So much of the discussion about bespoke clothing lights upon makers in England and Italy that one can easily overlook (or simply never hear about) artisans from other countries. One such country is Spain, which has quite a concentration of tailors in its capital, some of whom have been making mens’ clothing by hand for generations. News of these tailors hasn’t spread much outside of Spain in part because few have ever tried to promote themselves abroad (a failure of Spanish firms of all sorts). There is, moreover, nothing overly distinctive about a Spanish suit. Though the quality of the make of (most) Spanish tailoring is obvious to anyone with eyes, there is nothing about it that is particularly unique––no soft, pleated jacket shoulders; no supple folds of cloth at the chest; no flared skirts; and no pronounced shoulder padding. These may seem trivial points, but one tends to covet (not to mention eulogize on clothing fora) the things one sees, and with few men outside of Spain wearing Spanish bespoke and little to delineate a well-made Spanish suit from that of other countries, it is not surprising that Spanish tailoring is not well-known.
There are however some aesthetic consistencies here. Cut tends to be conservative, and so one sees few jackets with very open quarters, big bellied lapels, or dramatic waists. Cloth, too, is restrained, as it is almost always worsted and only occasionally patterned. This may surprise some because it does not fit the sartorial reputation of Spanish men, which, not unlike that of Italian men, is likely slapped together from photos of Pitti attendees. Most men here, though, hope not to stand out, something that is obvious from the waves of simple and unaffected (read: no double-stitched seams) navy blue two-button suits on the streets where men wear them.
One of the tailors responsible for a good deal of those suits is Gonzalo Larrainzar, third generation cutter and owner of Lopez Herbon, a firm that through the years has dressed President Manual Azana (during the second Spanish republic), General Franco (shortly after), Henry Kissinger (in his aphrodisiac days), Ronald Reagan, Ahmet Ertegun, and King Juan Carlos, a group whose taste in clothes can rightly be called sober. While Larrainzar couldn’t say if that is the result of the firm’s influence on its clients or the clients’ influence on the firm, he did say that a man’s clothes should be masculine and sedate, a notion he reinforced by stating that a man should only rarely veer from a navy or dark gray two button suit, white or light blue shirt, and a dark necktie. No revelation, that, but he didn’t say it in the manner of an Esquire “Things You Must Own” editorial, he said it as someone who believes there really are only a few reasons ever to wear anything else.
The matter of style most important to Larrainzar, however, is proportion, a word he must have used a dozen times during our meetings. His aim, he said, is to create a balanced silhouette, and his suits show it. Lapels invariably extend halfway to the shoulders and no farther. Gorges are neither so high as might be currently stylish nor so low as they were thirty years ago. And sleeves are not too voluminous (as that of, say, many Savile Row tailors), nor too narrow. In the chest, Larrainzar’s jackets are shapely, though not exaggerated, and the shoulders are structured (one might even call them strong) yet have very little padding. As one Spanish bespoke customer said to me with a bit of disappointment in his voice, “Spanish suits look sort of perfect,” and by that I took him to mean orderly, flush, and just a touch stiff, a reputation that sends many young men here to Italy for clothes.
Hoping to bring some of these men back to Spanish tailoring, Larrainzar has been making an effort to modernize lately. The clothes he makes for his younger clients are more fitted than in the past, and he cuts more 3 roll 2 lapels now, especially for the less structured summerweight odd jackets he makes. The firm also shows more lightweight cloth than it used to (mostly from Loro Piana, Dormeuil, and Holland and Sherry), even though Larrainzar concedes the stuff doesn’t drape or take the needle as well as heavier cloth. More recently, the firm moved from its large baroque flat on Calle Cedaceros, the business district where they kept shop for more than half a century, to a space near Calle Serrano, Madrid’s main retail area. The move is mostly a practical one. The lease was up and they no longer needed so much space (at its peak, Lopez Herbon employed ten cutters). But it is also to make the firm more accessible to clients, and perhaps to begin rubbing away at its conservative reputation.
Larrainzar's suits start at 2200€ ($2,866) in Madrid. He also visits New York twice a year. Reach him at email@example.com.