One of the most enjoyable parts of our business is preparing for the changes of seasons. In fact, like everyone in the fashion business, we call our collections by the name of the season. In the winter collection there are the flannels and tweeds. And the summer collection is filled with cottons, linens and silks.
While wool is admittedly the most versatile fiber for tailored clothing, there are advantages to the other fibers in hot weather. Unlike cloths woven from wool, cotton and linen cloths will not expand in volume when subjected to moisture. Therefor, they are generally more comfortable to wear than wools when you sweat or it's a humid day. (Of course, one of the attributes of wool is that it will insulate even when wet, which could save your life in the winter months!)
So, when Gregory Peck has to appear in a steamy Alabama courtroom in "To Kill a Mockingbird," he is appropriately attired in a three-piece seersucker suit. Woven to be intentionally wrinkled along the stripes, seersucker is a pure cotton cloth developed for wear in the tropical British colonies. The crinkling helps keep the cloth away from the skin which makes it feel even lighter than it is.
Linen is similarly very comfortable to wear in hot weather. However, as we all know, linen is the fiber most prone to wrinkling. Despite its wrinkles, linen can be an elegant, dressy cloth when finished properly. Think of table linens or draperies that have a smooth, lustrous finish.
Our favorite mills for these dressy linens are in Ireland, particularly in the North. The Irish cloths are on the heavier side which helps them maintain their shape. If you're after a 1920's looking summer suit, these Irish linens will look outstanding. Italian linens are lighter and sportier. They make for wonderful casual jackets and suits.
Silk is another versatile natural fiber for summer. Ironically, it is a creature that is so destructive to wool-- the moth-- in its caterpillar form that produces the best silk for textiles. Silk is resilient, very fine, and lustrous. On the negative side, as any sloppy businessman knows when he eats wearing a silk necktie, stains are difficult to remove from silk. For that reason, silk is not recommended for jacket linings. Instead, synthetic silk, or rayon has been used for the last 70 years.
During the 1950's silk suits were best sellers for Kozinn+Sons. What were particularly popular were Dupioni silk fabrics. The name Dupioni comes from the Italian word, "doppio," meaning "double." The twin silkworm produces the thread which has tiny variations in the thickness and creates a nubby texture to the finished silk cloth.
So, whenever a client says he prefers year-round fabrics, I am slightly disappointed because he may miss out on some of the exceptional cloths that are created for the extremes of the seasons.