Articles by: Antonio ValenteAntonio Valente
Antonio Valente is a Toronto-based menswear designer who identifies and addresses the professional and recreational needs of the modern man’s lifestyle. He has spent decades pursuing his passion for menswear and refining his craft by working in the industry’s retail and wholesale areas. In 2002, Antonio started his design and manufacturing company and as his designs evolved so did the business. In 2009, the company’s new direction was branded with the launch of Antonio Valente, the company’s signature label.

Dressing for the Season

July 10, 2012 4:00 pm
Dressing for the Season

Fashion can be many things to many people: creativity, self-expression, lifestyle, professionalism and image. Regardless of how one perceives clothing, the single underlying influence that binds all looks together is seasonality, which has specific criteria for the Spring and Fall. Within the two seasons that dictate the ebb and flow of fashion, there are three guidelines to which all collections, wardrobes and outfits bend: fabric weight, fabric type and fabric colour.

Lightweight fabrics and light colours are the foundation of any spring fashion season. Warm-weather fabrics such as silks, linens, lightweight cottons, for example… poplins and woollens, which are less than 300 grams, make for comfortable and complementary attire while embodying the energy of summer. Pink, yellow and lavender are just a few examples of the lighter shades that characterize spring colours, which should be prominent within any man’s spring wardrobe. When light colours are combined with airy fabrics, a man’s look is in tune with spring’s fashion style.

When dressing for the fall fashion season, outfits should consist of heavy fabrics and dark colours. Typically, trousers, sport jackets and suits are made from heavy cottons, which are over 350 grams, woollens over 300 grams, for example four-harness textiles, or woollens mixed with over 20% cashmere. Furthermore, flannels, Donegals (tweeds with a bird’s eye pattern) and tweeds are all considered staples for the colder half of the year. Although there is more flexibility for shirt cottons, allowing for more year-round options, the same general rules apply. However, one great option for fall dress shirts is a heavy twill fabric. In addition to the weight of fall fabrics, the colour is just as important and needs to be taken into account. Autumn’s dark colour palate, such as burgundy, plum and brown, should be mirrored by your shirts, trousers, suits and sport jackets. Clothing is an outlet for self-expression but each season has its own personality and your clothing should reflect those characteristics.

To finish one’s overall appearance, consider soft pastel shirts with white collars and cuffs or strong patterns such as ginghams, plaids and bold stripes.

Just as all guidelines have exceptions, fashion is no different. When it comes to picking seasonal colours for shirts, white and any blue are acceptable all year-round. Black and navy suits are also exempt from seasonal constraints as long as the fabric weight is appropriate for the season at hand. Conversely, lighter-weight fabrics can be worn throughout both seasons if their colours match seasonal palates. Lastly, medium colours for shirts, trousers, suits and sport jackets can be worn at any time. When it comes to knowing when to apply the guidelines of seasonality, the general consensus is light colours any time after May 1, dark colours after September 1 and heavy fabrics after October 1.

To stay current and lend a modern touch to one’s appearance, one should be aware of the most recent fashion direction regarding seasonality. Within the context of slimmer-looking, more fitted silhouettes, which now dominate the fashion landscape, soft checks, stripes and small patterns are all on trend for suit fabrics, which are designed with an attention to detail – including such features as side vents, ticket pockets, hand stitching and fancy silk linings. To finish one’s overall appearance, consider soft pastel shirts with white collars and cuffs or strong patterns such as ginghams, plaids and bold stripes. If adding a tie to the mix, take into account solid tones, small neat patterns or stripes.

It never hurts to step outside of one’s comfort zone, so don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns and colours. Bold stripes on suits match well with soft checks on shirts. Pink and lavender shirts work well with brown and charcoal suits. However, if one has an aversion to significant shifts in daily dress routines, then just tiptoe outside your normal boundaries. The most popular accessories these days, which add a touch of character and a splash of colour, are fancy patterned socks with bright colours and pocket squares. A general rule of thumb when sporting a pocket square is to either match one’s tie or shirt. Of course, one could let their whimsical side loose and select a pocket square that is totally off the wall. There are numerous ways to fold a pocket square, all of which are suitable and can easily be found on the web. Take some time to be creative and it will reflect on your appearance and confidence.

