Saverio Pisano on a storied fashion career and what makes a good custom outfit
Good times and bad times, after sixty years, he’s seen them all and he’s still here. Los Angeles-based Saverio Pisano is one of the most respected tailors and custom dress and suit makers in the world. His wondrous fashion career has taken him all over the world from Italy to Argentina. Throughout the course of his career he’s seen trends come and go, the state of the fashion industry be transformed multiple times over, but through it all, he’s always been dedicated to his craft of giving his clients the best custom garments possible. He managed to take a few moments out of his busy schedule to speak with FashionUnited about how he began his career, what makes a great custom piece, and what he thinks Is next for the fashion industry.
Tell me how you got your start in the fashion industry.
SP: When I was a little boy, about five and a half years old, my grandmother said “we”, meaning she and my mother, decided that I would become a tailor. They were very focused on me having a profession that was in demand. At first, I was unhappy because I wanted to play with the other kids outside. But the tailor that trained me was pleasant and I became interested in everything that he did as the years progressed.
I was born a perfectionist and learning how to create beautiful garments was actually the perfect career for me. After a few years I tried to correct the tailor! By seven years old, I was able to make my first pair of pants. It was a moment that I will never forget. I was so excited! I remember my passion and desire to make those pants with my best effort and abilities.
The tailor trained me until I was 14 years old and then I went to fashion school in Milan to learn more. At 18 years old, I moved to Paris to study fashion at École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.
What brought you to Buenos Aires?
SP: My family decided to move to Argentina to explore opportunities there and I decided to go with them. While in Buenos Aires, I met the woman that would become my wife. I am more of an artist and my wife has an excellent mind for business. She encouraged me to open my successful fashion school in Buenos Aires, PISANO. She also helped me find my passion for teaching and encouraged me to write my book, “The Pattern Bible.” It was in Argentina that my designs became popular with heads of state, politicians, celebrities, and socialites throughout South America. I became well known for my signature style that is timeless.
How did you finally end up in Los Angeles?
SP: My son, Bruno, is my life. When he decided to move to Los Angeles, my wife and I felt that it was time for us to go with him. I have a passion for new experiences and a love for the United States given to me by my grandfather. When I was a young boy, my grandfather would tell me endless stories about his life in the United States where he lived for over 20 years. He lived in Brooklyn and traveled to New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Miami. His stories were full of joy and excitement, so I was in love with the U.S. before I even arrived.
What was the moment you’d consider your big break in the fashion industry?
SP: I am a very spiritual person and truly believe that I was born to be doing what I have always done. For this reason, I feel blessed and lucky, and have had many “big breaks.” People always came to me because my designs are timeless. You can never put a date on something that I have created. Also, I pay close attention to detail and the personality of the client, so there is something truly special about each garment that I have created. However, if I had to pick one moment, it was when I was living in Buenos Aires and the magazines started to cover me. Through word of mouth my business grew very quickly.
What inspired you to write your book “The Pattern Bible”?
SP: I am a perfectionist and you cannot have the perfect dress or suit without a precise pattern. When a designer or tailor creates the perfect pattern, the garment will have a certain magical quality. Also, early on in my career I realized that the biggest problem with clients is that there were too many repeated fittings. The excitement of going to one or two fittings quickly turned to impatience and frustration at the fourth and fifth fitting.
Also, chapters of the book are dedicated to anatomy, focusing on the nuances of design for enhancing certain areas of the physique and creating ways to distract from others. My greatest piece of advice before making a pattern is to study with the highest level of attention. The time that is spent making a pattern may seem like an inconvenience, but it is not. It is a system that will result in the ultimate custom garment. That’s why I dedicated myself to learning and then share that knowledge with others.
What do you think makes a good custom-tailored suit?
SP: Clothing should talk. Clothing communicates words of awe and confidence. That’s what true couture, which is based in the details, can do! The best way to understand the quality of a jacket, suit, dress, or any item of clothing, is to take notice of the fabric pattern. Look at the line that runs from the lapel and see if there is one line. If you are not sure, remember that it should look artistically correct. It should feel balanced. Stripes should be connected, and squares or patterns should align and meet each other in a pleasing way. This should be the case for patterns that go in horizontal or vertical directions. Often clients do not see the specific details. For example, the line of the sleeve that meets a certain way. In a couture jacket, there is a continuation of the sleeve and it will seem to effortlessly flow. Pockets need special attention and can sometimes almost look invisible. It is essential that the hem be completely straight.
Who have been some of your favorite people to dress?
SP: Particularly when I was living in Argentina, I was dressing politicians, their wives, celebrities, and socialites, but I never saw that part of the person. I saw the person as a client who wanted to express themselves through the clothes that they wore. One distinct memory that I have is of a First Lady that we would secretly call “Necha”. She came to me and said that she had a big problem with my designs. I was very worried and immediately wanted to know what I could do. She said, ‘Your designs are too timeless. Years later, they look as new and fashionable as the first day I wore it.’ It was actually a compliment about my unique designs and deep understanding on what would bring out her elegant features.
How do you think formal wear has evolved over the decades?
SP: Timeless style is my signature. I want someone to own one of my designs and be able to wear it forever. I want them to feel confident and comfortable. Why change the clothing? People change and designers change their designs to make what people want. I have never been this way. In terms of formal wear, people should look elegant for every occasion. They need to find what looks best on them and have it perfectly tailored. It’s not about the decade. It’s about the fit.
When I was a teen, I made a pair of men’s pants without a pleat. People were laughing and thought it was strange. But this made me stand out. That’s when I realized that we change and not the clothing.
What challenges did your business see during the coronavirus pandemic?
SP: Luckily for me, I have many interests that keep me busy. I am working on my new book and being at home has helped me to focus. In uncertain times, such as now, people gravitate to custom clothing because the garments are universally flattering, comfortable, and make excellent investments. I see that so many people are facing enormous challenges and I believe that it is important to keep perspective and be mindful of what we have.
Why do you think people still need formal wear?
SP: I think that it depends where people live, really. In Los Angeles people seem to be casual. I think that it might be because of the weather. I see that in New York people are more formal. For weddings in particular, I believe that even the next generation wants to incorporate formal wear to mark the importance of the day.
With formal wear you can really show off remarkable fabrics. Fabrics are so important. People want to be different. They know about detail. I want my clothing to talk. This is when you can make your personality more secure. You speak better you look and feel more important. Formal wear is a part of this dynamic.
How long on average does it take you to craft a custom-made piece?
SP: One suit, skirt or jacket takes approximately one week.
Where do you see the fashion industry going next?
SP: Net-a-porter is the future. Couture is very complicated. Young designers don’t have the opportunities to learn how to sew by hand. Some brands say they are couture, but the truth is the couture is done by hand, and they are not truly couture.