A gentleman’s tailor not only knows intimate details of his clients’ physiques — neck, waist, inseam and chest measurements — he’s also a confidant. Duca Sartoria founder Max Girombelli, a third-generation member of a family-owned fashion business, is one of the boys, who enjoys showing off his gentleman’s closet packed with jackets for business, formal attire, travel, yacht and beach, hunting and country, casual wear and cigar culture.
What the long, narrow room is really packed with is possibilities. For example, the inside pockets of a cigar jacket, allow a man to carry four coronas or three churchills, a cutter and lighter.
Girombelli thought women would also want the opportunity to customize their garments, so he introduced Duca Donna. Christina Zervanos, a marketing specialist with an entrepreneurial spirit, is the managing partner of the new women’s business. “An accent a woman may have wished for, such as the length of a cuff or the simple notion of a lipstick compartment, is now available.
Duca Donna, according to Girombelli, offers tailored pieces in luxury fabrics and with personalized details, some hidden and known only to the wearer, such as embroidered images, logos or messages on inside pockets, and quotes or sayings stitched under collars, and others visible on the garment, such as the size of a cuff or width of a lapel.
The experience of purchasing a made-to-measure product isn’t rushed, just as the four to five weeks it takes for Duca Donna’s tailors in Italy to make the garment, isn’t for the impatient. There’s choosing the fabric from some of the same mills as those used by Loro Piana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Cerruti and Drago Tessuti Sartoriali, as well as English fabric makers such as Holland & Sherry, John G. Handy and Dormeuil. More than so measurements are necessary to ensure the perfect fit, followed by fittings.
It’s all done with gioia di vivere with Buffalo mozzarella and pasta from Cipriani-catered lunches shared across the big work table at the atelier on the 15th floor of 6 East 45th Street in Manhattan.
It remains to be seen whether women are willing to pay a high premium for choosing the fabrics, colors and physical features, the creativity they can unleash with embroidery, and details such as pockets and compartments to suit their own needs. “The power of custom is that it allows a woman to celebrate her shape, style and aesthetic. That’s where our linings come into play,” said Zervanos.
Dacia Saporito, communications manager, showed a red cotton double-breasted blazer lined with leopard-print fabric that she designed for herself. “I envision this almost as a dress,” she said. “I’d wear it with very heavy black tights. On the inside pocket, I embroidered a glass with wine. Under the neck band, I wrote, ‘When somebody judges your path, lend them your shoes.'”
Keysha Cosme, the model who appears in Duca Donna’s advertising campaign, had a jacket made for her from navy Super 160 tone-on-tone pinstripe fabric. She chose “Love is life” for under the collar, and illustrations of playing cards with nude women on the lining fabric. “Her high-waisted pants were inspired by a corset style,” Zervanos said, “and she wanted a 10-centimeter heavy cuff.”
Duca Donna benefits from Sartoria’s know-how, skill and creativity. Saporito’s second jacket, an ivory single-breasted number with satin-covered buttons, has an eveningwear sensibility. The buttons on the sleeve are known as “kissing” buttons because they overlap slightly on each other, which Girombelli said is a sign of made-to-order, compared with buttons that lie flat, side by side, which reeks of off-the-rack.
Girombelli took over an old made-to-measure atelier in Ancona and updated it for today’s consumers, before establishing the Manhattan studio.
“We want to redefine [tailoring] for women, Zervanos said. “We’re egalitarian in terms of body shape. We’re versatile — Dacia’s jacket show’s Duca Donna’s playfulness and versatility. The red jacket can be worn with a white T-shirt and boyfriend jeans. [At Duca Sartoria,] we’re creating a world inside a world.”