Whatever your style, you cannot go wrong by following the guidelines of seasonality. This summer, make an impression by choosing colour. After all it is summer, the sun is shining and patio season is underway. Cheers!

Father Knows Best

April 24, 2012 3:46 pm
Father Knows Best

With my parents’ 48th wedding anniversary approaching this month, there is cause for a lot of reminiscing. Recently, I took my children to spend a Sunday afternoon with their grandparents and, before I knew it, we were all sitting together viewing my parents’ home videos of their wedding, from the church ceremony to their honeymoon in Venice. As I watched my father, in a navy suit sporting a pocket square, and my mother, wearing an elegant cream coloured dress, stroll the renowned Piazza San Marco, I thought about how much has changed since that time. Many of today’s young men lack the sartorial knowledge that was common among yesterday’s generation and was passed down from father to son as a rite of passage.

My parents out on the town.

As far back as I can remember my father always reinforced the connection between how I dressed and the respect I demonstrated for myself and others. In his effort to impart this lesson to me, a couple of memories stand out above all others: buying my first suit with my dad and getting ready for my first real date as a teenager.

Like any good catholic boy at the age of eight, I was excited about my first communion and the family festivities that would follow. To properly celebrate the event and acknowledge its importance, it was understood that I would wear a suit. One Saturday afternoon, my father took me to a local clothier and helped me pick out a suit, shirt and tie for the big day. After we returned home from shopping, my dad patiently showed me how to tie a knot so I would be completely responsible, from beginning to end, for my appearance. The result was a proud little boy who took his first step to being a man. Likewise, when I told my dad that I had my first official date planned for an approaching weekend, he took me aside and asked what I planned on wearing that night. In so doing, my father sent a clear message that what I wore was an indication of my intent and respect for this girl and God help me if I disappointed him with either.

My first suit at age 8.

Of course my dad’s lessons were not limited to those two instances but occurred throughout my life and still do to this day. My father taught me the finer points of being a man through his guidance in what to wear for all of life’s milestones: big family functions, graduation, my first job interview, weddings, funerals, etc. I suppose it helps explain my passion for menswear and the fact that I designed and commissioned my own bespoke tuxedo for my high school prom. From the strong foundation my father helped instill in me, I developed a level of taste, style and confidence that has always served me well, regardless of the circumstances.

As I fast forward to today’s generation, I am immediately struck by the number of young men, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, who do not know what it means to dress appropriately and act accordingly. Unfortunately, “Sunday best” has lost its significance and has been usurped by extreme casual. Sweat pants and hoodies, which are not appropriate for leaving the house unless it is to go to the gym, are now staples in any teenager’s wardrobe. Every young man should be familiar with the basics of how to dress well; it is a shame that I frequently meet those who do not feel comfortable wearing a suit, know what purpose cuff links serve, how to coordinate and outfit or how to tie a proper knot.

My son's first suit at age 8.

Sons have always looked to their fathers for guidance in all aspects of life. Without the necessary fatherly influence, sons are left to their own devices to carry themselves with confidence and respect while trying to look their best. A young man’s social conduct and sense of style are increasingly swayed by advertising, celebrity culture and internet content. The result is a generation of men who limit their social interactions to 150 symbols or less, confuse arrogance for self-assurance, and have an undeserved sense of entitlement. My generation has stumbled in fostering our sons’ sartorial education and, consequently, in the finer points of how to be a man. Fortunately, the remedy is simple; fathers should expose their sons to wardrobe traditions and rules as soon as possible and whenever the opportunity presents itself.

I owe what and who I am today to my father, which all started when he brought me to buy my first suit. Later in life, I did the same with my son, the only difference was I designed his suit and had it made at the Antonio Valente factory.

