a new business in Europe, have baby number one on the way in 8 weeks and we’re finishing renovations, amongst a few other things, so I had to hold off on the blog for a few weeks while we sorted everything out.
      Back on board now though.

      No commissions from Musella Dembech yet, but will likely do so when next in Milan and will organise something with Gianfrancesco.
      Had the fitting at Camps a fortnight ago, went well and will have that article up in the next few weeks.

      Cheers Chris.

Leave a Reply