A Rather English Bella Figura
Looking to meld the English sartorial silhouette with the finest traditions of softer Italian tailoring is a tall order. But one Octavian K is looking to nail down
Article by Rupert Watkins
There’s little doubt the two great powerhouses of modern tailoring are England and Italy. Both represent distinctive and proud sartorial, stylistic and class traditions; be you a Brioni or a Huntsman aficionado there is no denying the distinctive shape of what you are wearing and thus what tailoring tribe you may be leaning towards. So any one attempting to merge these distinctive looks has to be bold – and spot on.
Enter Octavian K. Coming to tailoring from a career in graphic design, being the art director for a publishing company, “I found that I just had an affinity for suit making, I just slipped into it but it has now taken over!” He immediately stresses he is not though – in any way – a trained cutter. Having the initial idea in 2013, he founded Octavian K four years ago, “I know the vision I have for my client and the business,” he comments, “I want to work intimately with the very best artisans and tailors to deliver a truly top notch and unique product.”
Octavian K has a small London team, after himself, there are two measurers and one tailor for alterations purposes. The heart of Octavian K is to be found in Italy. He uses two workshops, one in Massa, Tuscany and one in Naples. “They bring different skills and cuts,” he remarks. “Neapolitan tailoring is truly distinctive, very unstructured and relaxed it is different even to other tailoring areas and traditions in Italy.” Given the English market’s clear desire for a more defined and formal silhouette, Octavian looks, “to bring together the Italian and English styles. I look to produce a more structured English shoulder and waisted jacket with a more Italian, relaxed feel across the chest and back. It should look English but feel Italian.”
Currently Octavian focuses on Italian cloth from a variety of Italy’s top mills. He has curated a house selection (though he has access to many more suiting mills) as he has found, in common with other tailors, “the more choice you overwhelm the client with, the harder it is for most people – aside from the few who know exactly what they want – to decide.” He does though have a selection of English cloths in his offering as unlike many continental tailors, he personally loves the manner in which heavier cloth drapes and offers a number of more substantial 11 and 12 ounce suitings.
Measurements are taken in London and all details are then sent to Italy. Octavian K is a made to measure tailor is as much as the garments are created out of house blocs, the customer does not have his individual pattern cut and subsequently stored in either of the workshops, but Octavian K is keen to stress the level of hand detailing and finishing with the 25 – 28 hours of work that goes into each suit. He also has a small, well-formed range of ready to wear suits using three differing jacket and waistcoat blocs and a couple of different trouser patterns – one for belt, one with waist adjusters. His jackets have a firm English shoulder with double breasted lapels though his newest bloc has a softer shoulder paired with an oversized notch lapel which gives a more rakish – perhaps slightly 1930s – edge to proceedings.
Octavian K finds many of his customers are still drawn to a three piece suit and finds all three of his waistcoat patterns are popular, two are double breasted and one single breasted. Prince of Wales check is currently heavily in demand, “people are slowly getting the courage to experiment with colours. I am seeing a small but growing number of orders in brown and more patterns,” he observes.
Many of Octavian’s customers have tried Savile Row and have come to him seeking something a little different, that blend of comfort and structure Octavian has as his tailoring vision. “I have a number of clients in the art and media sphere but I also do have some from the Square Mile, it’s not just the more creative professions who are coming to me,” he comments. He has seen a gratifying rise in custom over the past year, mostly driven by good word of mouth. Octavian K is appointment only and orders are processed in five to six weeks. “I don’t rush,” he stresses, “if a customer wants a faster turnaround I tell him I cannot provide – the standard of the ultimate garment is completely paramount.” As well as suits, Octavian K also can provide separate jackets and trousers and offers a very smart overcoat option.
There are tentative discussions with a number of Italian firms for potential collaborations for shoes and shirts but at the moment Octavian K wants to keep his offering tightly focused, “I want to become a brand that is desired – something people really want, something that is known about by people who appreciate the best.” As such, though there has been female interest in the Octavian K, he is not planning to offer women’s tailoring. He is though working with a Florentine workshop to roll out a small collection of gentleman’s jewellery such as rings and lapel pins with the brand’s distinctive emblem.
With his background in graphic design, it is unsurprising that Octavian K focuses on the aesthetic feel of his website. Having directed a few fashion videos in his previous career, he is looking in the summer of 2018 to shoot a campaign in Iceland, “the visual marketing is critical to me in order to stand out.” Those looking for something merging two distinct tailoring lineages, “an Italian flavour, sprinkled over how the English wear the suit,” Octavian K smiles, should look in this dapper Italian’s direction. Made to measure starts from £2,500 for a two piece whilst his ready to wear collection ranges from £1,500 to £1,800.