The Hidden Cost Behind Cheap White Dress Shirts

March 12, 2012 3:24 pm
The Hidden Cost Behind Cheap White Dress Shirts

It is a shopper’s nature to pursue the best possible bargain, often sacrificing countless hours in the name of the hunt. As a youngster, I lost entire Saturday afternoons whenever my mother deemed it necessary to add to my “Sunday best” wardrobe, and dragged me through the city in search of a reasonably priced white dress shirt.

Today, it is a bargain hunter’s paradise. Low-priced clothing floods the market as companies continue to relocate offshore to lower production costs by taking advantage of cheap labour. The perceived need for inexpensive clothes, which fuels the supply, has kept the majority of the world’s female apparel workers enslaved. On the heels of International Women’s Day, we need to create awareness and accept responsibility not only for the air we breathe, the water we drink, but also for the clothes we wear.

It is no coincidence that manufacturers move to developing countries where wages are shockingly low. From an annual gross pay of USD$798 in Bangladesh to USD$ 2026 in China, it seems hard to believe that earnings are enough to support one person, much less an entire family. Surprisingly, workers in the European Union do not fare much better. At an annual gross income of USD$2152 in Bulgaria to USD$ 5101 in the Czech Republic, apparel and textile workers provide clothing brands with a low cost labour force and the right to say “Made in the European Union”.

Minimum Wage by Country (annual gross pay in U.S. Dollars)1

  • Bangladesh $798.00
  • Bulgaria $2152.00
  • Cambodia $672.00
  • China $2026.00
  • Czech Rep. $5101.00
  • Haiti $817.00
  • Indonesia $1027.00
  • Madagascar $981.00
  • Mauritius $1737.00
  • Mexico $1753.00
  • Romania $3734.00
  • Sierra Leone $211
  • Sri Lanka $1619.00
  • Turkey $5928.00
  • Ukraine $2296.00
  • Vietnam $1002.00

It is no coincidence that manufacturers move to developing countries where wages are shockingly low.

From a consumer’s perspective, the most shocking fact is that these offshore manufacturing practices are not exclusive to the low end of the market. Expensive designer brands are made in the same countries and, often times, in the same factories as mass produced, cheap clothing. When purchasing a costly designer garment, a significant portion of the price goes to subsidizing marketing and advertising to justify the brand and a shopper’s loyalty. If I were to walk into a reputable menswear store and select a designer shirt, which was made offshore, the approximate price tag of $245.00 would be broken down as follows: 17% ($41.65) of the total goes to marketing and advertising; 50% ($122.50) goes to the retail store; 25% ($61.25) goes to the designer; 4.5% ($11.03) goes to the factory that made the shirt; 3% ($7.35) is cloth; and 0.5% ($1.22) goes to the person who sewed the shirt.

Choosing to support brands that take advantage of workers impacts the Canadian economy. As it relates to apparel and textile manufacturing, exports, the GDP and employment decrease as companies take their production offshore. Between 2007 and 2008, shipments decreased 24% while the GDP dropped 22.5%.2 Although Canada lost a total of 322,000 manufacturing jobs, from 2004 to 2008, the clothing and textile sector experienced the most with almost half their jobs disappearing.3 By purchasing these brands, we are slowly killing our domestic apparel manufacturing industry, which creates thousands of jobs for Canadians, in addition to condoning the exploitation of textile workers around the globe.

Choosing to support brands that take advantage of workers impacts the Canadian economy.

The issue of fair labour practices within the fashion industry was at the centre of public attention in the 80’s and 90’s. Today, offshore manufacturing in developing countries has become the accepted norm. Becoming informed consumers is the simplest and most effective way to understand how we influence lives at home and across the globe with little more than our buying habits. In a way, shopping has redefined western democracy. With each purchase, a consumer casts a ballot for or against the status quo.

If you share my passion regarding this issue, then look before you buy. If a garment, or for that matter any product, is made in Canada, the USA or what was once known as Europe, then fair labour wages were used in its production. I realize that there will be a slight premium to be paid, in most cases up to 10%, but you are also getting much more value and quality for your money.

