In January I made it a priority to visit Camps de Luca in Paris (as well as meetings with Corthay, Chapal and a few others), one of the three major tailoring houses of Paris (the others being Cifonelli and Smalto). Whilst tailoring is a subjective experience, both Camps and Cifonelli are regarded by many to be the best or equal to the best bespoke tailoring houses in the world. Of course this all depends on an individuals stylistic preferences, but few would argue that there is anyone who surpasses the quality of Camps de Luca in terms of fit and the precise handwork of their finishing.
Camps de Luca was founded in Paris in 1969 by Mario de Luca and Joseph Camps and has remained in Paris ever since. Mario’s son Marc (pictured below) would join the business as a 16 year old in 1970 and remains there today, having dedicated a lifetime to the craft and shows no signs of slowing down, though I wouldn’t expect him to, given he’s in better shape than I am.
The Camps de Luca silhouette is slim and clean. An elegant cut, free of gimmicks and with a distinctive shoulder which almost appears to stand apart from the body of the suit. This is due to the way they rope the shoulder, often referred to as a cigarette shoulder as its dimensions are similar to the circumference of a cigarette (an effect which gives body to the top of the sleeve head, rather than it falling limply off the shoulder). If you imagine the sleeve head (where the sleeve is inserted into the shoulder cavity) as a circle, Camps technique applies roping to approximately 80% of the diametre, leaving the final 20% (at the arm pit) without any roping, so the arm can hang, unencumbered.
Very much a family business, Marc is now joined by his two sons Julien and Charles, all of whom bring something different to the atmosphere at Camps (although, their one clear similarity was that they were all wearing Corthay shoes). Marc comes across as a thorough gentleman, elegant, warm, polite to a fault and with the style of a man who knows who he is and has spent a lifetime dressing with care. Naturally, all of this is in addition to the fact that he is one of the worlds’ most accomplished tailors.
Julien left Paris early and went to school in Brighton (UK), followed by a 10 year career in equity banking in London, before deciding to return home to Paris and, as he puts it “get a real job” working in the family business. Whilst Marc and Charles speak enough English to converse with (much better than my poor, albeit improving, French) Julien’s fluent English (and English accent) make dealing with English speaking clients that much easier. Interestingly, he’s brought back with him a somewhat relaxed English dress-sense and a disarmingly approachable style which suits him perfectly.
Charles is fantastic; energetic, passionate, and clearly excited to spend his days in a field he loves. Behind his energetic exterior, though, lies a seriousness for the craft, which reminds me of Gianfrancesco Musella-Dembech which will serve them both very well over the years to come. His dress is polished and formal, but a giveaway to his love of the craft and cloth was that his shirt was on its second set of cuffs and had elbow patches sewn onto the sleeves due to the elbows wearing through. He couldn’t bear to part with the shirt as he liked the cloth so much. For anyone outside of the industry who has bespoke shirts made, this could seem like something you might do, but when you’re in the bespoke industry and can make shirts quickly and inexpensively, you only do something like this if you actually feel a connection with the material. It’s incredibly rare to see.
Business is good and has been growing consistently for the last several years. As of January, they had 27 staff, all of whom have developed expertise in a niche of the craft and handle only that part of the making process (i.e. button holes or canvassing etc). Sadly, due to an acquisition by a Qatar development fund with plans for a hotel, they had to leave their home on Place de la Madeleine where they had been based for 50 years and where Marc “grew up”.
Out of this sad turn of events, though, came a new beginning on rue de la Paix, where they bought Stark and Sons (another well known Parisian tailoring house, with a ready to wear and accessories range) and moved in to their premises, with plans for a comprehensive renovation of both the building and its interior. As an interesting aside, Stark and Sons had the contract to make the famous French Prefects coats and the “habit d’academicien” https://fr.wikipedia.org/
As with a selection of other tailoring houses and shoemakers throughout Europe (such as Cleverley’s, Ambrosi and Matuozzo), the addition of Julien and Charles to Camps de Luca will ensure a healthy future for one of Frances’ greatest craft businesses.
Next week I’ll post the article covering the jacket Julien, Marc and Charles are making for me.