Walking into the L.B.M. 1911 showroom this past week, I had one question on my mind: what happens after the hype? When the unstructured wave hit menswear in full force a couple years back, L.B.M. was perfectly positioned. Accessible, well-made, and designed to meet the demands of a younger audience that suddenly wanted to wear jackets, L.B.M. quickly became one of the most talked about menswear brands. The kicker with L.B.M. though was that unlike say Brunello Cucinelli or Thom Browne, the twenty-something bloggers that were writing about the brand, were actually wearing their jackets too.
After my post on Lubiam a couple weeks ago, the good people in charge of PR for the brand reached out to me, inviting me up to their showroom to take a look at what the brand has on deck. So last week on the first of what is sure to be many unbearably hot summer days, I walked into a sun-soaked office in New York’s Garment District and was greeted by the familiar sight of the brand’s unstructured jackets.
I was mainly intrigued by what L.B.M. 1911 is working on, not only because their casual sport coats have become a cornerstone of my daily uniform, but because it wasn’t that long ago that I first read about the brand. In just a few short years, L.B.M. has built up a dedicated fan-base due largely to their unstructured jackets that everyone seems to be after these days. Early on the brand was heralded for their accessible price point, yet stockists were always an issue and the jacket’s weren’t exactly easy to find. All this changed when Gilt began carrying the brand, a move that actually only increased demand for L.B.M.’s jackets, and led to even more accounts.
Today L.B.M. can be found in one hundred twenty stores nationwide, and after taking a look at the brand’s latest collection, I can say they’re clearly evolving in all the right ways to keep up with this new higher profile. The basic framework is still there-washed, soft shoulder, fully unstructured jackets with a nice slim cut, yet it’s great to see L.B.M. elaborating on the area that I believe has always made them so noteworthy: their fabrics. The textures and patterns of L.B.M.’s jacket’s are in my opinion their strongest point, and for their next season they continue to expand on this, bringing in a range of fabrics that could pack an entire closet. Covering everything from the simplicity of a solid navy jacket, to the intensity of a bold tartan complete with suede elbow patches, the collection really runs the gamut on soft shoulder tailoring.
Building off this L.B.M. is also introducing a new break out line this year called FLY. These jackets will be slightly narrower in the body and a bit more cropped than the average L.B.M., yet they’ll be made from loose-knit fabrics to compensate for this tighter cut. The FLY jackets that I tried out felt closer to a sweater than a traditional jacket, and seemed like they were made for a fall weekend, bridging the gap between a lightweight L.B.M. and traditional outerwear.
In a move that seems like a natural step for an expanding brand, L.B.M. is branching out into the world of scarves and pocket squares. The lightweight linen scarves featured paisley motifs in muted colors that undoubtedly reflect the brands Italian heritage. As for the pocket squares, their translucent linen construction and soft tones seemed like the perfect compliment to the brand’s jackets.
It’s refreshing to see a brand progressing in an intelligent manner, understanding what’s worth playing with, and what should just be left alone. With such a strong collection, I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t the last you’ll be hearing from me about L.B.M. Thanks again to Cristiano and Blanca from Cristiano Magni Public Relations for extending the invitation, and for their hospitality.
It all started with one sixteen year old kid. Over a century before the soft shouldered sport coat became blogger bait, well before there were Tumblrs dedicated to the style of elderly Italian men, in a time where Gilt and Yoox were just made up words, there was just Luigi Bianchi. As a teenager all Luigi ever set to do was bring some honor to his family, but what he ended up accomplishing was that and so much more.
Luigi grew up in the provincial northern Italian town of Mantova (known in English as Mantua,) where his father and grandfather made a living by traveling door to door as tailors and barbers, offering their services right in people’s kitchens. For the two men this was as far as their trades would ever take them, but Luigi believed that the craft of tailoring deserved better than a traveller’s life. With a head full of dreams, Luigi left Mantova and headed west to Turin, a major city that bred master tailors. When Luigi started his journey in 1896 he was just a boy with an idea, but in 1911 he returned a man that had not only learned the art of tailoring, but was ready to run a company of his own.
Luigi’s vision was manifested as “Luigi Bianchi – Men’s Clothes and Dresses and Suits for Women,” Established at No. 11 Via Pietro Calvi, the shop was everything a homegrown menswear store should be. It offered made to measure, done by Luigi himself and ready to wear, making it one of the first stores to offer both side-by-side. The shop’s textiles and fabrics were some of the finest in the world, a testament to Luigi’s prowess as a tailor and a designer. Luigi’s reputation soon exceeded the small town of Mantova as legends like the Prince of Wales began placing orders at his shop.
Luigi and his family decided it was time to move away from womenswear and streamline their men’s production to keep up with demand. The expansion, spearheaded by Luigi’s eldest son, Edgardo, balanced efficiency and craftsmanship to create products that replicated the quality of bespoke without the expense and wait time. By 1939, the company employed over four hundred craftsmen and had grown into a full-fledged label, dubbed Lubiam, for Luigi Bianchi Mantova.
From day one, Lubiam was a brand that had higher aspirations. Not satisfied with remaining in Italy, they wanted to conquer the rest of the world. Lubiam certainly wasn’t the only well-made Italian brand of that era, but where they really thrived was in their textures. The brand’s textiles and construction gave their unstructured sportcoats a feel that you simply couldn’t get anywhere else, and it was Lubiam’s goal to bring this to the rest of the world. Starting in the fifties Lubiam set up showrooms, sponsored events, had their jackets and suits literred throughout magazines, and generally branded themselves as the paragon of relaxed Italian style. Their efforts paid off and Lubiam gained notoriety worldwide, first in the states and then onto Asia and the rest of the world.
Lubiam is now over a century old, which for many brands is simply a blank figure. Far too many brands that have been around that long are now just shells of their former selves, having been bought and sold countless times. But Lubiam certainly doesn’t fall into this category. As a brand that’s in it’s fourth generation as a family owned company Lubiam has pulled off something nearly impossible in this day and age: they have kept the brand in their family for over a hundred years. And not only that, but Lubiam hasn’t become complacent, they continue to push the envelope, bringing in new fabrics and patterns to create ingeniously beautiful garments. Lubiam creates and we pay attention.
And if I seem biased towards the brand, it’s because quite frankly I am, but I have good reason to be. In the modern era Lubiam has developed a new label, L.B.M. 1911 that makes sport coats in the same vein as Lubiam’s unstructured soft shoulder sport coats only more casual, and less expensive. I personally own three L.B.M.’s and they’re without a doubt three of my favorite pieces. Season after season I’m blown away by what Lubiam and L.B.M. are able to accomplish. Their patterns, feel, and quality are unmatched by any other brand at their price point making Lubiam one the greatest, and smartest contemporary Italian brands. So, over the next few weeks as we begin to get a taste of what Lubiam and L.B.M. have to offer at Pitti and beyond, go ahead and ogle at whatever unstructured gems they’ve got coming, but never forget Luigi, just a sixteen year old who wanted to make his family proud.