Turin-born Luca Faloni’s eponymous London-based company, since its founding in 2014, has garnered a reputation for the meticulous sourcing of materials from his native land – full grain leather from Santa Croce, linen from Italian mills, fine-yarn cashmere from Cariaggi, brushed cotton from Grandi & Rubinelli. Why is it so important? The reasons are manifold: starting with durability.
“The quality of material is often more important for men than for women because many women want different designs every season, different colours, while stylish men buy classic clothes they want to wear year after year,” explains Faloni, adding that, for either gender, comfort is another major advantage to clothes made from top-grade fabric.
“Take cashmere,” he says. “It’s preferable to wool for knitwear because the fibres are thinner and therefore the product is softer and less itchy. Also, its insulation properties can be anywhere between three and eight times better than wool, meaning you can wear a lighter garment but keep the same body warmth – and it keeps your body warm rather than making you hot.”
Quality of cashmere, explains Faloni, is essentially about length and width of fibres. “Thinner means not only softer but also more dense and therefore less itchy. Longer means less pilling and more resistance.” Hence, his decision to acquire his cashmere fabrics from Cariaggi, a supplier based in a medieval town close to Montefeltro which sources only the finest fibres of the Capra Hircus Laniger goat from Inner Mongolia.
“They’re around 40 millimetres long and between 15 and 19 microns thick, which is perfect. Many brands boast about using ‘baby cashmere’, but we believe it gets to the point where it’s too thin and breaks too easily. We also insist on two-ply cashmere – made from twisting two threads of cashmere yarn together, making the fabric more resistant than one-ply. For chunky knits – clothes you might wear skiing – we’d opt for four-ply.”
The sartorial intelligentsia are well aware of the extent to which materials sourced from animals are pored over: but what of plant-based ones? “Indeed, different qualities of cottons feel totally different to the skin as well, and also have different durability. Better ones are less prone to wrinkling. The Oxford fabric that we use is Doppio Ritorto, which again has a similar principle to two-ply. It’s two threads of cotton twisted together into a single knit making it more resistant and robust, and also gives it a better handle.
“We also use brushed cotton from Grandi & Rubinelli in Italy. It takes a long time to create it: it’s brushed on one side to give you a silky handle. It feels soft, breathable and warm but also very thin. It makes beautiful shirts that make typical flannel shirts feel cheap. It comes at a higher price, but it’s absolutely worth the extra money.”
Linen – a fabric so durable, mummies in Ancient Egypt were wrapped in strips of an early form of it – follows its own set of unique tenets, according to Faloni. “If linen is high quality, it has many features that are unique. It’s very strong compared to cotton, so the threads do not break basically and do not really stretch too much once you wear them, so it keeps its shape if you wear it and lasts a very long time. We launched six years ago and I still wear some of the same linen shirts that I made back then.”
A repertoire of upper body garments in high-quality linen is essential, according to Faloni, for the warmer months. “It has a lower thread count than cotton, so it’s much more breathable as well as being softer and more absorbent, so that you can wear it comfortably in the summer months. Another fresh-feeing fabric we use for summer garments a lot is silk-cashmere, which is very, very thin, very lightweight.”
Of course, there’s more to excellent fabric than the best raw materials and weaving techniques. “The level of technology that goes into the finishing is unbelievable. Cariaggi and Grandi & Rubinelli have been perfecting their processes for 60 years. They apply various treatments that make fabrics more luxurious and less likely to shrink.”
“Dyeing is a complex business, too. In our chambray linen, there’s a white effect in the thread, so it feels very summery and very fresh. With cashmere, you can make different yarns different colours and play with the percentages – a beige jumper, for example, is actually a certain percentage of grey, a certain percentage of brown and so on. In other cloths, the threads are the same colour, but we wash it in a way that makes it feel more vintage.”
All of which goes to show that, even leaving aside the appealing fact that quality fabric suppliers are by far the most likely to have effective sustainability measures in place, the advantages to garments that are cut from a decent cloth are manifold: indeed, the materials a clothing label uses are pretty much a barometer of that label’s level of excellence.