A conversation with Taka of Liverano & Liverano
I haven’t been around nearly long enough and know far too little to authoritatively talk about the incredible work that the artisans at Liverano & Liverano produce. Thankfully, those far more learned than I, like the folks at The Armoury, have already declared the atelier sartoria to be "one of the greats of the Italian tailoring world.” What I can say is that I was pleasantly surprised at their willingness to entertain the fancies of a traveling university student. After sending them an e-mail out of the blue asking if I could stop in for a chat and some photos, they were gracious enough to welcome me into their beautiful workshop and bear with my barrage of questions.
Over two balmy Florentine afternoons (with some delicious espresso interspersed throughout), I spoke with Taka Osaki about the specifics of Liverano’s style, the importance of color, and other such topics.
On the Atelier’s style
The most different thing is that Florentine style jackets are very different from other countries and other towns. We use more colors than in Rome, Naples, or Milan, where they use very dark colors. Charcoal grays, blues, and stuff like this. We use a bit more light colors like this… [He proceeds to show me one of their cabinets of fabric, pointing out differences in the various textiles that he has on hand.]
I think Florentine style is very particular, as I explained before. If you know our jackets are Florentine style, you can see the difference quickly. It’s very easy. So especially our Japanese customers who know this kind of work – they have tried getting jackets everywhere – Naples, Japan. But they say it is different. Our style is different from other tailors, like our fabric choice. Mostly in Italy, sartoria have more conservative colors. Light gray, medium gray, light blue, dark blue. But we have so many colors. They say how they are very impressed. Even our cottons, we have so many. Electric blue, dark blue, turquoise.
We are selling our style. I know that each country has different styles, like between Asians and Europeans, but we just sell our style.
On the use of color and fabrics
They way that we sell, our customers do not choose the fabrics. If the customer says, “I want this color,” I will take maybe three or four fabrics and show them. In every country we will do it like this. This is our selling style. We have to get our customers to immediately trust us. By speaking to them, and seeing their style, and their behavior, we get them to understand Liverano. And based on their skin color and hair and eyes, we pick out colors for each customer.
We buy bolts by season – just one suit’s length. Three meters thirty centimeters. Then we don’t care about selling it the same year. We keep it for a little bit – one to three years, because natural fibers have lots of moisture. Every year they lose a little bit of moisture and become a bit drier. [Apparently, this helps reduce any future warping of the garment.]
If the customer really wants a certain color, then I show them how to coordinate using our products. [He moves quickly around the showroom, deftly grabbing shirts and ties and laying them out in striking combinations on a table for me to see.] These I make to coordinate. If the color of the suit is close to your skin, we have to make a bit more contrast. It is difficult to explain, so I am showing you this. If you take a blue shirt, you already have some contrast. Then you take a warm tie, and you have good balance. Always contrasting with cool and warm colors – that is our style.
For me, I am yellow, as an Asian. So brown is a little difficult to wear. So we have to think about accessories and things – the color of the shirt, the color of the tie, color of shoes. Everything we think about always. We have to explain what color accessories, shirts, and ties match the suit, and then our customers understand.
I went to the Uffizi Museum, not so often now, but more when I first started, to look at colors in paintings. They use so many colors, and there I could get inspiration with color matching. Even in seasons, in Italy, there are four seasons. Each season the colors and natural light change.
On British tailoring
We are doing classics, but not like British style. They do 18th century style, but we are doing 21st century style. We are always changing little bit by little bit every year. Our style is the style of 2012.
First thing we do is classic. We don’t follow trends, but if we see how people dress in London, or Hong Kong, or Japan, and things are a little bit changed, then we feel like we can try something different. Like now, clothes are very narrow. So maybe we can do a little bit more narrow. Just modifying slightly, not quite changing.
One Italian newspaper asked Mr. Liverano “what do you think of British tailors?” And he said that they only do old styles – that they can’t touch our style. So I think about ten Savile Row tailors came to visit our atelier and they told us that we were crazy. They complimented us for our work. We do a lot more handwork than most tailors.
On Mr. Liverano’s preferred shoes
He wore Alden twenty years ago, I think, and he thought it felt very good. Their lasts are fantastic because before, they worked with handicapped people and people with difficulty working. That is why they know how to make a last that is very comfortable for walking.
An interesting thing to note is that despite jackets and trousers being made on site, shirts at a factory in Naples, and most accessories within Italy, Mr. Liverano insists on selling shoes primarily from Alden, the storied American shoemaker. This seemed to be quite unusual for an Italian tailor, but it illustrates the strength of his personality and how it shows through in the products that he chooses to carry in his showroom. He maintains some sense of tradition, while eschewing those that he doesn’t agree with or find to his liking.
On the future
We really want to continue this work. I have to say in Italy, the young generation, they don’t want to do this kind of work. They prefer to use computers, work in offices… it’s not dying, but Italian tailors in this world are almost gone. But we want to continue this culture. It’s not work. The way we think, it’s not work, it’s just a part of Italian culture that we have to continue.
Now we project an atelier in another place, and we will open a school. Not next year. We need more time! But that’s what we are thinking. Not like a fashion school, but a real sartoria school.
In this time of year, often people come asking to work. But we need young people. It is mostly older people who used to do this kind of work. But we prefer young people to invest in and help grow up, and this way we can continue this culture.
I think young people need more time to understand. Even me, 23 years ago, I did not understand this kind of work. But now it is changing because people are using the internet, and if you like something, you can research. So it is changing. Even you [pointing to me] can research a lot of things now. So I hope that young Italian guys will, step-by-step, end up here. They need the internet to understand this culture.
Thank you to Mr. Liverano, Taka, and Hojun Choi for taking the time to teach me more than the internet ever could.
Liverano & Liverano Atelier Sartoria. Via dei Fossi 43r Florence. www.liverano.com
[Note: Interview has been edited for readability]