French novelist Françoise Sagan once wrote about Francesco Smalto: ‘He is one of these rare men, who can both mix luxury and sobriety, daily life and brightness. He is a craftsman and a lord’. Since its creation in 1962, the Maison Smalto knew how to remain faithful to this definition.
Francesco Smalto uses its unique know-how to differ from other master tailors. Prematurely passionate about cutting and material, he began his career at Christiani and at Camps who, at that time, was the main tailor of Paris. Then, he left for the United States to perfect its cutter technique at Harris in New York, President Kennedy’s personal tailor. In February 1962, when he returned to Paris, he created the company of tailor Smalto in rue La Boétie in the 8th arrondissement in Paris.
‘My aim was to be a 'couturier', different from the others, that is to offer what does not exist elsewhere’ Francesco Smalto.
With its adjusted tailor-made clothes, the Maison Smalto revolutionized the masculine wardrobe and its vocabulary; from pinstripe suit to white tuxedo and from safari jacket, futuristic suits to thigh high boots in vinyl.
The search of comfort and relaxation while maintaining a slender look with pure lines became the hallmark of the tailor.
Known in artistic circles, the Maison Smalto was appreciated by artists such as French singers Claude François and Charles Aznavour who decided to assign the assembly of their stage costumes.
In the early 1970s, a wind of freedom was blowing on fashion. Francesco Smalto drew inspiration from the trend that made loose clothing while maintaining an equilibrium. He was working with velvet but also jersey and raw silk to make double-breasted or single-breasted suits with patch pockets, flap sewn or large slots in the back. His taste for luxurious materials pushed him to use exclusively the finest quality fabrics such as cashmere and flannel. He also created new ones in England from blends of orchid fiber and sable, silver foxes or vicuna.
Men must be masculine, and their build shall be marked and magnified. During that decade, the very structured suit for men became wider. The attraction of fine materials was noticed in the cinema where filmmakers did not hesitate to play with suits and lighting to delight the public.
In ‘The last Emperor’ interpreted by John Lone, Bernardo Bertolucci plays on the brightness of shimmering materials of suits of each character.
Gradually, he imposes its codes – the flower in the buttonhole, the rolled shoulder and slightly raised, the Milanese buttonhole or even unique fabrics – delighting politicians, singers and actors.
The Maison Smalto was collecting more and more loyal customers, crowned heads and worldwide politicians who ended up in this temple of elegance with high tailoring know-how. In 1991, Francesco Smalto took the young fashion designer Franck Boclet under his wing as creative director.
He succeeded him in 1998 and he officially became artistic director of Maison Francesco Smalto until 2007.
For the company, this decade was an opportunity for a fresh start. Francesco Smalto withdrew in 2001, letting Franck Boclet, that he trained over many years, at its head. Youn Chong Bak, also trained by Francesco, took over the company in 2007 to monitor the couture collections and ready-to-wear. She brought a new energy by providing a lighter style and giving a casual side to the collections while respecting the heritage of the company. Elegance remains the key word.
Under her guidance, sewing continues to perpetuate a traditional know-how adapting itself to the evolution of customer needs.
In 2012, the Maison Smalto was awarded the ‘Living Heritage Company’ by the French Ministry of the Economy for the excellence of this tailor know-how.
The company regains its core principles while adapting to new ways of living and the evolution of elegance.