Everyone with a keen sense of craftsmanship loves the distinctive Italian style of Pal Zileri, a high-end label that has resisted the fashion industry’s move to mass production in countries with cheap labour. As writer Roupert Muller and photographer Floris Leeuwenberg discovered, the Pal Zileri ‘family’ dine together every day, and care passionately about each and every garment they create. You can buy Pal Zileri clothes off the rack, or for a more personal service, Pal Zileri tailors will visit you in your home, anywhere in the world.
The clatter of plates and cutlery surrounded by the busy chatter of passionate Italians sets the stage for a unique luncheon experience. Discussions on which football teams are to win during the weekend, which latest car is the best, and where some will spend their holidays can be heard left and right. It feels like a typical Italian restaurant. Nothing, however, is ordinary in this eating place. At the head of the table an older man takes his place, quietly marking his position within the group as their leader. Mr. Barizza and Mr. Miola, co-founders of Italian fashion house Gruppo Forall, sit at the head of this very table every afternoon during the one-hour lunch session.
A career at the high-end Italian fashion house is a way of life. A lifestyle, true to Italian tradition, successfully cultivated by Mr. Barizza and his partners since the company was founded nearly 40 years ago.
The philosophy of treating the company as a family has been a cornerstone of the corporate culture since the company’s birth. Camaraderie, trust in one another and enjoyment in the professional environment is a must at Pal Zileri. Lunchtime is a perfect example – a ritual taken seriously by each person at the company. Each afternoon the factory and offices close down for an hour. All staff flock to the Pal Zileri restaurant. The tables are set and an entire staff of waiters is ready to serve local cuisine. Even the plates boast the Pal Zileri logo.
The preferred choice of many, Pal Zileri has a deeply embedded distinctive Italian approach to designing and producing the finest quality clothing. This is defined by their simple label: Made in Italy.
Gruppo Forall, better known under the brand name Pal Zileri, came to life in 1970 in Vicenza near Venice. Its founding partners had a clear vision: to become a significant player in high-end fashion, taking high quality, an exceptional corporate culture and production process as the cornerstones of success.
The current trend within the fashion industry to cut production costs has resulted in a surge of manufacturing in low-cost labour countries such as China. Increasing overall costs have forced even higher-end brands to seek cost-efficient solutions in order to sustain their competitive position. This shift has hit traditional Italian fashion craft badly. It’s now rare among high-end Italian fashion houses to uphold their 100% Made in Italy trademark. Pal Zileri is joined by Kiton and Brioni in staying loyal to Italian manufacturing. Forall houses an impressive 24,000-square-metre facility, with a highly advanced cutting section, automatic storage facilities, and areas for finished product handling in its various phases, design and offices.
The founders’ vision – to maintain full control of the production process of its entire clothing line – has not changed in nearly 40 years. Before the launch of the Pal Zileri clothing lines, Forall produced high-quality clothing for the fashion industry. Alessandro Baraldo, the Export Manager, says: “We are extremely proud of the label ‘Made in Italy.’ If we were to outsource our production we would be depriving the client of the exclusivity and craftsmanship of the brand.” He continues: “When our clients see the label ‘Made in Italy’it is synonymous with quality and craftsmanship. Italians are proud of their craftsmanship. More and more, our competitors move their production outside of Italy. We, however, will continue to make everything in Italy and we aim to keep pushing the importance of the Italian heritage to producing fine clothing within the market.”
Gruppo Forall’s flagship brand is Pal Zileri, named after an Italian aristocratic family originating from Vicenza. Pal Zileri, like most brands, offers a range of diverse clothing lines to cater to specific target groups. Pal Zileri, Pal Zileri Sartoriale and Abito Privato are the main drivers of the brand.
The Pal Zileri White Label collection is designed for the classic yet energetic man in his mid-thirties and onwards. The Pal Zileri man has personality, elegance and professional stature; he needs comfortable but sophisticated clothing. A comprehensive line of suits, shirts, ties and casual wear are designed to ensure a man’s wardrobe can meet any occasion. Head designer Guido Tara is passionate in his philosophy: “I aim to offer an emotion; the emotion of the Pal Zileri experience.” He finds inspiration for his collections in the general interests of a man. For example, cars: “Cars represent a lifestyle and is a clear sign and confirmation. I like to translate this into my designs.”
The selection and synthesis of colours are an essential aspect in the designing process within each and every collection. The basis and trademark of each collection is evident in the choice of colours and fabrics and defines the mood for the collection. Solid colours such as black, blue, brown and grey maintain the classic and sophisticated flavour of the collection. The vibrant and pastel colours reveal the energetic side of the Pal Zileri man Guido Tara is unambiguous and severe in his philosophy with regards to colours: “A man does not need loud colours. I see the man as a businessman who needs to be properly dressed for the office. However, the dress code should not be ‘sleepy’ or boring. The solid colours are always mixed with fresh colourssuch as violet, orange and yellow to create the right balance. To make sure the man looks sophisticated but ‘alive’.”
The choice of fabric is not a clear-cut process at Pal Zileri. Fabrics are selected from some of Italy’s finest mills. For certain collections, Pal Zileri requires exclusive fabrics to be produced to its specifications. This guarantees exclusivity and clear identification of the brand within the market. Furthermore, the cloth is chosen to match the design and fitting of a garment. The fabric must ‘behave’ accordingly to guarantee that the superiority, look and feel of the garment is distinctly Pal Zileri.
