Paolo Martorano is an old soul.
A self-professed nerd who would rather spend his free time researching the origins of bespoke clothing than go to a football game, Martorano has developed the skills of a true artisan but is only 27 years old.
The Bellmore, N.Y., native comes from a long line of tailors, four generations deep on his father’s side, and started learning the ropes when he was in high school, working as an apprentice for Alan Flusser.
“In grade school, for whatever reason, I was always worried about being underdressed,” he said. “While browsing a bookstore in my early teens, I spied Alan Flusser’s seminal ‘Dressing the Man,’ and it literally stopped me in my tracks. My parents couldn’t understand my obsession and weren’t about to give me the money to buy the book. So, I started researching the subject on the Internet, got my first job, and purchased the book with my first paycheck.”
He moved on to Paul Stuart, where he helped quadruple the retailer’s made-to-measure and bespoke business during his seven-year stint. He then joined Dunhill as its bespoke/made-to-measure specialist for America. But in the fall of 2017, with the urging of several customers, he decided to branch out on his own and create Paolo Martorano Bespoke.
The first year was spent in a “very tiny office in an executive suite,” he said. “I was actually scared to bring my customers there. But it was all about the product, not a beautiful, glamorous space.”
His new space in an upscale residential/commercial building on 57th Street is a major step up. The building dates to 1908 and his showroom was once the apartment of Charlie Chaplin.
Martorano will be sharing the space with the luxury made-to-order/bespoke English shoe brand, Gaziano & Girling, which is opening its first U.S. flagship. The two companies will be hosting a grand-opening event tonight.
While hardly new, custom clothing has been gaining in popularity in recent years as everyone from Men’s Wearhouse to Indochino create personalized suit options for customers.
But Martorano’s process and aesthetic is much more intricate, blending the heritage of Savile Row with the bench-made tailoring techniques of Italy.
He uses “meticulous measurement, custom paper pattern and basted fitting” protocols to create bespoke garments that start at $5,500 while bench-made suits start at $7,500.
“Bench-made is our number-one seller,” he said of the garments created from start to finish by one person, adding that his customers “enjoy the consistency” the process provides. But for every customer, the pattern is individual.
While he descends from Neopolitan tailors, he finds that aesthetic too casual for New York. Instead, his suits are a blend of American and English tailoring with a natural shoulder, slightly roped sleeve, high armhole and no drape in the chest. He’s also a fan of a wide lapel buttonhole, the size of which he calculates by the width of the wearer’s shoulder.
“My favorite part of a jacket is the inside that no one sees,” he said, pointing out the linings that are sewn in by hand.
Everything is made locally, allowing for a faster turnaround. Because of his decade-long experience working in New York City, Martorano has amassed a Rolodex of who he believes to be the best individual pattern makers, cutters and tailors in the area and he sought them out to work with him on his brand. So for a premium, he can deliver a bespoke suit in three weeks, but the usual turnaround is six to eight weeks.
And despite the price — which is comparable to high-end competitors such as Huntsman and Kiton — Martorano has been busy. “Last year I saw more than 200 people,” he said. “I’m as busy as I was at a large flagship on Madison Avenue.”
In addition to suits, he also offers custom sport coats and shirts as well as trousers, which he said are his “biggest category.” They retail for around $1,200.
Unlike many upscale custom brands, Martorano doesn’t look down on the low-price custom suit makers, saying their fans may eventually become his customers, many of whom are young financial executives.
In fact, many of Martorano’s customers are in their late 20s or early 30s and work in the wealth management business. “My best customer is 35 years old,” he said. “I made 20 suits for him last year.”
And his customers are loyal.
“Paolo’s sophisticated eye rivals many of bespoke’s most seasoned veterans. His attention to detail is unsurpassed,” said J. Scot Tyson, managing director of CIBC Private Wealth Management.
Perhaps Tyson not only relates to Martorano’s skill level but his young age and social media presence as well. Like other Millennials, he has embraced Instagram to promote his business and has already amassed a solid following of nearly 10,000 people.
“This business involves a lot of visualization, and Instagram is great for that,” he said.