Sartorial Bologna has long been on my list of places to visit. This year I decided to piggyback a half-day trip in January as a part of a more extended itinerary including Venice. What struck me initially was Bologna’s medieval character as expressed in its fortified yet interconnected architecture. Not only is Bologna a walled city but also features a network of porticos or covered walkways connecting many of the city’s buildings. One is never far away from shelter if the clouds suddenly darken and the rain drops begin to pitter-patter away underfoot.
On this same trip I also visited Venice where I had decided to spend more time. Of course, Venice was marvelous for obvious reasons (and less obvious ones). Bologna is very different but thoroughly enjoyable in its own right, especially on a sartorial and gastronomic level.
My first stop was De Paz, a fixture in Bologna for more than 80 years and the leading menswear store in the city. Blogger The Weejun makes the case for its inclusion as one of the world’s best menswear stores. The theme is the British gentlemanly tradition – think Drumohr Shetland sweaters, Trickers brogues and Fair Isle sweater vests. A friend had kindly introduced me to Dario, the son of the eponymous owner, via email but unfortunately he was not in when I visited. Instead, De Paz senior showed me around the compact bi-level shop, pulling out a few of the sales items such as a navy peacoat (very tempting but a little too big for me). I also lacked the luggage space to make any major purchases, but I did pick up a pair of wonderful pocket squares.
Interestingly, I learned that De Paz also offers bespoke tailoring. According to Davide, one of their salesmen, the tailoring team consists of a couple of tailors – one from Bologna and another from the south (Naples I suspect). They make a soft-shouldered jacket starting at EUR 900 to 1,200 with house fabric, which is very attractive for bespoke pricing. Delivery is 1-3 weeks.
I was curious to see if local tailors offered a distinctive Bolognese style or cut but I was not able to come to any definitive conclusions either way. If it exists, the Bolognese cut is most likely a cousin of more structured tailoring. Something to investigate further on my return trip.
I also found another bespoke tailoring option in the city offered through a retail store called New Dandy on Via San Felice. Their tailoring workshop in the city is actually headed by a very experienced tailor from southern Italy. Hence, their sartorial cut does lean toward the Neapolitan style. While not representative of a perhaps mythical Bolognese style, the New Dandy bespoke line is still quite accessible relatively speaking (starting at EUR 1,300 for jackets). The sample jackets I saw had a machine-sewn canvas. However, upon further inquiry I learned that a hand-padded canvas is an option.
I also made my pilgrimage to bespoke shoemaker Peron & Peron and had a charming time chatting with Bruno Peron. His son Simone, who speaks English, was away on travel but their lovely shoes provided enough of a common language and reference for a thoroughly enjoyable conversation.
I also discovered another bespoke shoe option called Max & Gio while taking a walk after an early dinner at La Capriata. The owner Max was closing shop but graciously gave me a quick tour. They offer two lines – RTW/MTO with a standard last starting at EUR 550 and MTM/bespoke with a personalized last starting at EUR 850. Yet another intriguing bespoke shoemaking option I was not aware of and worthy of a follow-up visit.
Famed cloth merchant Drapers, Bonafe shoes and Marol shirts were also on my agenda, as well as a small tiemaker called Cometa Cravatte, which I suspect is no longer in business. All in all, I did not budget enough time for this historic city. This oversight will be fixed on my next visit since a half-day hardly does sartorial Bologna justice!