Family, Flair and Finesse: Nino's
Wednesday 19 December 2007
Lots of people claim to offer something original, but the reality is few do. Not so with Nino’s. While they produce elegant shirts in plain colours suitable for the office, the majority of the shirts are something a bit special. The sheer variety on offer beggars description.
Shirts are to Nino Santoro, the owner, what canvass and paint are to great artists.
As to the welcome, when I pitched up to have a chat the coffee and pastries came out and they even closed their other shop in the Quadrant Arcade so I could chat with all the family members involved.
Just the Facts
Family run business offering utterly individual, limited edition and stylish shirts. Exceptionally well made, Italian cloth coupled to unique and exquisite detailing.The atmosphere of the shops is friendly and relaxed, family members have a real passion for what they do and how they do it; customer service is second to none.
Who you’ll meet: Nino Santoro (owner), Richard Santoro (brother) Angelica Santoro (sister)
Service: Off the peg and bespoke (no minimum order) shirts. A full range of complimentary ties and accessories
Cut: Tailored fitas opposed to slim, giving a nice fit whatever your size. Sleeve length is on average two inches longer than other most other makers and as tailors they shorten to fit.
Price Range: Off the peg from £99-£195 and bespoke £150 upwards (cloth dependent). Ties £39-£59, silk handkerchiefs £20-£29, cotton pocket squares £10-£20, bespoke suit £800 upwards (cloth dependent).
Location: 49 Brewer Street, Soho, London W1F 9UG. Tel: 0207 734 3234 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
An accidental hit
Nino started out selling fabrics, ties and buttons in a tiny shop on Regent Street. Angelica Santoro, Nino’s very charming sister, described it as “being like Aladdin’s little cave, but people used to love it”. He also specialised in bespoke suits and coats, but as he explains his customers wanted more, “clients would say, well what about shirts. After being pestered for so long, I just decided to start some”. He then moved on to designing his own shirts which was where the business took off. Today Nino has two shops which as well as selling his beautiful shirts stock an inordinate number of cuff links and ties. Helping him run these shops, as well as designing some of the shirts, are Nino’s sister Angelica an actress by trade and his brother Richard Santoro –who had a career in Italy as a rapper.
Style and construction
It’s hard to know where to begin. Lets just say there are two parts to one of Nino’s shirts, which makes them what they are. Firstly, there is the technical and secondly there are the stylistic.
The shirts are all manufactured in Italy, using very fine Italian weave 2 fold Egyptian cottons as well as some Sea Island cottons. A maximum of 18 in any one design is ever made, and everything from the padding in the collars and cuffs to the buttons is specially imported. Each shirt has hand stitched button holes and single needle stitch. That last detail basically means the shirt takes longer to make -two needle stitching is cheaper, quicker and consequently used for mass produced shirts.
While the cut is called slim fit, it’s actually a tailored fit, meaning even if you like your food you still get a nice fit without it looking as thought you’re hiding something. The high quality also means that they wash exceptionally well, so you can have it several years and it still looks good. Another advantage of Italian cloth is that it’s pre-washed, which means that it can be worn straight away. Conversely, English cloth has to be washed several times so that it shrinks to its final shape. The Sleeve length comes in extra long as well as standard. However, because they are trained tailors Nino’s shirts have a longer sleeve than most retailers, usually two inches longer, and then they shorten it to fit the customer -usually included in the price. And what is the cost for all that? Between £89 and £125.
If you need more variety you can avail yourself of Nino’s bespoke service. You’re given a vast choice of exceptionally fine super 120s and 170s fabrics; 20 to 30 different styles of collar and cuff; and a fine selection of buttons. All this and you can have it within 10 days. There is no minimum batch order and just like the off the peg shirts they’re made in Italy, and machine washable. The cost is entirely cloth dependent, but you’re looking at about £150.
The fabric is what makes the shirts, and the cost on both ranges is entirely fabric dependent. For backgrounds sake, the higher the number (super 100s, 120s, 170s), known as thread count, the higher the quantity of threads running through it per square inch. What this generally means is the cloth is finer and softer to the touch while being more resistant over time.
It would be impossible to describe everything on offer, I suggest you look at the website. Suffice to say, detailing is everything. Classic stripes and checks aside, the majority of the shirts are tasteful blends of rich colour with more sombre tones, plain fabrics with patterned fabrics and extraordinary associations that just work. The chances of seeing these shirts on someone else’s back are minimal. Considering the price it’s unbeatable value. Nino's is all about those sufficiently free thinking and self assured enough not to require the reassurance and direction of a fashionista.
Nino’s is as much about the family is it is about the shirts. It is with understandable pride that Angelica says, “In Italy the name Santoro is well known in the clothing industry”. Their father, a bespoke tailor who’s still working, has dressed everyone from King Faisal to John Malkovich. But that’s not the end of it; their uncle is the head of Brioni. For those unfamiliar with the name, Brioni is one of the world’s finest tailoring houses; the preserve of a wealthy few, it is also responsible for dressing the most recent incarnations of James Bond. For Nino, Angelica and their brother Richard a passion for high quality tailoring is part of their DNA. Each member of the family has an input into the design of the shirts, and each has their own design signature.
Quality product, quality service
The feeling I got from talking to Nino and his siblings was one of a welcome guest, rather than a simple punter. Nino, Richard and Angelica are as proud of that fact as they are of their shirts. According to Nino, “Clients come and it’s not just about what they are buying and what they are looking for. We like them to sit down have a coffee, have a chat and they rather enjoy that”.
Having wolfed down several pastries and cups of coffee during the course of our chat that’s something I can attest to.
A sound philosophy
One thing that is obvious about this family business is how much Angelica, Richard and Nino love what they do: “It’s very important to me that you walk out looking good and feeling good. I can’t ensure that you dress it well, but I can make sure you try. Our customers are, after all, our walking advertisements. When you walk out of here people will, and do, ask where you got your shirt”.
As someone always looking to distinguish myself from the crowd, I found Nino’s philosophy very appealing: “I just do what looks nice, I don’t want to be like everyone else. Some people ask me, well what’s in fashion next year? I reply, whatever I like”. Angelica goes further, “people who have real style don’t follow fashion anyway”.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Posted by Stealth