The Italian Job: Volpe
Wednesday 12 December 2007
When I go shopping I have in the back of my mind certain ideals, which often go unfulfilled. Firstly, I want real quality as opposed to high prices and labels masquerading as such. Secondly, I want a degree of originality. There is something faintly disappointing in knowing that what you’ve just bought several thousand others have too. Finally, I work hard for my money and a little bit of appreciation wouldn’t go amiss. It would be nice to feel I were being taken care of, and wasn’t just A.N. Other Esq. Well, if you often find shopping bitter medicine to swallow, Volpe is a spoonful of sugar.
Just the Facts
An independent men’s outfitter offering a complete wardrobe of understated, luxury clothing at affordable prices and under its own label. A European influence means rich colours, beautiful Italian fabrics and manufacturing, as well as an immaculate attention to detail. The guys here take real pride in what they do, which shows in both the warmth of the service and quality of the product. The coffee is excellent.
Who you’ll meet: Adrian Holdsworth (Designer & Owner) and Jacob Bevan
Services: Both ready to wear and bespoke shirts and suits, ties, knitwear, casual and formal trousers, fine shoes and accessories.
Price Range: Shirts £89-£145 (hand made, off the peg) £120-£160 Bespoke (no minimum order); Pullovers/Cardigans/Quarter Zip sweaters £89-£170 fabric dependent wool and cashmere mix, merino and cashmere mix, and pure cashmere. Highest grade cashmere up to £700; Suits basic off the peg £400, made to measure £600-£1200, bespoke suits £2000 plus.
Cut: Shirts, tailored but not slim fit with longer sleeve lengths; Suits, to requirements; Pullovers slightly wasted.
Location: 30 Denbigh Street, London, SW1V 2ER. Tel: 020 7821 002
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 11am -8pm
Although I wasn't buying anything, and he didn’t know me from Adam, when I walked in off the street, the owner, Adrian Holdsworth, was genuinely friendly and welcoming. As soon as I arrived I was offered coffee and we talked on first name terms, and at great length, about his clothes.
A signature look
Volpe’s aim is to offer an individual product that mixes in with your existing wardrobe. Adrian explained how his early career with Versace on Bond Street left its mark: “The idea of fashion was different to the way it is now. Versace in those days produced understated garments with a signature of their own. Unless you knew what the signature was you were oblivious to where it had come from. You knew it was expensive, but it was individual and very different from the rest”.
If Volpe customers have anything in common it’s what Adrian described as an “entrepreneurial flair”. His clothes do have a perceptible Italian feel, with shirts and casuals incorporating many vibrant colours. But don’t let that put you off, for at the same time they are tasteful, understated, with many subtle nuances.
Unique and affordable
Adrian says he can make you anything, from socks to jewellery boxes. However, if every pair of trousers you own comes equipped with shallower pockets, like mine, their complete off the peg range offers you affordable, original, limited edition garments of high quality.
Possibly trite, but certainly true, the Devil is in the detail. Take their shirts, for example, which are designed by Adrian himself; only ten of each pattern and style is ever made. They range in price from £89 to £145, are made from quality 2 fold Italian or Swiss cotton, with mother of pearl buttons, and they’re hand tailored –that means one person making one shirt. Personally, that’s the kind of detail I get off on.
Adrian uses four Italian shirt makers, each one excelling in different forms of construction and fabrics. Prices vary according to how much time is spent on the shirt. The more expensive the more stitches to the centimetre, the more hand work and the better the quality of the inter-lining, which extends the life of the collar. The shirts even come boxed with ironing instructions so you can care for them correctly.
The all important cut: On the whole the sleeve length is slightly long on all shirts with a tailored fit, but mercifully generous enough if you tend to carry a little excess heft around the middle.
The art of a good collar
I maintain the hallmark of a good shirt is its collar. Soft collars tend to look less neat, move during wearing and consequently fray. Generally there are two parts to a collar. Front and back top collar–the bits you see- and sandwiched between those what is called the interlining. How these are put together and the quality of those materials determines the rigidity of the collar, how well it lasts and how good it looks over time.
The standard for Volpe is a three piece construction to the top collar, and for the interlining two pieces of cloth, one heavy and one soft. These are then bonded together and the outer layers of fabric are fused to everything underneath. This is the traditional Italian method of construction.
Now, what’s the reason for all this attention to detail? Well, it stops that puckering you sometimes find on the front of the collar which comes from shrinkage in the wash –particularly if the interlining and top collar shrink at different rates. Adrian assures me his shirts will always look sharp retaining the shape of the collar. Unless asked he won’t do unfused collars.
Suiting without fuss
Go downstairs and you reach the suits. Volpe’s specialism is light weight, floating semi-canvassed Made to Measure. Here the Italian connection is continued by using Italian cloth of about 8half to 9half oz. The start price for a basic made to measure is £600, but the bulk of the suits are £850 to £1200. Adrian explains that most of his customers want shape and comfort minus the fussiness of bespoke. Revealingly he says, “The internal construction of a bespoke suit can be too heavy. Many tailors aren’t used to working with fewer layers, lighter interlining and lighter horse hair. As such a traditional solid construction doesn’t always lend itself to lighter weight fabrics”. Fussiness or not, the available detailing should offer most people all that they could require.
Left to Right: Adrian, Jacob (I think Adrian one of London's best dressed men)
Finally, Volpe has an off the peg range from £450, in super 100s or 120s cloth, sporting horn buttons, semi and fully canvassed as well as functioning cuff buttons. His signature suit is a light weight dark brown single breasted two button. More continental than country classic it’s a nifty alternative for city wear.
Nothing casual about the casuals
Aside from the formal kit Adrian creates some beautiful casuals. I have found colour to be a potent means of distinguishing yourself from the herd, and Volpe’s cardigans, sweaters and quarter zip pullovers are available in a range of rich and vibrant colours, as well as more sombre tones. Prices depend on the fabric; a 2 ply merino v-neck sweater will set you back £89; a two ply cashmere £160; and my favourite, a European influenced quarter zip wool/cashmere mix for £130. The cut across the range is a little waisted.
The way, I reckon, it’s supposed to be
Expensive but beautiful: Wholecut shoes with hand tattoos
Have no fear approaching this shop for the first time. There was nothing that didn’t appeal to me, from the tasteful clothing to the unpretentious service. Whether you have hundreds to spend and desire overhauling your look, or funds are tight and you’re slowly laying down a wardrobe of lasting quality, you won’t go wrong if you check out Volpe. Oh, and the coffee is excellent.
Posted by Stealth