In our age of social consciousness, we must protect the essence of fair labour practices. Our politicians and leaders must lead by example by wearing Canadian made clothing and enacting legislation to make a difference on a local and global level. Let us send a clear message that Canadians refuse to exploit and enslave the world’s textile workers so that we can buy cheap white dress shirts.

References:

  1. Wikipedia, “List of Minimum Wages by Country”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_wages_by_country, March 2012.
  2. Industry Canada, “Apparel Industry Profile”, http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/026.nsf/eng/h_00070.html, Dec. 2011.
  3. Statistics Canada, Bernard, Andre, “Trends in Manufacturing Employment”, http://www.statcan.ca/pub/75-001-x/2009102/article/10788-eng.htm, Feb. 2009.

What is the Price of Confidence?

January 16, 2012 3:30 pm
What is the Price of Confidence?

My mother inspired this month’s subject matter with one of her Italian phrases: “L’avaro è come il culo che ha paura che gli rubano la camicia”, which means, “A miser is like the butt that’s afraid of having its shirt robbed from underneath it”. After we all had a good chuckle, we discussed the many colourful and time tested pearls of wisdom that have been passed down from generation to generation. The following day, with the previous night’s conversation fresh in my mind, I began thinking about the old fashion adage “the clothes make the man”. Although not completely accurate, there is some truth to it, namelythe fact that appearance makes a difference.

Although self-assurance comes from within, it is also expressed outwardly.

Although self-assurance comes from within and is rooted in one’s knowledge and experiences, it is expressed outwardly by the way one presents and carries oneself. Every time a confident man interacts professionally or socially, whether closing business deals or attending a friend’s dinner party, he must look the part. If he were to wear sweat pants, a golf shirt and white socks, which would only ever be considered appropriate at the gym, he would fail to communicate poise and confidence. Although clothes may not necessarily make the man, they certainly announce him.

A confident and able man should be able to identify the key indicators of clean fitting clothes. When wearing a suit or sport jacket, the lapels and collar ought to lay flat, the former against one’s chest and the latter around one’s neck. On the whole, a suitable jacket length reaches the bottom of one’s seat while sleeves should stop at the wrist, or just past it if reducing shirt cuff exposure, and a balanced jacket hangs parallel to the floor. Meanwhile, shirts and trousers should produce a flattering silhouette. Dropped shoulders, large armholes and extra fabric throughout the body makes a shirt seem oversized and sloppy while a trouser with multiple pleats, baggy thighs, a long rise and incorrect length appears boxy and unattractive. The top of a shoe’s heal is where a trouser’s length ordinarily stops, unless one is wearing a slim leg width, in which case the trouser will be shorter to avoid excessive bunching. If a man is ignorant of how his clothes should fit, he will present a poor image and make a weak first impression.

Try dress shirts in a different colour!

Before reaching for the typical white dress shirt, convey individuality by considering a more distinctive alternative. Mauves, grays, blues, stripes or checks take a little more effort to coordinate but definitely help one stand apart from the crowd. Whichever dress shirt one opts for, it should always be well pressed, preferably by hand for the best results. For the record, dress shirts have long sleeves, which means a tie should never be worn with a short sleeve shirt or, for that matter, any casual shirts. When sporting a tie, select a knot that reflects your personality and sense of style. There are many types of knots to choose from, including Windsor, half Windsor and four in hand, all of which can be worn with or without a dimple. Be sure to unknot your tie at day’s end, but if you are uncertain how to re-tie a specific knot, there are many helpful online references. A finely pressed, crisp dress shirt and complimentary, well knotted tie are important elements in establishing a commanding personal statement.

To convey poise, a man should ensure that every detail regarding his appearance is impeccable.