Guido Tara designs the other more casual line: Pal Zileri Concept. It offers casual clothing for leisure time – anything from going out for dinner to watching a football match. The Concept line is aimed at the group of younger men who require sophistication with a more casual approach. Jackets, trousers, shirts and sweaters have a more fashionable look but maintain the traditional feel.
When asked why the Pal Zileri collections have been successful over the years, Guido Tara emphasizes the underlying emotion. He says: “When we started the Pal Zileri label 30 years ago the market was much smaller. Nowadays the man needs a ‘world’, an emotion. Within the Pal Zileri world a man can find anything he needs. A lot of men search for a classic yet different and recognizable look.”
Pal Zileri Sartoriale is the premier Pal Zileri collection, inspired by the middle-aged man who prefers clothing that is luxurious, comfortable and elegant. The Sartoriale man knows exactly what he wants. He is sensitive to the finest fabrics, exceptional finishing details and comfort when making his choice of clothing.
Traditional tailors are increasingly becoming extinct. Sartoriale offers a virtually tailor-made experience due to the large amount of man-hours invested in developing the luxury product. The tailoring of the collection is based on the craftsmanship of the tailors of Naples. From open buttonholes in a jacket’s cuff to the fine and precise finish of the lining, everything is tended to with care, time, and above all, craftsmanship. Designer Giorgio Zanella says: “Sartoriale actually means, ‘go to the tailor’. This implies the collection is, for a great deal, made by hand. A lot of time is invested in detail and finishing, creating the luxury feel the client seeks.”
Comfort is an essential aspect of the Pal Zileri Sartoriale trademark. The intention of the design is to produce a jacket that when worn can hardly be felt. Mr. Zanella explains that most men do not know how to get this level of comfort. “Most men believe a wide armhole is beneficiary but this is entirely wrong. A wide armhole means the sleeve is stitched too tight as it is stitched by a machine. When you move, the entire jacket will move as well.” He explains that a Sartoriale jacket offers a perfect fit around the shoulders: “The armhole is high, not too wide, and stitched by hand. Hand stitching results in a more flexible stitching pattern meaning more room for the jacket to adapt to the movements of the body. Moreover the shoulder padding is kept to a minimum to enhance flexibility of the jacket during movements. This enhances the comfort and you will hardly feel you’re in a jacket.”
Abito Privato is the custom service label within the Pal Zileri collection. This exclusive tailor-made service has attracted loyal clients, including captains of industry, politicians and sports stars. The service is not merely offered in the Pal Zileri stores or retail outlets where Pal Zileri is available; it goes further. To emphasize the exclusivity and quality of the service, Pal Zileri will visit anyone at their home, anywhere in the world. This service starts from around 2,000 euros depending on the precise specifications chosen.
Architect and interior designer Mr. Filippo Dimatore from Vicenza is an enthusiastic customer. He says: “I’m a real fan of this service. It’s an art like my work. When I design the interior of a house or an office, the space and wishes of the client weigh heavily on the outcome. The same applies to suits. The physical build of a client and his wishes define the end result.”
The routine of the session is always the same. Measurements are taken based on classic Italian tailoring blended with Pal Zileri’s own guidelines. The attention given to the client is boundless. Measuring is but a part of the Abito Privato experience. Since the service is guided towards creating a one-of-a-kind suit for the individual, the choice of ingredients to create the product is entirely up to the client. A wide range of available fabrics is presented, ready to be touched and examined. Linings for the jackets are shown in combination with the fabrics as well as various types of buttons. Even the colour of the thread is adapted to complement the total package. Explicit attention is paid to the unique physique of the client. Most people are unaware of slight differences in, for example, their arm lengths or the length in their legs. When being measured for a tailor-made suit, these slight differences are clearly visible.
The passionate, artistic and detail-conscious approach is a unique experience when visiting the Pal Zileri world. The level of professionalism, tradition and perfection of Pal Zileri are what even the larger, more renowned Italian fashion houses merely aspire to.
Although Mr. Barizza no longer engages in the day-to-day management of the company, he is the very embodiment of the success of the brand. Well-respected amongst his peers, loved by his friends and colleagues, he insists on having lunch in “his” restaurant every single day. The values upon which the company is founded are to this day evident by his mere presence. Dressed to perfection, he finds time to talk to everyone and socialize with long-standing clients from overseas, ensuring everybody is happy. He even allows our photographer to take his picture. It’s rare for him to place himself in the public eye. But Mr. Barizza insisted on experiencing the moment true to the Pal Zileri lifestyle: “First we drink grappa together; then you can take the picture.”
Gallery 1: Mr. Barizza, co-founder of Italian fashion house Gruppo Forall, better known under the brand name Pal Zileri.
Gallery 2: The Pal Zileri flagship store in Vicenza.
Gallery 3: Architect and interior designer Mr. Filippo Dimatore from Vicenza is measured for his own personal Abito Privato suit.
Gallery 4: Palazzo Zileri is the former residence of the Zileri family. The Pal Zileri brand name was inspired by this very building.
Gallery 5: Mr. Barizza enjoying lunch at the Pal Zileri restaurant. The restaurant is situated in a separate building within the complex. Mr. Barizza joins the Pal Zileri crew each afternoon during the daily traditional lunch break.
Gallery 6: A typical Pal Zileri suit.