How to choose a suit
Investing in your first high quality suit and finding the right cut for your particular body shape.
Posturing behind his counter, a wooden and glass stage of shiny suit buttons and old fashioned fragrance bottles, Sebastian Giacobello sips from his dark Italian espresso coffee and speaks of his simple love for a classically tailored suit.
"Life is made up of little indulgences," he says, his finespun Sicilian accent almost singing the words. "It's like getting into a car with a leather seat – does it drive faster? No, but it feels nicer. If you have a particular type of coffee, does it make much of a difference in your life? Well, it makes enough of a difference, and that's the same with a nice, tailored suit on."
It's a passion and love that Giacobello has kept faithful to for 40 years.
He and business partner Tony Raneri operate out of one of the last remaining bespoke suit shops in Melbourne's CBD, American Tailors, where they pass on their affection for the perfectly fitted suit to a loyal list of well-heeled businessmen, executives, politicians and celebrities.
Their clients, including actor Barry Humphries, Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, former politicians John Brumby and Kim Beazley, and businessman-turned-racehorse-owner Lloyd Williams, pay between $4000 and $5000 a suit.
They can spend hours at a time on the shop's second floor, where two mild-mannered tailors take measurements, conceal bulges and work up a blue-print of the perfect garment.
"You know," continues Giacobello, who on this particular day is wrapped up in a gorgeous chocolate brown Castangia suit made of luscious Twill fabric featuring a delicate white stripe, "a guy once said to me that that is a beautiful white business shirt. But it was just a white shirt.
"You know why it looked so good? Because the 'white' in a good-quality cotton sparkles."
Meanwhile, fine wool "shines". Quality relates to "the way the wool has been washed, the way the wool has been combed and the way it has been woven and coloured".
Sports stars, surgeons, barristers, eccentrics and reclusive types frequent American Tailors at the top end of Bourke Street, situated perfectly next to one of Melbourne's most famous traditional and cool Italian eateries, Pellegrini's. They can pay up to $1000 for a standard pair of shoes or more than $250 for a silk tie.
The weak economy has not wearied them, either. Business is good, say Giacobello and Raneri, who bought the business in 1999. Despite the added threat of the internet, they say this could be another record year in terms of turnover.
Raneri is 43 years in the suit game and looks equally swank in his two-button, light-blue D'Avenza suit.
He and Giacobello visit Italy and Europe at least twice a year to inspect the latest fabrics and trends, only bringing back with them the type of material that will complement and showcase their tailors' work and keep their customers coming back.
Upstairs, their tailors go about their craft with humility and dedication. Tino, a tailor for nearly 50 years, has fitted suits for Victorian premiers going back to Rupert Hamer, and helped Sir Henry Bolte and Lindsay Thompson look swank as they led the government.
Established in 1950, American Tailors played on the theme at the time that America was seen as all that was modern, forward-thinking and strong.
As many shops opt for suits off-the-rack, Giacobello and Raneri maintain their dedication to bespoke, hand tailored suits.
But you need the money to buy these suits, and American Tailors gets its clientele from the wealthier suburbs of Melbourne, as well as from loyal customers overseas who ring-in their orders and make time amid jetsetting for fittings.
Such clients can be demanding.
Raneri remembers the work needed to make a white tuxedo jacket: he had to make the workroom floor spotlessly clean, almost sterile. "Really, you almost go insane."
Far from a competitive threat, the internet and online retailing is not robbing American Tailors of customers. In fact, Giacobello says, it could be driving more shoppers to the old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar store.
"It gives us more work. There isn't a day that goes by when we don't get a young guy come in with a horror story; that they bought something on the internet and it wasn't quite what they expected it to be and [they] ask if we can we fix it."
But the suited duo don't like to advertise their alterations side of the business. For them, it's all about the perfect suit.
That is, measured, tailored, in the best fabric and fitted in person – not via email.