Remember not so many fiscal periods ago when the sartorial pinnacle was reached by raising specially bred sheep in temperature-controlled, chemical-free sheds, piping in music and hoping to break wool fineness records measured in fewer than 12 microns? To be sourcing cloth for softness bragging rights may seem like conspicuous consumption right now, but that's no reason to give up on the joys of a suit well-tailored from fine, functional cloth with smart patterns.
Holland & Sherry's Dougal Monroe reports a focus on fabrics that combine today's requisite standards of comfort with a durability that is not only more practical, but allows a garment to pleat and drape beautifully. This is done by weaving superfine cloths with a double-weft technique that makes the cloth slightly thicker and heavier. The company hasn't forsaken the upper fabric levels as it offers its elegant and luxurious All-Black Super 200 and cashmere blend, especially for evening wear.
Discerning fans of fabric should also consider other types of thread such as the Tom James's cloth woven from an easily renewable resource—bamboo—that is feather light and cashmere soft. Tom James also makes a blend of Super 160 wool and Angora rabbit (not goat), which has a hollow-fiber coat with a halo fluffiness. Meanwhile Ermenegildo Zegna has developed a warm-weather fiber called Cool Effect that has an exclusive finishing treatment that allows dark cloths to reflect sunlight similarly to white fabrics. Zegna's newest wool twist is Micronsphere, a fiber that uses nanotechnology to make the fabric not only fine to the touch, but allows it to repel stains by mimicking the way the leaves of a lotus flower resist water and dirt.
Loro Piana's latest development is The Wave, a fabric that crosses Super 130 wool with a filament of the thinnest silk by using an exclusive twisting technique that creates a three-ply super yarn and hence a fabric that is softer, more elastic, resilient, stable and breathable.
Of course, the stratosphere of superfine is being revisited as well. Both Loro Piana and Holland & Sherry offer the finest vicuna imaginable, and the former maker also bestows its Record Bale award for the finest sheep's wool produced each year. This year's winner came in at 11.5 microns and will make about 50 suits. Don't expect a colorful range of patterns at that heady level, however. "You know where you find imagination?" laments New York City tailor Alan Katzman. "In a better economy."