To convey poise, a man should ensure that every detail regarding his appearance, from head to toe, is impeccable. A dapper man never wears athletic or casual shoes in the place of traditional dress shoes. When choosing elegant footwear, be mindful of the wide variety of available styles, such as loafers, brogues, cap toes and monk straps. Avoid monopolizing your closet with black shoes but generate well rounded options by incorporating brown, wine and tan shoes into your normal and seasonal rotations. Regular care and maintenance are vital measures to keep shoes looking their best. I suggest finding a reliable cobbler and investing in quality cedar shoetrees. Key details to be mindful of when finalizing an outfit include matching socks to one’s trousers and belts to one’s shoes. Optional rudiments that add significant panache to any outfit are pocket squares, which should match one’s tie or shirt, and cuff links. By paying attention to the smallest details, one’s appearance is underwritten with self-assurance.

Those, my friends, are loosely the rules of dressing like a confident man and they work. Ask any woman!

Fashioning Parliament: Stephen Harper’s Wardrobe Woes

October 31, 2011 2:02 pm
Fashioning Parliament: Stephen Harper’s Wardrobe Woes

My fierce Canadian pride and love of my Italian heritage are two of the most inspiring elements for my passion to design and manufacture menswear. I am a first generation Canadian, born of Italian parents, and I realized from an early age that my childhood was a wonderful experience of both Canadian and Italian influences.

Similar to many informed Canadians, I keep abreast of the comings and goings of our government representatives, especially Prime Minister Harper who is scrutinized on both a national and international level. I believe that our P.M. successfully navigated Canada through one of the toughest recessions in recent history, especially when compared to his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, who has been the centre of scandal and has steered Italy’s economy and deficit to the worst point in his country’s history. However, where Harper has succeeded and Berlusconi has failed, the opposite is true of the two Prime Ministers when it comes to their wardrobes. Italy’s Prime Minister is always suitably attired for every requirement of his demanding position. Whether formal or casual, Berlusconi dresses for the occasion by wearing the appropriate ensemble necessitated by the circumstances. Most importantly, the Italian P.M.’s suits and accessories are chosen to compliment his skin tone and hair colour, while his clothing is tailored to properly fit his body type. Although there are many opinions on our P.M.’s performance, one thing is clear: Stephen Harper needs a new wardrobe, one which better suits his personality.

Pale shirts do nothing for a pale complection

After sifting through many media images of Prime Minister Harper, I found three frequently occurring wardrobe issues. The first concern is the continual use of white dress shirts followed by poorly fitting suits and the noticeably inadequate options for casual attire.

White shirts are a staple for many professionals but personal skin tones and hair colour should be considered when selecting these garments. Stephen Harper’s skin tone, especially when accented by his whitening hair, is quite pale. White dress shirts compound the situation by washing out Harper’s features even more, making him look aged. This is a minor wardrobe issue, one that can easily be resolved by replacing white shirts with soft blue, grey or lavender tones. These colours easily match with navy, charcoal and black suits.

The Prime Minister’s suits are ill-fitting in many areas. First, Harper’s trousers are too long in the rise and too wide in the leg, creating a boxy look. Harper’s suit jackets tend to be too long in length and in the sleeves. A jacket’s length should be proportional to one’s torso, generally ending at the bottom of one’s seat, and sleeves should end at the wrist or just past it, depending on how much shirt cuff one prefers to show. Lastly, many of the Prime Minister’s jackets are not balanced, resulting in lifted fronts. A well balance suit should have the bottoms of a suit’s fronts parallel to the floor.

Mr. Harper in casual wear

The Prime Minister’s biggest challenge is dressing casually. There are many ways to achieve a casual appearance, but removing one’s tie when wearing a dress shirt and suit is not one of them; unfortunately, Harper resorts to this method all too frequently. Men’s clothing is divided into several categories: formal, business attire, dress casual, casual, weekend and denim. Each category has its own norms and should be considered with relation to an event’s purpose, time and guest list. When an outfit is assembled without purpose, a man, even if he happens to be the Prime Minister, will make a poor impression and seem out of his element. As the country’s leader, Harper’s wardrobe needs to reflect his station, giving him the confidence to carry out his duties on a local and global stage.

Prime Minister Harper, I respect the job you are doing for Canada, but let us get your wardrobe up to speed. Prime Minister Berlusconi should have nothing on you!

Recent Posts