Even during the darkest days of the pandemic, custom tailor Paolo Martorano’s customers continued to dress — and place orders for bespoke suits.
He also bucked the norm by attracting a large number of customers who were not only bored during lockdown and wanted new clothes, but were unable to work with their Savile Row tailors who couldn’t come to the U.S. due to travel restrictions.
Even though restrictions have eased, Martorano remains as busy as he has ever been since starting his business five years ago and is on track to more than double 2021 sales, which were also double those in 2020.
Although bespoke will continue to be his primary emphasis, Martorano will expand into made-to-measure in September, setting him up for a boost in business.
Although he’s still only 30 years old, Martorano is one of the last remaining American-born custom tailors in the U.S.
The Bellmore, New York, native comes from a long line of tailors, four generations deep on his father’s side, and started learning the trade in high school when he worked as an apprentice for Alan Flusser. He went on to Paul Stuart, where he helped quadruple the retailer’s made-to-measure and bespoke business during a seven-year stint before joining Dunhill as its bespoke/made-to-measure specialist for America. In fall 2017, he took the plunge and opened Paolo Martorano Bespoke.
Initially the business shared a space with the luxury made-to-order/bespoke English shoe brand Gaziano & Girling in the upscale residential/commercial business at 130 West 57th Street, which houses other custom tailors including Huntsman and Cat and The Dandy. But around Thanksgiving, he moved into his own space in the building.
There he meets with his well-heeled clients, who include wealth management executives who are drawn to his aesthetic that is a blend of American and English tailoring with a natural shoulder, slightly roped sleeve, high armhole and no drape in the chest.
It is this look that he will replicate as closely as possible in the new made-to-measure offering.
“You have to like the look I deliver,” he said, adding that he has no intention of changing his aesthetic to copy that of other custom tailors in the U.K. or Italy. And although the price will be significantly less — made-to-measure will open at $4,500 while his bespoke garments start at $7,500, with the average order around $9,000 — the silhouette will be similar.
“We spent seven months copying the lapels, the armhole — the overall silhouette of the garment,” he said.
While the bespoke garments — he offers sport coats, outerwear, formalwear, shirts, hunting jackets, shorts, waistcoats and even gilets in addition to suits — are manufactured in New York as well as London, the made-to-measure will be created by his team of artisans in the States.
Although he still works alone, he’s looking for someone to help him with the made-to-measure. For his bespoke business, Martorano travels extensively to meet with clients in Florida and elsewhere — even more frequently during the pandemic when he rode on nearly empty airplanes to visit customers. Palm Beach, Florida, alone represents nearly 50 percent of his business.
During the pandemic, these customers opted for lighter-weight fabrics such as linen that were more casual, but “they were still dressing up, going to the office and out to restaurants and country clubs,” he said.
The goal of introducing made-to-measure is to expand his reach, Martorano said, especially among younger customers.
“The price point is high,” he acknowledged, “but we’ve gotten correspondence from people who are interested in a more entry-level price.” He said he hopes to attract men who have an appreciation of the intricacies of bespoke and the skill of patternmakers, but don’t want to wait months for their garments to arrive. The made-to-measure garments take around six to eight weeks to be completed while bespoke can take three to four months.
With rare exceptions, the made-to-measure customer will also have access to the approximately 6,000 fabrics offered to the bespoke customer. And in addition, he said: “They know that buying made-to-measure from a bespoke tailor, their garments will fit perfectly.”
Martorano said during the pandemic, he found that men who were new to Instagram discovered him and his business through that channel. “There were a lot of guys who didn’t do social media before who joined Instagram during the pandemic and started shopping with us through that,” he said. He found that existing customers would see a pattern they liked on one of his posts and place an order, sight unseen. “I never thought I would sell a $5,000 jacket through Instagram,” he said, “but that’s the new normal.”
Most of his new customers are under 45 and enjoy the relationship they’ve been able to develop with Martorano. “You’re not just buying a product, but a relationship with me,” he said.
As he prepares to move into made-to-measure, will Martorano consider working with one of the luxury retailers to set up shop in their stores, like Flusser and Domenico “Mimmo” Spano, who had locations in Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, in the past?
Martorano said he’s less likely to work with a large retailer on a permanent basis, but would consider visiting independent specialty stores in smaller markets a few times a year to offer his services.
“We deliver a look they can’t find anywhere else,” he said.