Contemporary menswear specialists Crane Brothers have been crafting beautiful suits, shirts and accessories for 20 years. They have recently introduced a Made in Italy program, luring industry veteran John Mangham of Ermenegildo Zegna in the process. The senior consultant and fitting specialist, who spent more than two decades with the Italian menswear giant, knows more than most when it comes to crafting timeless garments.
“Murray Crane [founder], has built such a strong business through a desire and passion for craftsmanship, tailoring and correct fit,” says John, “and he has done it largely with his own local tailors. But more recently we’ve partnered with artisan tailors based just outside of Rome for our Made in Italy program, which is my speciality, having started out with Italian luxury brand Zegna in the early ‘90s.”
Crane Brothers also source their fabrics from some of Italy’s most iconic mills whose histories span more than a century. “When Murray was aligning himself with these great Italian suppliers, he wanted someone with genuine experience and I was tempted away,” says John. “His plans were bold and exciting, and perhaps a little more realistic for our market.” The program sits alongside the company’s New Zealand made collections, handmade using fabrics from “all of the finest mills in Italy”.
The suits utilise traditional techniques, including a fully floating hand-sewn canvas for a fit that is more “personal and alive”. “One of the benefits is that we have a selection of exclusive fabrics we work with from a variety of mills,” says John. “The result is a suit with more character, that will make the wearer feel more special, not just in terms of the material. This makes the garments unique for the individual.”
John, a made-to-measure specialist, has “conversations with his clients” addressing their needs, for example, do they feel the cold, how often will they be wearing the suit, will it be used for travel, as well as looking at their skin tone, hair colour, and body shape to select the most flattering cloth. The finer aspects of personalisation such as buttons — two, three, double-breasted — and the style of pockets and trousers must also be decided. Clients can even choose to have their initials embroidered into the lining. “Our suits start at $2,495 and move up in price from there depending on the cloth,” says John. “So you have to ensure you’re advising them correctly.” The details are sent through to Italy and then shipped, normally within 4–5 weeks.
Though it’s still on the conservative side, John is encouraged to see New Zealand tailoring “growing up”, with more younger men taking an interest in not just how the suits look, but also the fabric. “We always advocate authenticity,” he adds. “People understand that they are making an investment.” Another service Crane Brothers promote is their wardrobe consultations, “to alleviate ‘errors’ and to put together a plan that works”.
“One of the biggest challenges faced is that men tend to spend disposable income on cars or watches. Clothes often drop down the list,” John says. “I subscribe to the philosophy that you’re in your car for a couple of hours a day, with few people seeing you, but you’re in your clothes for eight-to-10 hours, so you should spend accordingly. You should invest in yourself.”